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

24 Goes Soft; Obama Obviously to Blame.

When this season of 24 began, I confidently predicted that, as usual, Jack Bauer 's eventful day would be chock-full of torture, just as the seasons before had been. "Who knows," I wrote, "maybe the folks at CTU will turn over a new leaf this season, and unearth the nefarious conspiracy without breaking anyone's fingers. But I wouldn't bet on it." How wrong I was. The season is almost over, and torture has been almost totally absent. This is coming from a program that was the iconic television drama of the George W. Bush era, cited again and again by conservatives as the way things ought to be. When you're dealing with terrorist evildoers, they would say, you don't wait around for a court order; you do what you have to do, like Jack does. The program gave them plenty to love -- like the episode where a lawyer from "Amnesty Global" walks into CTU and manages to get a terrorist freed in about 60 seconds, just as Jack was about to make the guy talk. Employing some creative law-...

The First Amendment v. Baby Animals

Let's be real here: James Madison wouldn't have a clue about the legality of "crush videos."

(Flickr/Queen B)
When the Founders wrote the words "freedom of speech" into the Bill of Rights, they certainly didn't considered the possibility that one day, Americans would buy and sell "crush videos," which depict women stepping on small animals with their high heels. Yet the Supreme Court was recently called upon to determine whether that rather unusual form of expression stood outside the First Amendment. While the Court spends much of its time ruling on highly technical matters of commercial and administrative law, every so often it considers a case like this one, which goes to the very heart of the American experiment precisely because of its unsettling nature. Conservatives are talking a lot about "getting back" to the Constitution these days. Some even go so far as to don Colonial-era garb on the occasion of political protests, the better to express their fealty to 18th-century values. But the truth is that as brilliant as the text of the Constitution is, it can't tell us exactly how to order...

Not Getting the Joke.

When I opened The New York Times this morning and began to read Ross Douthat 's column about the most recent South Park controversy, I said, "Here's a chance to reach across the aisle!" Douthat criticizes Comedy Central for censoring last week's episode of the program, in which the prophet Muhammad is portrayed (or not exactly -- we only see him inside a giant bear costume, thereby hiding his image), in response to a threat posted on an extremist Islamic Web site. But before I could do my part for bipartisanship, I came to this: In a country where the latest hit movie, "Kick-Ass," features an 11-year-old girl spitting obscenities and gutting bad guys while dressed in pedophile-bait outfits, there isn’t much room for real transgression. Our culture has few taboos that can't be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place. Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a...

Sarah Palin Knows Just What She's Doing

(Flickr/ geerlingguy ) The latest edition of New York magazine contains an essential article for fans of the political/media/cultural juggernaut that is Sarah Palin . Titled "Palin, Inc.," it details the ways Palin has built her brand, and her bank account, since leaving office halfway into her first term as Alaska governor (indeed, the article is fairly clear that the desire to make money was the real reason she stepped down). As you think about the Palin phenomenon, something becomes clear. She, her opponents, and her supporters are locked in a cycle of mockery and affection, disdain and faith, that must keep turning around for her to continue being what she is. Many people have recommended that Palin spend some time boning up on policy -- or just current events -- so that when she's asked questions by reporters she can come up with coherent answers that go beyond, "You know, America and freedom over there and such." But that would be exactly the wrong thing for Palin to do. Imagine...

Share Not With Me Your Purchases.

Back in the early days of the Internet, a college student set up a webcam in her dorm room and delivered a live feed to the world of everything she was doing -- eating, sleeping, studying, even changing clothes. It caused quite a stir, with lots of beard-scratching commentary about how this new technology would transform our ideas about the private and public selves. Although lots of people found the experiment interesting, no one thought that thousands of other people would be doing the same thing. But we may be inching in that direction. From today's New York Times : Mark Brooks wants the whole Web to know that he spent $41 on an iPad case at an Apple store, $24 eating at an Applebee’s, and $6,450 at a Florida plastic surgery clinic for nose work. Too much information, you say? On the Internet, there seems to be no such thing. A wave of Web start-ups aims to help people indulge their urge to divulge — from sites like Blippy, which Mr. Brooks used to broadcast news of what he bought...

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