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

If Elected, I Will Make Some Barely Noticeable Difference to America.

Here's how representative democracy works: We send a representative from our district or state to Washington, where they become one of either 435 House members or 100 senators. They can introduce legislation, serve on committees, and make speeches. But for one of them to do something really far-reaching is rare. That's especially true when you're new to the institution, partially because you need the cooperation of a majority of your colleagues to pass something, and partially because of the nature of seniority. When you're a freshman, you don't get to waltz in and write the next big tax bill. You don't get to chair the Appropriations Committee. But people running for office routinely imply to voters that if they are elected, Washington will be transformed . Look at this new ad from Rand Paul : "A physician not a career politician, Rand Paul will fix Medicare and Social Security." Two of my biggest pet peeves right there. First, saying you're not a politician so you'll be able to...

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

In case you haven't seen it, there's a new poll out from the National Journal which finds that only 20 percent of Americans -- and only 33 percent of Democrats , for gosh sakes -- think that this Congress has accomplished more than previous Congresses. Steve Benen gives the appropriate response: I don't expect the public to have an extensive knowledge of federal policymaking history, but I at least hoped Americans would realize the scope of recent accomplishments. We are, after all, talking about a two-year span in which Congress passed and the president signed the Affordable Care Act, the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, student loan reform, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, etc. ... This Congress has been about as many accomplishments as recent Congresses? Seriously?...

My Opponent's Pants Are, I Believe, Aflame.

My column today is about politicians' lies -- which ones we care about, and which ones we don't. Lucky for me, Linda McMahon gives us a classic of the "He's a liar!" genre (via Dave Weigel : OK, I'll ask: What else is he lying about? Why don't you tell us? There must be something you suspect. So what is it? Is his position on health care fraudulent? Is he actually a member of some weird cult? What? I'm not trying to defend Richard Blumenthal . But the point of this ad seems to be that the Vietnam lie (if you want to call it that; Blumenthal would call it a "misstatement") isn't the real problem; instead, the problem is the other, unnamed lies that we should be terrified of. Politicians do this to each other a lot: say that their opponents' sins aren't so much an issue in and of themselves as they are an indication that some far more awful tendency lurks below them, a little tick suggesting that the opponent may actually be an alien from the planet Gorgoth sent here to enslave us all...

The Supreme Court Under the Radar.

I don't envy legal reporters. If you're a sportswriter, you don't have to start every article on the latest Yankees-Red Sox game by patiently explaining the arcane rules of baseball -- it's understood that your readers know them. But if you write about the law, the context for your stories is a system with complex procedures and arcane precedents, and a significant chunk of what you write is going to have to be an explanation of how the system works. Furthermore, while most journalism revolves around people -- characters who can be cast in competing roles, often as heroes or villains -- by the time a case gets to the Supreme Court, it usually has almost nothing to do with the original plaintiff and defendant. Instead, the justices are attempting to determine what sort of general rule should apply to this sort of case, whether its application in this particular case seems fair or not. Nevertheless, the cases that attract a lot of attention do end up being those with compelling human...

I Am Not a Crook -- I Mean a Witch!

Well, this certainly isn't what I would have expected from Christine O'Donnell 's first ad: Way to take that witchcraft issue head-on. The problem with saying, "I'm not X" -- crook, witch, whatever -- is that it makes people think about whether you are, in fact, the thing you're claiming not to be. Not that anyone thinks that O'Donnell is actually a witch, of course, but it does bring right up to the front of your mind all those silly things O'Donnell has said. As for the "I'm you," that's one of the not-infrequent cases where a candidate tells us explicitly what she's supposed to be imparting implicitly (George H.W. Bush's "Message: I care" being the prototypical case). Problem is, unless she really is you -- and how many 41-year-old, not particularly well-informed female culture warriors are there in Delaware? -- it sounds kind of phony and pandering. A voter might say, "You're not me -- I'm a dude!" Or "You're not me -- I'm 72 years old!" And so on. -- Paul Waldman