Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Waste, Fraud, Abuse, and Silliness.

Ever since Ronald Reagan ran for president saying he could balance the federal budget, despite his plans to cut taxes and balloon military spending, by rooting out all the "waste, fraud, and abuse" in the budget, we've been in thrall to the conceit that such a thing is possible. And certain politicians have made a name for themselves as brave investigators of wasteful government. Perhaps no one currently serving has more embodied this brave crusade than Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. And this week, Coburn released an opus entitled Wastebook 2010 , which, as he says in the press release , "will give taxpayers and concerned citizens the information they need to hold Washington accountable." The report is slickly designed and obviously took many, many hours of staff time to produce. But that's the kind of government investment you need if you're going to make an impact on this problem. Now many if not most of the things they've found do sound kind of silly. Did we we need to spend $15.68...

Haley's Way Out.

As you probably know by now, Haley Barbour -- governor of Mississippi, former chair of the RNC and tobacco lobbyist, and potential presidential candidate -- is in a whole heap of trouble over some comments he made in an article in the Weekly Standard, particularly concerning his odd assertion that in his town, the White Citizens Council (known colloquially as the "uptown Klan") was actually a force for racial justice, running the Klan out of town. Needless to say, this is absurdly false . I suppose it's possible, as Jon Chait suggested , that this whole thing will help Barbour by making him a martyr to liberal political correctness, thereby boosting his standing among Republican primary voters. As Adam pointed out , many conservatives consider white people being unfairly accused of racism to be a far more serious and common problem than actual racism. Some conservatives are indeed upset. Jim Geraghty at the National Review , for instance, wrote , "Any white Republican who grew up in...

You Ain't Got the Right.

Pat Buchanan has a predictably outraged column about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (via Conor Friedersdorf ), and in between the medley of culture war tropes ("San Francisco values...social experiment...homosexual lobby...1960s...elites...pseudo-intellectuals..."), he gives voice to what is no doubt a common sentiment on the right in the last couple of days: Remarkable. The least respected of American institutions, Congress, with an approval rating of 13 percent, is imposing its cultural and moral values on the most respected of American institutions, the U.S. military. Remarkable indeed. How dare Congress think it could impose its values on America! Who do they think they are -- lawmakers? I highlight this because it's becoming increasingly common to argue not just that a government policy or decision you don't like is wrong or misguided, but that the entity that made it lacked the right to do so . If a court renders a decision you didn't like, then it's "unelected judges" (...

Today's Newt Notes.

Yesterday's L.A. Times had an interesting article with a funny headline: " Newt Gingrich , serious this time, mulls a bid for president." As the piece notes, Newt has "mulled" a bid multiple times before, always pulling away at the point where he'd actually have to start putting together a campaign. But is this year different? Party professionals were impressed with the extent of his 2010 midterm election efforts. He traveled extensively to key states and donated to candidates through his political action committee. In the leadoff state of Iowa alone, he gave more than $100,000. Gingrich appears to have strengthened his political operation, which gives him the potential to finance and organize a campaign, even as he expands a personal conglomerate of think tanks, grass-roots organizations and a film production company run by Callista Gingrich , a former congressional aide who became his third wife in 2000. Those could the actions of a man committed to a presidential race. On the other...

The Private Option

The Affordable Care Act won't feel like a government program. That could be a problem for Democrats.

Residents of the Culpepper Garden Assisted Living Center attend a 2006 news conference about Medicare. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
When Congress was debating health care reform in 1993, conservative strategist Bill Kristol wrote a now-famous memo counseling Republicans that they must prevent the passage of reform, lest it "relegitimize middle-class dependence for 'security' on government spending and regulation … revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests … [and] strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government." The problem Kristol foresaw -- and today's Republicans saw with Barack Obama's health care reform -- was not merely that Americans would reward Democrats for the passage of a beneficial program, but that health care reform would bind them to government for all their lives, undermining the ideological case Republicans make. Many of those who supported the passage of the Affordable Care Act earlier this year (myself included) agreed. I wrote that once the bill passed,...

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