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

PAGING PAT PAULSEN

In his continuing campaign to become a walking punchline, Ralph Nader is running for president. Again. Four years ago, Harold, Matt, Garance and I ruminated on the prospect of what then the second Nader run. We all agreed it was a really bad idea. The question I'd like to hear Nader answer now is, "Why president?" I agree with much of the substantive critique Nader offers of the state of American government. But I have yet to hear him offer much of an explanation of why he thinks him embarking on another presidential campaign will do anything to address the problems he identifies. At the end of Nader for President 3.0, will corporate America's grip on the legislative process be loosened? Will we be closer to getting a more environmentally sound energy policy? Will the problem of widening inequality start to be addressed? Is there any imaginable way in which this campaign will have any impact on the problems he professes to care about? Ralph Nader accomplished great things in his life...

ARMING UP FOR THE GENERAL.

The particulars of what Barack Obama actually "pledged" to do on public financing notwithstanding, it's pretty clear that what coverage there has been of this issue assumes it's an ironclad pledge. Obviously, it would be of great benefit to Obama to opt out of the system, because as of now it appears he'd be likely to raise far more money than John McCain . So how can he opt out and still save face? The answer is: 527s. No, I don't mean that he should encourage people to organize 527s on his behalf. But he can use the very well-funded Republican 527s as the lever to enable him to opt out. The argument would go something like this: "I said I would 'aggressively pursue an agreement to preserve a publicly financed election' with my Republican opponent. And I'm happy to have our two campaigns sit down and see if there is a way to make the debate between me and John McCain, within the publicly financed system. But as long as there are 'independent' Republican groups out there planning on...

The Triumph of Narrative

Of all the things Barack Obama has done right this campaign, none may be more important than the fact that he has told a story perfectly keyed to the current moment in history.

This has been about as interesting and unpredictable a presidential primary campaign as any political junkie could have hoped for, and few would be foolish enough to say they know for certain what will happen next. But at the moment, Barack Obama has momentum and a lead in delegates, and Hillary Clinton will have to pull out overwhelming victories in nearly every contest from here to the end of the primaries if she is to become the Democratic nominee. Though we may or may not have reached the end of the unexpected upsets and dramatic reversals of the primaries, much less the general election to come, there is no doubt that of all the people who ran for president this year, Obama has run the smartest and most skilled campaign. But of all the things he has done right, none may be more important than the fact that he has told far and away the best story. This is a topic I addressed in two previous columns, and now that one nominee is chosen and the other will be soon (at least within a...

STICKS AND STONES...

Here's the ad Dana mentioned below , and we should note that it is, at long last, the first negative ad of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. Drumroll, please... If nothing else, this just proves how civil this race has been. While lots of people complain about how dirty and nasty today's campaigns are, candidates today might as well be firing cannons filled with nerf balls compared to what used to go on. Andrew Jackson 's opponents distributed pamphlets accusing him of being "a gambler, a cock fighter, a slave trader and the husband of a really fat wife." Now that's some negative campaigning! Or how about Karl Rove spreading rumors that his client's opponent was a pedophile? Ah, the good old days. But what do we have here? Hillary Clinton comes out with guns blazing and accuses Barack Obama of ... not wanting to participate in enough debates. I'm outraged. I suppose the problem at the moment for Clinton is that the story she's been telling about Obama all along - that he doesn...

The Maverick Myth

You can't read a story about John McCain without seeing the word "maverick." But is it true?

From the archives: Robert Kuttner on how McCain failed to stand up to the Bush administration and Steve Benen on McCain's relationship with the media.

Now that John McCain is the all-but-certain Republican nominee for president, there is one thing we know for sure about how the general election will play out: The Democrat is going to be at a serious disadvantage in the media. This will be true even if that nominee is Barack Obama, who has gotten better coverage thus far than Hillary Clinton. Reporters find his candidacy a compelling story, but that attraction has its limitations. When it comes to John McCain, however, it's pure love. The issue of the media's affection for McCain is a complex one that I'll be exploring in detail over the coming months. But for the moment, let's take a look at perhaps the most prominent and repeated element of the mythology surrounding the Arizona senator. If you asked 100 reporters what one word they would use to describe John McCain, 99 would probably answer, "maverick." Indeed, they've become so used to attaching "maverick" to McCain that it has become almost a part of his name; "the maverick John...

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