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

Obama the Ideologue?

One of the most interesting moments of President Obama 's tete-a-tete with House Republicans on Friday was when he said, "I'm not an ideologue." He was greeted with laughter, which led him to reply, somewhat incredulously, "I'm not." I'm personally sure that what was going through his head when he heard the snickers was, "Are you frackin' kidding me?" -- yes, he's a sci-fi geek -- "How many compromises do I have to make before you people stop thinking I'm a socialist?" In our common parlance, an "ideologue" isn't just someone who has an ideology in which they believe firmly -- it's someone who is blind to practical realities and the power of reason and simply pursues that ideology to extreme ends. I happen to think that no reasonable observer of politics could conclude that Barack Obama is an ideologue. To take the example most readily at hand, a liberal ideologue would have insisted that if we are to reform health care, it's single-payer or nothing. And yet Obama advocated a reform...

The Battle Over Don't Ask, Don't Tell

By advocating for a kinder and gentler form of marriage inequality, conservatives may have accidentally ceded the argument for keeping gays out of the military.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The one-year mark is about the time when partisans can reasonably begin expressing their disappointment with the president they elected, and anyone who spends time talking to progressives knows that their frustration has grown in recent weeks. So it was a welcome relief to liberals when President Barack Obama recommitted to a major campaign promise in his State of the Union address: He was finally moving to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy, under which thousands of qualified service members have been kicked out of the military. If this effort succeeds in ending a rather shameful chapter in our history, it will be because of the shift in public opinion since the policy was instituted in 1993. Much of the credit for that belief shift goes to conservatives themselves. As the debate over gay rights became increasingly dominated by the marriage issue, conservatives retreated so completely to the bunker of "preserving traditional marriage" that they ceded the ground...

The Obama Defense Budget.

Using the handy historical tables of the budget the White House put out today, I created this graph to show just how radical Barack Obama 's agenda to disarm America and surrender to the terrorists really is: The administration is requesting just under $750 billion for defense for next year, or over $2,400 for every man, woman, and child in America. Though there's plenty of waste in the Pentagon, the reason the defense budget is so large isn't $1,000 ashtrays. It's that we've come to accept that the United States has an obligation to extend its military reach to every corner of the globe, as Matt Yglesias reminds us. Most of this has little to do with "defense" in the real meaning of the term, except in the most tangential way. It's clear that the administration has no intention of challenging that fundamental idea. I suppose it's possible that in their heart of liberal hearts, they'd love to cut the defense budget in half and spend the money on schools, health care, and other leftist...

Faster, Higher, Under Constant Surveillance.

Those mascots look suspiciously performance-enhanced. ( VANOC/COVAN) The Winter Olympics start week after next. As those of us who love this stuff get ready to watch the various events of shushing, sliding, and spinning, it might be worth taking a moment to consider what these athletes -- most of whom will never gain riches and fame -- have to put up with to pursue their Olympic dreams. Outside magazine has a fascinating article about how the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has become a quasi-governmental agency whose tactics remind some people of the East German secret police. In their effort to clean up what everyone acknowledges has been an incredibly dirty sports world, WADA has upended or destroyed the careers of plenty of innocent athletes, like Zach Lund , an American skeleton competitor. For years, Lund had been taking finasteride, an anti-baldness drug. He had dutifully informed the anti-doping agency of his use of the medication. Then in 2005, the agency added finasteride to...

Big Government, Big Lasers

(The interior of the NIF target chamber. Credit is given to Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Department of Energy under whose auspices this work was performed.) At a time when we're arguing vehemently about what government should and shouldn't be doing, I thought I'd point out something pretty amazing an arm of the government just did. On Wednesday, the National Ignition Facility in California fired its 192 lasers at a pellet the size of a pencil eraser, successfully delivering one megajoule of energy -- about 500 times all the energy being used in the country at any one time. It all happened within a few billionths of a second. That's right: Superlaser. Megalaser. Ginormolaser. What they are trying to do at the NIF is recreate the nuclear fusion that happens at the center of the sun. When they blast a tiny fuel pellet containing deuterium and tritium (two hydrogen isotopes) with this focused laser beam, the laser energy will...

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