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 Mammogram Mess

Last week, new guidelines for breast cancer screening inspired a panic. Will we ever be able to discuss effective health care reasonably?

(iStockphoto)
The last thing Democrats needed, with reform still not passed, was any kind of health-care controversy. Yet that's just what they got when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force came out with a new set of guidelines on breast cancer screening, pushing back the suggested age for regular mammograms from 40 to 50. The uproar over the recommendation demonstrates a lot of the problems with how we deal with health care. It shows how opportunistic politicians can be -- the GOP, champions of women's health! -- and how as a country we have an inherent bias toward more health care, whether or not it's better health care. But the controversy also demonstrates how difficult it is to have a reasoned discussion and make good policy when scientific claims based on aggregates of cases are put up against vivid anecdotes from individual people. Unsurprisingly, news reports about this issue have been filled with women testifying about the success of their own pre-50 mammograms. Since reporters always...

Please, Enough With the Length of Bill.

A few months back, I wrote a column titled "The Ten Dumbest Arguments Against Health Care Reform." But now I feel bad, because I missed the single dumbest argument, which those opposed to reform seem to have put at the center of their case against it. And here it is: The bill is really long! We’ve had to endure one Republican after another decrying the length of the bill, holding up big printed copies of the bill, demanding that people read the whole bill out loud … enough already. You made your point. It’s really long. What none of them has explained is why this is, irrespective of what is actually in the bill , a bad thing. When they were running Congress, Republicans wrote long bills too (the White House pointed out that the Medicare prescription drug plan passed by Republicans and signed by George W. Bush was a none-too-svelte 1,044 pages). Those bills weren’t bad because they were long, they were bad because of what they did. Whether a bill is good or bad depends on what it...

When Hope Meets Reality

Obama inspired the country with his campaign, and now he must manage expectations of those swept up by his rhetoric.

(Pete Souza/White House)
"We campaign in poetry. But when we're elected we're forced to govern in prose," said Mario Cuomo, then-governor of New York, in a 1985 speech. "And when we govern -- as distinguished from when we campaign -- we come to understand the difference between a speech and a statute. It's here that the noble aspirations, neat promises and slogans of a campaign get bent out of recognition or even break as you try to nail them down to the Procrustean bed of reality." The man then hailed as the Democratic Party's greatest orator knew what he was talking about. And there is no doubt that the party's current lead orator, Barack Obama, has understood this truth all along. But those swept up in the oratory still seem to need occasional reminding of this reality. As health-care reform teeters between success and failure, the economy limps along, and more and more Americans wonder what we're doing in Afghanistan, the prose of governing is more than a little unsettling for some. The disparity is even...

Looking Back, Moving Forward

In the wake of this year's election drama, the only advice Democrats should follow is to make good on their promises.

Signs for the Terry McCauliffe campaign sit by a dumpster in McLean, Virginia, after his loss in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Flickr/Joe Loong)
Few things bring out the inanity of the punditry quite like an off-year election, and we were served a steaming portion of it after last week's results. If Democrats know what's good for them, they'll ignore all the advisement from the pundits about where they need to shift and what they need to fear -- no easy task when the clucking is near deafening. The New Jersey and Virginia governor's races are always presented as though they have some Delphic power to reveal the future, for no reason other than the fact that, unlike those in the other 48 states, they occur in odd years when no other big elections take place. In the two races this year where national issues actually played a part -- the special congressional elections in New York and California -- Democrats won. Nevertheless, the ever-reliable David Broder intoned that the gubernatorial races "signaled possible trouble ahead in the midterm elections at the national level" for Democrats. Peggy Noonan wrote that while voters in...

Make It Work, People.

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily machinations behind health care reform – how many votes the vile Stupak amendment limiting reproductive rights was able to secure, what kind of payoffs will be necessary to buy the assent of conservative Democrats in the Senate, the latest threat from the festering ball of bitterness and resentment that is Joe Lieberman . But what Democrats need to do more than anything else is take a deep breath, step back, and look at the long term. The only thing that will matter in the long run is whether this reform works . Look at Medicare – Republicans called it socialism and the AMA campaigned against it, but what mattered is that it worked. And today, we no longer argue about whether Medicare is a good thing (even Republicans pretend to believe it is). The political effect is that it makes every election and debate a little bit harder for the right, since their philosophy is refuted by the success of a program that improves the lives of millions of...

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