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

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...

Can Reason Win the Drug War?

Stoner jokes aside, the debate over America's drug policy is sounding increasingly sane.

Sarah Armstrong joins demonstrators protesting the federal government's arrest of those who sell medical marijuana in California. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
In these times of economic strife and fervent debate over health care, our great national culture war has been pushed to the side. But once in a while, it pops up its mischievous little head to remind us that the eternal battle between the hippies and the squares continues on, even if we can ignore it from time to time. One of those moments happened on Oct. 19, when the Justice Department released a memo instructing U.S. attorneys that while prosecuting drug dealers is still an objective, they "should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Though the next Republican administration will probably reverse the policy, the directive seems to provide more evidence that the left is winning the culture war. The administration's move hardly came as a surprise. During the 2008 campaign, Obama made clear his position: If doctors prescribe marijuana, that'...

Letting Lieberman Off the Hook.

The big news coming out of the Sunday shows is that Joe “with Democrats on everything but the war” Lieberman told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that he is so vehemently opposed to the inclusion of a public option in health-care reform that he would join Republicans in their filibuster of the bill if it contains the provision. When Schieffer noted that that would mean no reform at all, Lieberman happily proclaimed that he would prefer no reform to reform that included the public option. While we can thank Schieffer for helping to clarify things, this was one more missed opportunity of the kind we see nearly every Sunday. If Schieffer had bothered to challenge Lieberman on the blizzard of misinformation he spewed out in those few minutes, he would have exposed the hollowness of Lieberman’s arguments. But as is usually the case, all the questions he asked were about the politics of reform. We’re not surprised when Republicans who have no goal other than to kill reform and see...

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