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

The Tyranny of the Centrists

You'd think passing a $787 billion stimulus bill would count as a victory for Obama. But it was the centrists who got what they wanted from the stimulus bill, and what they wanted was for the entire nation to beseech them for their favor.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talk about the Senate's work to pass the economic stimulus bill Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
If six months ago you had said that within three weeks of taking office, President Obama would pass a $787 billion stimulus bill with billions of dollars for food stamps and schools, infrastructure and energy modernization, health care and broadband, anyone would have said it would be an extraordinary victory for the president, his party and his ideology. Yet now that it has actually happened, the administration is hardly acting triumphal, while some other people are imagining themselves the true winners. The Republican minority, calling in from some alternative universe, is convinced that by achieving lockstep opposition to a popular economic-recovery plan pushed by a popular president in a time of economic crisis, they've laid a firm foundation for future electoral gains. For the moment, they seem more delusional than dangerous. But the people we should really worry about are the "centrists," that merry band of legislators who determined the fate of the legislation. It was the...

Good Work, If You Can Get It

Every national politician, in good times and bad, will talk about "jobs." But as the current debate on the stimulus has shown, not everybody has the same understanding of what a "job" is.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Every national politician, in good times and bad, will talk about "jobs" -- creating jobs, building jobs, saving jobs, bringing jobs. Or as they sometimes put it, "jobs, jobs, jobs." But as the current debate on the Obama administration's stimulus package has shown, not everybody has the same understanding of what a "job" is. The problem is that philosophy is getting in the way of reality. If as you watch this debate you're beginning to feel like the country is riding an express train to Stupidville, you're not alone. Instead of having an honest discussion about what measures will actually arrest the economic crisis, we have to watch United States senators blathering on about how many times large numbers of currency notes could circle the earth, or working out Jesus-related problems in long division . They are no doubt certain that their fantastically clever arguments will turn the political tide in their favor, which makes it all the more exasperating. When you listen to the...

Limbaugh vs. Obama

With a new Democratic administration and Democratic majorities in Congress, Limbaugh is right back where he wants to be -- on the outside.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
At a giddy Capitol Hill ceremony in December 1994, Rush Limbaugh was declared an honorary member of the 104th Congress, so grateful were its ascendant Republicans for the radio host's assistance in winning majorities of both houses. Limbaugh told the assembled members to remain "rock-ribbed devoted in almost a militant way to your principles." And indeed they did. The ensuing years had their ups and downs for Limbaugh. Though his radio program continued to prosper, there was a divorce (his third), his arrest for "doctor shopping" to feed his prescription drug habit (including allegedly sending his housekeeper out to procure drugs for him -- so classy), and the development of a condition that left him almost deaf. But the biggest problem Limbaugh had was the success of the politicians he supported. With Republicans in control of all three branches of government from 2001 to 2007, Limbaugh found himself forced to defend the prevailing order, which is neither as compelling nor as fun as...

With God On Our Side?

President Obama acknowledged nonreligious Americans in his Inaugural Address. Will his administration re-separate church and state?

We know that Barack Obama is all about inclusion. Still, it was a little surprising to hear him give a nod in his Inaugural Address to a group that has been one of America's most disdained, particularly when it comes to politics. "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers," he said, no doubt bringing a smile to millions of faces around the country, and a scowl to millions more. It may be that this is the last we'll hear from President Obama on the topic, or it may be that he'll actually take steps to dial back the efforts some have made over the last few years to make the federal government as Christian as possible. Either way, the inclusion of nonbelievers didn't represent all that much of a political risk. But it was noteworthy nonetheless, particularly coming at the conclusion of what was in some ways the most sectarian administration in our history. George W. Bush not only talked frequently about his Christianity (much more often than our first...

What We Talk About When We Talk About Obama

Now that he's president, this theorizing about what type of president we're going to get -- a hidden socialist? a compulsive compromiser? a master strategist? -- will be put to the test.

In The Audacity of Hope, the book Barack Obama penned in advance of his presidential campaign (as all good candidates do these days), he was rather candid about his political image. "I'm new enough on the national political scene," he wrote, "that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them." As Obama takes the oath of office, he can no longer benefit from people simply assuming he agrees with them. Instead of talking about what he might do with power, as of today he will actually wield it. In the months since he won the Democratic nomination, a series of images of Obama have been constructed by his admirers and foes, assembled out of bits and pieces of reality. Out of an offhand statement here, a policy proposal there, and mostly the observer's own hunches, hopes, and fears, they offer radically different interpretations of the man whom as of today we can finally...