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

Attention Must Be Paid.

Although the fact that Olympia Snowe voted for the Finance Committee's version of health-care reform was welcome, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. If Snowe had voted no, she would have made herself instantly irrelevant, because a no vote there would have guaranteed a no vote on the floor, and another no vote on the conference report that will combine the House and Senate versions. That's because the Finance version is the most conservative bill of the five that have been passed, and it will only get less so as it proceeds. When it gets combined with the version already passed out of the HELP committee, what emerges will be a little more progressive. When that combined bill gets negotiated with the much more progressive House bill, what emerges will be a bit more progressive still (just how much, we don’t know). While there are plenty of details left to argue over, we certainly won’t be getting a more conservative bill at either of those two stages. So if Snowe voted against this...

A Case for Empathy

Last week, we got to see what it looks like when a justice is unable to view the world from another's perspective.

(National Park Service)
Back in 2007, Barack Obama said that if he got the chance to make a Supreme Court appointment, one of his criteria for a justice would be a capacity for "empathy." Conservatives were predictably outraged. But last week, we got to see what it looks like when a justice is unable to view the world from another's perspective. While Salazar v. Buono may not be too important in the grand scheme of things, one particular exchange during oral arguments ought to make conservatives give some thought to the quality of empathy. Because in the years to come, they're going to learn more about it, whether they want to or not. The case concerned a dispute over a large cross erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor those killed in war. Trouble was, they erected it on federal government land in the Mojave National Preserve. Similar to cases involving other religious displays, the question was whether the government can sponsor what is effectively an endorsement of one particular religion. But...

The Second Coming of Sarah Palin

Will Alaska's former governor become the leader of the GOP's religious wing?

(HarperCollins)
If you haven't yet decided what to get your loved ones for the holidays, your worries may be over: Going Rogue: An American Life , by one Sarah Palin, will be available in bookstores Nov. 17, months ahead of schedule. I, for one, cannot wait. Palin's book will no doubt be a huge success. Whatever else you can say about conservatives, they do their part to support the publishing industry -- every midlevel right-wing talk-radio host has his own best-seller, and the latest clip job by Michelle Malkin or Ann Coulter is guaranteed to climb to the top of The New York Times ' list. Within days of the announcement of its new publishing date -- and weeks before it arrives in stores -- Going Rogue catapulted to No. 1 on Amazon. Anyone who thought Palin might fade from public view after her spectacular swan dive off the roof of the Alaska governor's mansion turns out to have been wrong. And it's a good thing, because her fans will need a leader in the ongoing battle for soul of the Republican...

Hurry Up and Wait

Why passing health-care reform might not be the political boon you'd expect.

Picture this scene: At a stirring Rose Garden ceremony, President Barack Obama signs health-care reform into law, with members of Congress beaming behind him. They erupt into cheers when he puts down his pen -- hands are shaken vigorously, and even a few hugs are exchanged. Afterward, everyone speaks of how they've honored Ted Kennedy and his lifelong crusade to get every American health coverage. Over the next few days, the news media note many times that Obama accomplished what every Democratic president since Harry Truman tried and failed to do. All agree that this will almost certainly be the defining domestic-policy achievement of his presidency. Republicans grumble but know they've been beaten. Americans watching at home are pleased and hopeful. Terrific, they say -- I can't wait for my newfound health security! And when do they get it? A little over three years from now. Because in all the versions of reform now moving through Congress, most of the provisions don't take effect...

Glenn Beck's Party

The message of the GOP is being delivered by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Anti-tax protesters marched in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12, spurred on by Fox News host Glenn Beck. (Flickr / The Rocketeer)
In Great Britain, the opposition party assembles a "shadow cabinet," offering up individuals who are supposed to speak for it on various policy issues. One of the results is that the party is required to at least pretend to care about the substance of government. We have no such tradition here in America, so our opposition, without much to do with its time other than plot strategies to undermine the party in power, is free to be as trivial as it wants. Granted, when you're out of power, stirring up trouble is a lot more fun than writing policy papers. But the problem for the GOP today is that it is increasingly being defined by its ugliest impulses, its most gullible conspiracy theorists, and its acceptance of a rising tide of nuttiness. Conservatives are having quite a bit of success drumming up manufactured controversies, but each one makes them look less and less like the kind of people you'd trust to run the country. It is appropriate that the conservative moment's new leader is...

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