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

Bachmann Goes Lamestream

The Minnesota Republican is a more serious presidential candidate than you think.

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
I'd like to ask you to do something strange, maybe even a little shocking: take Michele Bachmann seriously. If you're like most people, chances are you know Bachmann only as that crazy Tea Party congresswoman who told Chris Matthews, "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?", the one who delivered her own response to the State of the Union, in which she looked into the wrong camera for seven minutes. But she is running for president, and she's not kidding around. Don't get me wrong -- Bachmann is neither a serious legislator nor a serious thinker. Her ideas are radical nearly to the point of being nuts, and the thought of her in the Oval Office is, well, unsettling. As a representative of the extreme right, she'd have almost no chance of beating Barack Obama in a general election. But the other candidates in the race could well find her to be more formidable than they expect. Bachmann...

The Republicans' Panty-Raid

The Republicans' absolutely foolproof plan on Medicare is missing a key step -- how to turn changes to the program into actual savings.

(Flickr/Joelstuff V3)
In a 1998 episode of South Park , the boys learn that their dresser drawers are being raided by a group of Underpants Gnomes, who have a carefully designed business plan to turn their theft into fabulous wealth. The three-phase plan is laid out on a slide projected in the gnomes' lair: "Phase 1: Collect underpants. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Profit." That, in its essence, is how Republicans are proposing to deal with the rising cost of health care and the long-term federal budget deficit. Phase 1: Remove government guarantee of health coverage. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Savings. Republicans seem surprised by the negative reaction to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would turn Medicare from an insurance program into a voucher program. Under this proposal, seniors would have to seek insurance from a private company and the government would reimburse part of their premiums. Republicans knew the plan would meet some opposition but mistakenly thought they could quell much of the resistance by...

Thought Police

How group think will shape the Republican presidential primaries.

Newt Gingrich speaking at CPAC 2011. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Newt Gingrich probably thought he was being smart when a week ago he publicly rejected the budget plan put forward by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. After all, Ryan's idea to change Medicare into a voucher program is profoundly unpopular, particularly with the seniors now enjoying the program's benefits. So when Gingrich went on Meet the Press and responded to a question about the Ryan Medicare plan by saying, "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," it probably felt politically shrewd. He could distance himself from an unpopular idea and position himself not as the partisan bomb-thrower people used to consider him but as the innovative, post-partisan thinker he fancies himself to be. It might have been a reasonable strategy -- in a different era. But in 2011, identity defines politics more than ever. Gingrich's mistake was his failure to understand that particularly at this stage of the race, no question is more...

You Don't Love America Like I Love America

The Republican nominating contest will be a battle over who loves this country the most, and how much Barack Obama hates America.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (Flickr/theqspeaks)
If you're running to replace a sitting president, your campaign needs a theme beyond "throw that bum out," a vision that helps define you and where you think the country should go. You may not have noticed it, but nearly all the Republicans looking to win their party's nomination to run against Barack Obama have settled on the same motif: America is awesome. You were hoping for something a little more meaty? Sorry -- the GOP watchword of the moment is "American exceptionalism," and the candidates seem to be banking their campaigns on it. If you've been paying attention to the incipient election efforts, you've heard that phrase with increasing frequency. For the next year and a half, Republicans will be talking a lot about how special America is. Any good campaign theme contains an implicit contrast, and the one the Republicans want to draw is plain: They believe in American exceptionalism, and Barack Obama doesn't. We are not just great, this argument goes; we are superior to every...

Obama Should Show the Photo

Our final image of Osama bin Laden should be of him in defeat.

(Flickr/The White House)
This afternoon, news outlets reported that President Barack Obama has decided against releasing any photos of Osama bin Laden's body, even though CIA Director Leon Panetta indicated just hours before that the pictures would be made public. It may seem ghoulish or too triumphant. "The fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received," Obama said on CBS's 60 Minutes , which will air this Sunday. "And I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he's gone. But we don't need to spike the football." Many people in the administration, not to mention members of Congress from both parties, also fear that the photos could spark an anti-American backlash. A strong case, however, can be made that the American public and the world at large ought to see this image. In recent years, we've debated the publication of photos of flag-draped coffins, civilian and military war casualties, and scenes of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But...