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

The Real October Surprise

If Osama bin Laden releases a pre-election tape like he did in 2004, don't assume it will be to the Republicans' benefit.

Osama bin Laden speaks on a tape broadcast on Friday, Oct. 29, 2004. (AP Photo/AlJazeera via APTN)

On Oct. 29, 2004 -- four days before the election -- Osama bin Laden released a videotape attacking President Bush. As Ron Suskind later reported in his extraordinary book The One Percent Doctrine, CIA analysts concluded that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection." John McLaughlin, the acting director of the CIA at the time, said at a meeting to discuss the tape, "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president."

SWEPT OFF THEIR FEET

If you thought there wasn’t much interesting left to learn about Sarah Palin, you should read Jane Mayer’s piece in The New Yorker about how Palin shrewdly laid the groundwork for her selection as John McCain’s running mate. It turns out it wasn’t all that hard -- all it took was charming some of the conservative pundits who came through Alaska on fundraising cruises for The Weekly Standard and National Review. But what really stands out is what a bunch of pushovers these guys were, and how her looks played no small part in convincing this bunch of middle-aged men that she was just the bee’s knees.

One Cool Customer

Amid all the talk about John McCain's character, the press has missed the most important personal story in this election: Obama's steady, mature, and thoughtful approach to politics appeals to voters.

This year's presidential debates failed to produce that decisive moment, the "You're no Jack Kennedy" or "There you go again" that will be remembered for years. But they did highlight something that is all too often dismissed by the apostles of civics-textbook campaigns, where candidates carefully lay out their plans of action and policy proposals, and informed citizens evaluate carefully before making a voting choice: The stark contrast in the candidates' temperament and character.

The Permanent (Smear) Campaign

Conservatives realize that a successful Obama presidency could remake American politics. If Obama wins the election, they will try to destroy his presidency with lies, just as they sought to do to Bill Clinton.

Throughout his nearly two-year-long campaign for the White House, Barack Obama has talked about Americans' hunger for unity -- their ache for a government that will get past the petty divisions of recent decades, put aside partisanship, and come together to solve problems. From what we can tell, Obama's desire to provide that kind of presidency is sincere and stems from his own personality and history. Throughout his life, people have remarked on his ability to make those who disagree with him feel as though he has listened to their perspective and approached them with an open mind, even if he hasn't brought them around to agreeing with him.

Will the November Surprise Be Disenfranchised Voters?

Don't expect everything to go smoothly on Election Day. Make no mistake: The problems that existed in 2000 and 2004 haven't gone away. There could be millions of Americans who will be prevented from exercising their franchise on Nov. 4.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a lot of Democrats were mad at Barack Obama. John McCain had crept ahead in some tracking polls, and Obama's supporters were pleading with him to get tough and hit McCain where it hurts. Then the country's economic difficulties turned into an outright meltdown, McCain's running mate was revealed to be something of a nincompoop, and the Republican's campaign looked more and more like it was flailing about without any rationale for why its increasingly grumpy candidate ought to be elected president.

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