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

Their Own Facts

How basic misunderstandings about government benefit the right

Sarah Palin, who called President Barack Obama's health plan "downright evil" because, she alleged, it would create "death panels" denying care to the neediest Americans (AP/Stephan Savoia)
When someone is propagating falsehoods about a matter of public debate, someone else will often say, "You're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts." In other words, we can only have a reasonable debate if we agree on what the facts are. We may disagree about which facts are more important than others, but if you believe, say, that the Affordable Care Act establishes "death panels" before which seniors and the disabled have to beg for their lives, and I assert that the act does no such thing, we won't be able to have a fruitful discussion about whether the ACA is a good thing until we can get past the factual disagreement. Without a common set of facts, we can't come to conclusions, because all we will do is argue about what's true. This is a long-standing problem in politics, American and otherwise. When we look, however, at the most widespread factual inaccuracies that pervade politics today, there is one common thread: Almost all of them redound to the benefit of the...

I Really Don't Approve of This Message.

At the risk of becoming a broken record (Note to the kids: "records" were a method of playing music in the last century), let me point out this bit of maddening advertising from Wisconsin Senate candidate Ron Johnson , the latest candidate to make "I know nothing about this job, so please hire me for it" the centerpiece of his campaign: Wow -- I'm shocked, shocked that there are no "manufacturers" in the Senate, while there are 57 lawyers. How can they even turn out the ball bearings they're supposed to be making? Oh wait -- they don't make ball bearings in the Senate. What was that they make again? I remember: Laws! Why should lawyers be involved in that? I'm not saying you have to be a lawyer to make a good lawmaker. But it's not completely irrelevant. On the other hand, manufacturing plastics -- what Johnson does -- is pretty irrelevant. Ron Johnson may know how to "create jobs" through the selling of plastics, but that's very different from knowing how to create jobs through the...

Lou Dobbs' Revisionist History.

You may have heard about The Nation 's exposé about Lou Dobbs , revealing that the crusader against illegal immigration has had undocumented workers cutting his grass and tending his show horses. Dobbs and the author of the piece, Isabel MacDonald , had a lengthy debate about it on Lawrence O'Donnell 's program, and Dobbs' contention that it was a "hit job" revolved around the fact that though there may have been undocumented workers there, he didn't personally hire them , so his hands are clean. That's a debatable point, but there's something else that's worthy of note. Again and again during the interview, Dobbs responded with outrage when MacDonald described him as an advocate of a "get tough" approach to illegal immigration, saying that for years he has been working with all sorts of people to find a comprehensive solution to the problem. If you never saw Dobbs' show on CNN, you might think he was a reasonable guy. But the truth is that his show, which was ostensibly about all...

Another Way to Think About the "Enthusiasm Gap."

You've probably heard that one thing that is bound to doom Democrats this November is the "enthusiasm gap," the fact that polls show Republicans far more enthusiastic about voting than Democrats. As Nate Silver tells us , this is really a turnout gap, and it's more about Republicans than Democrats. The Democratic base isn't actually particularly "dispirited," as we've heard -- they seem ready to turn out at something like historically consistent levels. What is likely to make the difference is that Republicans are really, really ready to turn out. This is basically what happened in 1994 -- reasonable Democratic turnout combined with extremely high Republican turnout. But here's another way to think about it. When we look back over recent off-year elections, it seems like the thing that matters most in creating this dynamic is this question: Just how much do members of the out-party hate the president? In 1994, Republicans really hated Bill Clinton , for instance, just as they hate...

MSNBC's Continuing Shuffle to the Left.

Jon Chait makes a good point in responding to the excellent article in New York magazine on the trials of CNN and MSNBC: MSNBC, as Sherman reports, is now courting a liberal audience. But (my opinion) you'll never have a liberal equivalent to Fox News that has anything like the same level of success. Conservatives believe that the mainstream news is fundamentally corrupt and untrustworthy. They want a fully closed information ecosystem in which every piece of data they consume is filtered through the perspective of the conservative movement. Very, very few liberals want that. They want their liberal opinion, but they also want straight news, or at the very least news that isn't overtly propagandistic like on Fox. MSNBC has slightly right-of-center programming in the morning with Joe Scarborough, straight news throughout the day, then liberal opinion at night. I'd add that it isn't just that conservatives want a fully closed information ecosystem, it's also that many of them have come...

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