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

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...

It's Not the Racism, It's the Race-Baiting.

In the past few days, there has been a lot of discussion about the role race plays in the rising tide of birther/tenther/teabagger opposition to President Obama , mostly because of the column I wrote the other day here at TAP about the topic. (Ha! Not really – it had to do more with Jimmy Carter and Maureen Dowd .) But since I wrote that column, I’ve gotten a bunch of emails from conservatives, saying in one form or another, “Opposing President Obama does not make me a racist!” Of course it doesn’t. But I want to focus on one particular aspect of this controversy for a moment, the people with the great big megaphones. I had one correspondent claim to me that he listens to Rush Limbaugh every day, and Limbaugh has never said anything racist. I realized that what he meant was that Limbaugh had, in his time listening, never actually burst out, “Obama is a ni**er!!!” My correspondent also assured me that Limbaugh is close friends with Clarence Thomas , certifying to the lack of prejudice...

Stuff Some White People Don't Like

The right's animosity toward Obama isn't about fascism or socialism -- it's about racism.

Citizens protest against taxation and government spending at a "Tea Party" rally. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Back when Barack Obama began his extraordinary quest for the presidency, lots of conservatives -- particularly those prone to wake screaming in the night from visions of Madam President Hillary Clinton -- just couldn't say enough nice things about him. What attracted them most was not his intellect or political skill: It was the way he handled race. Right-wing stalwart William Bennett may have best summed up the feeling when he gushed that Obama "never brings race into it. He never plays the race card. Talk about the black community -- he has taught the black community you don't have to act like Jesse Jackson; you don't have to act like Al Sharpton." The post-racial honeymoon couldn't last, of course. During the campaign, conservative forces worked overtime to define Obama by his race, from the attacks on his wife as an "angry black woman" (Fox News once referred to her as Barack's "baby mama") to the way they gleefully seized on Jeremiah Wright in an attempt to turn Obama into Black...

The Three Audiences Obama Has to Please

Wednesday's speech is the president's chance to talk three key congressional constituencies into passing health-care reform.

Barack Obama with Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Not long after the general presidential election began last year, some momentary fluctuation in the polls led to a fevered round of hand-wringing on the left. Our nominee is letting it slip away! people cried. He ought to shift his strategy, change this, alter that! Then a photo of Barack Obama at his convention speech began to circulate through e-mails and blogs, showing the candidate looking strong and resolute. "Everyone chill the f*** out," the caption read in bold letters. "I GOT THIS." And he did. For all the marveling at Obama's rhetorical skill, it was his political skill that got him to the White House, most important, his ability to see the whole field of the campaign and keep focused on the long-term goal without getting bogged down in the day-to-day ups and downs of polls and the news media's obsession with distractions and minutiae. Today, with the health-care debate coming toward its end, progressives once again are nervous and agitated, wondering if the victory for...

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