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

Party Like It's 1776

With the unruly tea-party movement suddenly the hottest show in American politics, everyone on the right wants to get in on the act.

Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, chairman of the Conservative Action Project, signs the Mount Vernon Statement in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
As a connoisseur of conservative politics, I was fascinated by an event that occurred last week when a group of movement graybeards got together to sign what was described as a new manifesto for the political right. The document itself wasn't that interesting -- it contained not a word about any policy and was notable mostly for its numbing repetition of the phrase "limited government." What made the event interesting were the theatrics. The group was dominated by Reagan-era notables and people who in the 1980s were called the "New Right." They have since managed to hang around in comfortable Washington sinecures. The first name on the manifesto was Reagan attorney general Ed Meese; other signatories included Grover Norquist, Brent Bozell, Richard Viguerie, Alfred Regnery, Ed Feulner, David Keene, and Kenneth Blackwell. If you're up on your movement big shots, you know that this is the heart of the conservative establishment. Yet the event didn't take place in a tastefully appointed...

Pre-writing History

As the administration's final push for health care begins, the knowing wags of Washington seem to have gained a sudden interest in offering insight into why reform failed -- even though it hasn't yet. Obama should have listened more to Rahm Emanuel and done small-bore health initiatives, says the Washington Post 's Dana Milbank . No, he should never have tried health-care reform at all and "focused" more on jobs says Charlie Cook (like virtually everyone who offers this advice, Cook declines to say what this "focus" should have consisted of). But as Jon Chait reminds us, "I don't think you can answer the question of whether it made sense to undertake health care reform until we know whether or not it passes. If it does pass, it was a good idea. ... If it fails, it was a bad idea." Quite so. It's often said that history is written by the winners, but the more literal truth is that the history we notice is written about the victory. (Losers actually spend lots of time writing history;...

Rallying the Thugs.

From Politico , we see Minnesota governor and likely presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty , formerly a mild-mannered guy, get into the spirit of the moment at CPAC: Less than an hour before Tiger Woods was set to explain himself in a press conference, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty urged conservative activists to follow the golfer’s wife and “take a nine iron and smash the windows out of big government.” Speaking to an energized crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Pawlenty tried to channel the unrest so prevalent in the grass roots. “Patriots in this room and patriots across the country are rising up, and we have a message for liberals: If you plan to take our freedoms we will fight back!” Pawlenty exclaimed. They're shocked, shocked that anyone could listen to their rhetoric and believe that they were trying to encourage violence. -- Paul Waldman

The Tea Party Movement, and the Hard Work of Journalism.

One of the striking things about David Barstow 's excellent 4,500-word story on the tea party movement that appeared in the New York Times last weekend was the perspective it gave on the participants. In the typical tea party story, you get a couple of comments from people at rallies, a quote from Dick Armey , some speculation about how this will all play out in November, and maybe, just maybe, an aside saying that there's some radicalism around the fringes of this movement. But since Barstow took the time -- months of time, actually -- he got a much deeper view of who the participants are and what they believe. The picture that emerged was one where conspiracy theories and panic about impending tyranny aren't just something that is found here and there, but run like blood all through this movement's veins. Barstow did a Q & A with the Columbia Journalism Review , and it's good reading if you're interested to hear what's involved in doing real in-depth reporting. After spending...

Austin and Conservative Rhetoric.

When an incident like that of the man in Austin who flew his plane into an IRS building happens, it's tempting to use it to bash the hell out of one's opponents. And frankly, in this case it's not unreasonable to do so. When conservatives incessantly portray taxes as the theft of a tyrannical government from hard-working people, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that some start to take that argument seriously. But is it fair to extend the circle of blame for actions like this one to those who preach hatred of the government? What about the case of Jim Adkisson , who after writing a note which said that "liberals are a pest like termites … the only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets," walked in to a Unitarian church in Knoxville and opened fire, killing two people and injuring seven others? Police later found in Atkisson's home a collection of books by the likes of Bill O'Reilly , Michael Savage , and Sean Hannity , the common theme of which is...

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