Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger, and a contributing editor. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The "Post-Partisan" Pickle

Liberals disappointed by Obama's drilling announcement criticize him for being too conservative. Conservatives have criticized him for being too liberal since day one. What's a president to do?

(White House/Pete Souza)
Say this about President Barack Obama: He can keep 'em guessing. One day, he signs the most momentous piece of progressive social legislation in nearly half a century. Just a week later, he announces a plan to open up coastal areas for offshore drilling, reversing a position he held during the campaign. He may not quite have channeled Sarah Palin to chant "Drill, baby, drill!" but the news certainly brought his progressive supporters back down to earth. With his drilling announcement, Obama made an appeal that has become almost rote. "We need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right," he said, "between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure-all and those who would claim it has no place." Surely he knows by now that there is no "beyond" left and right -- not in this era. Not that Obama will stop trying. The quest for ideological transcendence is woven into his political DNA. But it's impossible to be "bipartisan" if...

You Are Not Your iPad.

Is this man a little too excited about his latest consumer electronics purchase? (Flickr/ Josh Liba ) In the early 1960s, advertising executives realized it could be incredibly fruitful to sell products not as objects with practical uses but as emblems of identity. That car isn't a machine that can get you from one place to another -- it's a statement to the world about who you are. That soda isn't just sugar and water -- it's something that binds you to other members of your generation. No company in recent history has worked this angle more strongly than Apple. It's "I'm a Mac" ads were the logical endpoint of the idea that buying a particular kind of computer (and a set of associated products) meant you were declaring yourself to be a certain kind of person. If you're an Apple person, you're young, creative, savvy, contemporary -- all the things that PC people allegedly are not. You're not a person who uses a Mac; you are a Mac. And I suppose if you camp out to get the company's...

Hire Me, I Don't Know a Damned Thing About This Job.

Let's say you're interviewing someone for a job, and you notice a lack of relevant experience on his resume. When you ask him about it, he says, "This place is too constrained by the old way of doing things. I've never done anything like this job -- in fact, I haven't even worked in this industry before. I know virtually nothing about it. Wouldn't I be a breath of fresh air?" You'd probably say, "Well sir, you may be right about the problem with the old way of doing things. But good luck in your job search, because you won't be working here." Yet we hear that from candidates all the time. The latest is Rand Paul , who is running for a Senate seat in Kentucky. On Sunday he told The New York Times , "I tell people that my biggest attribute is having not held public office, which is a great attribute to possess. I think people are looking for regular citizens." If that's his "biggest attribute," then he doesn't have much going for him. Why shouldn't we elect the guy standing on the...

Things Were Better When You Were a Kid, Whenever That Was.

According to a poll released today by The Washington Post , people who are angry about health care are also angry about pretty much everything: The health-care debate has generated intense levels of frustration among the bill's opponents, and those who say they are outright angry almost universally believe that the country is going in the wrong direction -- some say toward an America they no longer recognize. ... In follow-up interviews, many went beyond health care as they spoke of their deep misgivings about the country's leadership and the changes taking place around them. "I grew up in the '50s," said Hugh Pearson , 63, a retired builder from Bakersfield, Calif. "That was a wonderful time. Nobody was getting rich, nobody was doing everything big. But it was 'Ozzie and Harriet' days, 'Leave It to Beaver'-type stuff. Now we have all this MTV, expose-yourself stuff, and we have no morality left, not even by the legislators." Indeed, because back in the 1950s, legislators never...

Don't Let the Revolving Door Hit You on the Way Out.

Yesterday, Tim noted that Rep. Barney Frank , chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has banned the committee's staff from contact with Peter Roberson , a former staffer who went from writing legislation on things like credit-default swaps to working for a company that handles credit-default swaps. Tim is skeptical that such a ban will have much of an impact on the influence of lobbyists, and I agree. Like most well-intentioned process reform ideas, it comes off sounding like, "This isn't really going to help much, but we might as well try." And in the end it usually doesn't help much. As everyone knows, the Capitol Hill revolving door works this way: You work in Congress for a few years, learning the ways and means of our law-making machinery, then cash in by taking that knowledge with you to a lobbying firm. This system is half-heartedly condemned by just about everyone. After all, lobbying is right there in the First Amendment -- you have the right "to petition the...

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