Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Hostage Negotiations, the Madman Theory, and the Debt Ceiling.

The first real test of the new Republican House majority will be coming around February, when Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling to allow the Treasury to continue borrowing money to pay for all the things government does. Republicans are now figuring out what they want to demand in exchange for going along, and both sides are trying to determine just how this is going to play out politically. One thing we can anticipate is that Republicans will get very indignant when Democrats charge that this is a "hostage" situation. But it will be. The essence of a hostage situation is that the hostage taker says, "Give me what I want, or I will do terrible harm to this thing you care about." The threat is believable only if the hostage taker is thought to be willing to actually do that harm. Is it believable in this case? Well, in this case, the thing being held hostage is both the U.S economy and the world economy. The potential is that if the Republicans don't budge on not raising the...

Democrats Sticking With Pelosi.

Since Nancy Pelosi announced over the weekend that she'll be seeking to retain her leadership of House Democrats, we've seen multiple articles quoting anonymous Democrats saying it's a bad idea. We've even had the reasonably liberal New York Times editorial page call for her to step aside. Republicans are saying much the same thing. Among the reasons are that Democrats need new blood, Democrats need to compromise with Republicans and she's a serious partisan, and if she stays around, she'll continue to be vilified by the right. All of this is just silly. The fact is that Nancy Pelosi is the toughest and most skilled pol on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. She just engineered the most productive session of Congress in memory, delivering health-care reform, financial reform, student-loan reform, a stimulus bill, and a whole lot of other things to boot. One thing you can say about her is that she understands governing -- she knew that the Democrats had the best opportunity they might...

Campaign in Poetry, Govern in Prose

Republicans spun a good tale on the trail -- but Democrats have the advantage of better policies.

In the days before the midterm election, President Obama makes a final get-out-the-vote push for Democratic candidates at Midway Plaisance Park in Chicago. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In charting the last two years, from the euphoria of election night 2008 to the despair of election night 2010, I keep returning to Mario Cuomo's famous dictum that you campaign in poetry but govern in prose. The poetry of campaigning is lofty, gauzy, full of possibility, a world where problems are solved just because we want them to be and opposition melts away before us. The prose of governing is messy and maddening, full of compromises and half-victories that leave a sour taste in one's mouth. Governing, however, is also specific where campaigning is usually vague. And that fact may provide a means for Democrats to regain the political advantage over the next two years. Now that Republicans too will be expected to at least participate in governing, they could find themselves dragged down by the prose. In campaigns, candidates reduce their ideas to simple statements of principle and 30-second ads, and the side whose simple message is more attuned to the moment will probably win. Two...

Strap on Your Feedbags, America!

Your government requests that you inhale this. (Flickr/ Barron Fujimoto ) Yesterday's New York Times contained a rather extraordinary article about a group called Dairy Management, which is a creation of the Department of Agriculture. And what does Dairy Management due with its taxpayer funds? It tries to get people to eat more cheese. Now I love cheese as much as anyone, but the idea that Americans aren't eating enough of it, and we need the government to tell us to eat more, is pretty remarkable. Actually, they aren't telling us to eat more; they're helping fast-food companies come up with ways for us to cram more cheese down our gullets. Check out this excerpt from one of the documents the Times uncovered, a Department of Agriculture report, in which the success of the program is touted under the heading, "Satisfying Unmet Demand by Growing Cheese Through Innovation: The National Program works closely with manufacturers, retailers, and foodservice chains to create new menu items...

Stupid Arguments About the Election.

There are many ways in which one can criticize the strategy the White House employed in its effort to limit losses in this year's elections, but this is about the dumbest thing I've yet heard a Democrat say in the current round of recriminations: "There doesn't seem to be anybody in the White House who's got any idea what it's like to lie awake at night worried about money and worried about things slipping away," said retiring Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D). "They're all intellectually smart. They've got their numbers. But they don't feel any of it, and I think people sense that." Let's count the ways. First of all, there are lots of people in the White House -- including Barack Obama himself -- who have experienced hard financial times. There are hundreds of people who work there, and Bredesen has no idea what any of them have been through in their lives -- he just likes to think that unlike other Democrats, he's a salt-of-the-earth guy, and they must have been born with silver...

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