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

Thought Police

How group think will shape the Republican presidential primaries.

Newt Gingrich speaking at CPAC 2011. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Newt Gingrich probably thought he was being smart when a week ago he publicly rejected the budget plan put forward by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. After all, Ryan's idea to change Medicare into a voucher program is profoundly unpopular, particularly with the seniors now enjoying the program's benefits. So when Gingrich went on Meet the Press and responded to a question about the Ryan Medicare plan by saying, "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," it probably felt politically shrewd. He could distance himself from an unpopular idea and position himself not as the partisan bomb-thrower people used to consider him but as the innovative, post-partisan thinker he fancies himself to be. It might have been a reasonable strategy -- in a different era. But in 2011, identity defines politics more than ever. Gingrich's mistake was his failure to understand that particularly at this stage of the race, no question is more...

You Don't Love America Like I Love America

The Republican nominating contest will be a battle over who loves this country the most, and how much Barack Obama hates America.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (Flickr/theqspeaks)
If you're running to replace a sitting president, your campaign needs a theme beyond "throw that bum out," a vision that helps define you and where you think the country should go. You may not have noticed it, but nearly all the Republicans looking to win their party's nomination to run against Barack Obama have settled on the same motif: America is awesome. You were hoping for something a little more meaty? Sorry -- the GOP watchword of the moment is "American exceptionalism," and the candidates seem to be banking their campaigns on it. If you've been paying attention to the incipient election efforts, you've heard that phrase with increasing frequency. For the next year and a half, Republicans will be talking a lot about how special America is. Any good campaign theme contains an implicit contrast, and the one the Republicans want to draw is plain: They believe in American exceptionalism, and Barack Obama doesn't. We are not just great, this argument goes; we are superior to every...

Obama Should Show the Photo

Our final image of Osama bin Laden should be of him in defeat.

(Flickr/The White House)
This afternoon, news outlets reported that President Barack Obama has decided against releasing any photos of Osama bin Laden's body, even though CIA Director Leon Panetta indicated just hours before that the pictures would be made public. It may seem ghoulish or too triumphant. "The fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received," Obama said on CBS's 60 Minutes , which will air this Sunday. "And I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he's gone. But we don't need to spike the football." Many people in the administration, not to mention members of Congress from both parties, also fear that the photos could spark an anti-American backlash. A strong case, however, can be made that the American public and the world at large ought to see this image. In recent years, we've debated the publication of photos of flag-draped coffins, civilian and military war casualties, and scenes of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But...

Beat Notes From the Town Hall

Are journalists treating the anti-budget-slashing town halls the same way they treated the anti-health-care town halls in 2009?

Steve G. Jozefczyk of Franklin, Wisconsin, gets out of his front-row seat and walks up to Congressman Paul Ryan. (AP Photo/The Journal Times, Mark Hertzberg)
In the last week or so, we've started seeing scenes from town halls across the country very similar to the angry town-hall meetings inspired by the health-care reform bill in August 2009. This time, Republican members of Congress are the targets. At one town-hall meeting after another, they are getting pointed and sometimes angry questions about their support of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan, which would slash government spending and which 235 of the 241 House Republicans approved in a symbolic vote (the budget would never pass the Senate). Opponents are asking congressmen and women why they supported a plan to turn Medicare into an inadequate voucher program, slash various kinds of spending that benefit the poor and middle class, and at the same time give the wealthy a shower of tax cuts (you can see some video highlights here ). This raises questions not just about the representatives but also about the press. Every day, reporters and editors make a series of...

The Debt-Ceiling Doomsday Device

Republicans threaten to bring down the economy if they don't get what they want.

Even if you're a political junkie, chances are you never gave much thought to the debt ceiling before the last couple of months. It was nothing more than an occasion, once a year or so, for a brief and little-noticed protest vote on the part of some members of the opposition party. They could make a floor speech about the administration's misplaced priorities, proclaim their hope that federal spending and taxes would be reordered to their liking, cast their not-so-dramatic no vote, and move on to the rest of the day's business. Members of both parties were able to cast this protest vote (as President Barack Obama did as a senator in 2006) safe in the knowledge that the increase would pass and no actual economic damage would result. But today, for the first time we stand in a place where Congress might actually fail to raise the debt ceiling, an action that could have truly catastrophic consequences. The debt ceiling will be raised -- of that, there is no question. The question is what...