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

McCain: Noun, Verb, Terrorism

For all John McCain's supposed experience, he has the same absurdly simplistic and factually ignorant understanding of the problem as President Bush.

John McCain's campaign has a problem: it just doesn't have much to talk about. According to the latest polls by Fortune magazine what the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy is, McCain answered, "Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against radical Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences." Putting aside the question of whether there might be more serious threats to the economy (The housing meltdown? Exploding gas prices?), it's hard to avoid the conclusion that anyone who thinks that Islamic terrorists might succeed in literally destroying America -- "our very existence," as McCain says -- is either a certifiable paranoiac or a complete fool. Given that, it is remarkable how often McCain asserts that Barack Obama "doesn't understand" terrorism, as though unlike McCain, Obama just hasn't spent enough time...

COURAGEOUS? NOT QUITE.

Following up on Tim's post below, there are a couple of important things to note about McCain 's allegedly courageous acts of apostasy. First of all, why exactly is it that going against your party is "courageous"? It's courageous if your goal is to rise within your party to become, say, Senate Minority Leader. But that was never McCain's goal. If your goal is to become president, as McCain's has always been, then there is a relatively minor cost to bucking your party - you might have some trouble picking up future endorsements, for instance. But there are much more substantial benefits to be gained. McCain certainly knows that when he votes with Democrats, he will be almost guaranteed to earn the admiration of the press, which worships "rebels." He also knows that unlike other members of the Senate who actually buck their party much more often than he does ( Ben Nelson , Olympia Snowe , etc.), when he crosses the aisle he will become the starring player in the story the press will...

Smearing Michelle

Frustrated by their inability to successfully call Barack Obama's character into question, his opponents have seized on the next best option -- attacking his wife.

From the moment Barack Obama began contemplating a presidential run, conservatives saw one thing about him they didn't like a bit: his wife. She had a career of her own. The way she kidded her husband about his morning breath suggested that theirs might actually be a marriage of equals. And most of all, she was black. Way, way too black. So it shouldn't have surprised anyone when a phony story started making the email and Internet rounds claiming that a videotape existed of Michelle Obama giving a speech in which she supposedly said something or other about "whitey." When asked about it, she told The New York Times , "I mean, 'whitey'? That's something that George Jefferson would say." And who else says "whitey"? Virtually no one under the age of 60 -- the term is a relic of the 1960s, that primordial ooze from which all cultural conflict continues to seep. Let's remember why some conservatives were briefly so enamored of Barack Obama: in right-wing eminence grise William Bennett's...

THAT WASN'T HARD TO SEE COMING

Open up the New York Times op-ed page today, and you'll see that David Brooks is deeply disappointed in Barack Obama : But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes. This is the same David Brooks who back in January wrote this : Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this...This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance...Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too. And what do you know - over on the...

THE AIR WAR IS JOINED!

At long last, Barack Obama is on the air with his first ad of the general election. Take a gander: Like every Obama ad, this one features high production values and a crisply defined message. The script is all about this great land of ours, which you can hardly blame them for, given the sustained attempt by the right to characterize Obama as a flag-hating, terrorist-coddling, Al Qaeda Manchurian candidate. But this isn’t just a reaction to the smear campaign. It’s actually consistent with what Obama has been saying all along. Let’s remember that Obama has been telling a story about America from the moment he emerged on the national scene at the 2004 Democratic convention. (I wrote about this back in October 2006 here . As a bonus, the article has a link to none other than Ezra Klein arguing that Obama should wait to run for president. Even the best among us can be wrong!) He has always presented himself as the embodiment of what we all want America to be: inclusive, future-oriented,...

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