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

You Get What You Vote For

Liberals shouldn't be surprised President Obama always insists on compromise; candidate Obama talked about it all the time.

(AP Photo/Darren Hauck)
The Republican presidential primary contest may finally be under way in earnest, but it's hard to say just what this nominating race is about. Right now, the GOP candidates are mostly competing to see who hates government and Barack Obama the most, an argument unlikely to prove enlightening. But it doesn't have to be this way. At this time four years ago, Democratic voters were watching a primary race that did an excellent job of previewing the challenges we're facing now. Much of what Democrats are grappling with today -- their anger at Republican obstructionism, their disappointment with the president -- was hashed out when Obama was an upstart senator trying to convince his own party that he could handle the presidency. We may not have known all that would happen, but the way Obama's presidency has unfolded shouldn't have been a surprise. As in most primary races, the 2008 contestants had only small differences on policy (a large field winnowed down early on to Obama, Hillary...

Obama's Great Expectation

During the December fight over the Bush tax cuts, the president made a big mistake by assuming Republicans wouldn't be willing to ruin the economy.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
As we watch the debate that has dominated Washington for the last couple of months, it's hard not to think we've found ourselves in some satirical play about the absurdity of contemporary politics. Today -- four days before we hit the debt ceiling -- House Speaker John Boehner is expected to bring his deficit-reduction plan to a vote after finally whipping his caucus into shape, but the plan is considered a no-go in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid and 57 other senators have threatened to veto it. It shouldn't have been surprising that the best summation of the situation came from a headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion : "Congress Continues Debate Over Whether Or Not Nation Should Be Economically Ruined." When we look back on this period of insanity, we will see that the moment essential to understanding what happened came on December 7, 2010. A month after the Republicans won the House in the midterm elections, but before the new members had taken office,...


Concerns that technology may be affecting our ability to communicate may not be totally off the mark, but there's no use in being a curmudgeon about it.

Flickr/Slava Baranskyi
Today marks what would be the 100th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian media scholar best known for coining the phrase "the medium is the message." His work had no empirical component (a theoretician, he began his career as an English professor), but the aphorisms that made him famous have proved remarkably persistent: Look around today, and the question posed by McLuhan's most notable idea is becoming more and more urgent: Is the medium really the message? And if so, is that good or bad? What McLuhan meant was that the content of communication delivered by a particular medium is less important than the form in which it arrives. Reading words printed on a page has particular effects on the way we think, understand, and remember; assimilating pictures or sounds has fundamentally different effects. McLuhan speculated that various media could reshape our brains, and today, armed with new techniques, researchers are beginning to investigate whether that may, in fact, be true. For...

No Twits on Twitter

In town halls, regular folk ask better questions than journalists do.

(Flickr/Geoff Livingston)
It would have been easy to scoff at the fact that the president of the United States sat down last week to field questions delivered via a social network that limits all messages to 140 characters or less. But the "Twitter town hall" was much more substantive than you might have expected. The questions President Barack Obama answered (which were selected by Twitter executives from the thousands that came in) mostly concerned the economy, but also covered such topics as energy, education, taxes, and our various wars. In other words, it turned out largely as Obama intended, and no one should have been surprised. It might seem counter-intuitive, given how little Americans (on average) know about politics, and how many of us believe ridiculous things - that aliens are abducting people, or that whether you'll meet an old friend today is determined by the position of the zodiac. But town halls have been with us since before we were an independent nation. That, of course, is part of the...

Chattering Crass

For some D.C. pundits, the worst crime is caring about policy.

(William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire via AP Images)
Last week, A-list pundit Mark Halperin reacted to President Barack Obama's press conference on the budget negotiations with Republicans by saying "I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday" on the MSNBC program Morning Joe . The result was a quick apology, a quick suspension, and lots of silly hand-waving. But no one should really care about what Halperin said. It was certainly juvenile -- to understand that, you only had to look at Halperin smiling gleefully and flushed with the thrill of transgression as he uttered the naughty word. But the republic will survive. Nevertheless, Halperin does represent something important, dirty words or not -- both in terms of his career up until now and what got him in trouble. Americans who are not political junkies probably haven't heard of Halperin, but inside the Beltway, he's an unfortunately influential figure. He made his name more than a decade ago by creating "The Note" for ABC News, an insider's guide to the doings and feelings of the "...