Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger, and a contributing editor. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

On the American Takfiris.

If you haven't yet read Adam 's fantastic post over at the Atlantic , you should do so now. Here's an excerpt: The torture memos--indeed, all of the pro-torture arguments rest on a similar intellectual themes to the takfiris. Suspected terrorists are "illegal enemy combatants", outside the framework of laws that would otherwise guide us. Just as the takfiris justify the killing of even self-identified Muslims by excommunicating them as "infidels", torture apologists argue that even American citizens like Jose Padilla who are accused of being terrorists become legal "apostates" without any rights the president is bound to respect. No matter what your ideology, if you pay attention to politics you'll find a lot to be angry about. But I don't know that anything in my years of awareness has made me more disgusted than the way so many people, including so many influential people, became advocates of torture in the months and years following September 11. We were told so many times that "9/...

Olympic Cultural Sensitivity Watch.

If you've been paying attention to the Olympics, you've probably heard about Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin and their Australian Aboriginal routine. No? Here's the version that they debuted at the recent European championships -- you'll only have to watch the first few seconds to be sufficiently appalled: In response to the millions of jaws left gaping around the world, the couple toned down the costumes a bit for the Olympics: no more face paint, and Maxim's costume lost its skin darkening, thank goodness. It turns out the reason this all started is that in ice dancing, all the skaters (dancers?) have to follow a theme for one of their three routines, and the theme this year is folk dances. Which made this an excellent opportunity to ask just how offensive this kind of thing is, and why. While some of the Olympic teams rocked folk dances from their own cultures (the Israeli couple's "Straight Outta the Shtetl" routine, segueing inevitably into "Hava Nagila,"...

The Problem with a Plan.

At the upcoming health-care summit, and in the days following, Republicans will be talking a lot about how the American public has rejected the Democrats' health-reform plan, and therefore we ought to toss it out and "start with a blank piece of paper," which in practice means abandoning health reform altogether. But has the public actually rejected the Democrats' plan? The answer is, yes and no. A Newsweek poll contains some interesting data. When they asked people whether they favored or opposed the Obama plan, 40 percent said they favored it, and 48 percent said they opposed it -- not great, but not a disaster for the Democrats. Then they listed a bunch of the plan's provisions, and asked them whether they favored or opposed each. They got pretty much what you'd expect: Most of the provisions are extremely popular: The ones that aren't popular are the things you wish you didn't have to do, but you have to in order to make the system work: having an enforcement mechanism for the...

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;...

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