Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. 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

Can Reason Win the Drug War?

Stoner jokes aside, the debate over America's drug policy is sounding increasingly sane.

Sarah Armstrong joins demonstrators protesting the federal government's arrest of those who sell medical marijuana in California. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
In these times of economic strife and fervent debate over health care, our great national culture war has been pushed to the side. But once in a while, it pops up its mischievous little head to remind us that the eternal battle between the hippies and the squares continues on, even if we can ignore it from time to time. One of those moments happened on Oct. 19, when the Justice Department released a memo instructing U.S. attorneys that while prosecuting drug dealers is still an objective, they "should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Though the next Republican administration will probably reverse the policy, the directive seems to provide more evidence that the left is winning the culture war. The administration's move hardly came as a surprise. During the 2008 campaign, Obama made clear his position: If doctors prescribe marijuana, that'...

Letting Lieberman Off the Hook.

The big news coming out of the Sunday shows is that Joe “with Democrats on everything but the war” Lieberman told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that he is so vehemently opposed to the inclusion of a public option in health-care reform that he would join Republicans in their filibuster of the bill if it contains the provision. When Schieffer noted that that would mean no reform at all, Lieberman happily proclaimed that he would prefer no reform to reform that included the public option. While we can thank Schieffer for helping to clarify things, this was one more missed opportunity of the kind we see nearly every Sunday. If Schieffer had bothered to challenge Lieberman on the blizzard of misinformation he spewed out in those few minutes, he would have exposed the hollowness of Lieberman’s arguments. But as is usually the case, all the questions he asked were about the politics of reform. We’re not surprised when Republicans who have no goal other than to kill reform and see...

Fox and Foes

The Fox debacle isn't a tale of media versus government -- it's about a television network trying to rewrite journalism's rules.

This past week, we learned that the White House is "waging war" on Fox News. And what terrifying weapon is the administration wielding? What sinister tactic has the Fox faithful rending their garments? Well, the White House has said that Fox is more a political operation than a news organization, committed to advancing the Republican Party's goals. In other words, the White House is leveling the same charge people have made about Fox for its entire history. Watch the station for more than a few minutes, and you'll see it's true. What's really been revealed in this little dustup is the way television journalists think that they should get to follow a set of rules different from the set their colleagues whose work appears in other media follow. The drama started when White House Communications Director Anita Dunn was quoted as calling Fox "a wing of the Republican Party." Shortly after, adviser David Axelrod appeared on ABC's This Week and said, "[Fox]'s really not news ... and we're...

Twilight of the Op-Ed Columnist

Are syndicated opinion writers a dying breed?

The influential French sociologist Gabriel Tarde wrote in 1898 that newspapers "both enriched and leveled ... the conversations of individuals, even those who do not read papers but who, talking to those who do, are forced to follow the groove of their borrowed thoughts. One pen suffices to set off a thousand tongues." This is what the most influential op-ed columnists are able to do. Yet in the age of the Internet, we don't need to turn to the back of our paper's A-section to get some perspective on the news of the day (if we're still getting the paper, that is). With the proliferation of news sites and blogs, anyone can access the opinions of millions of commentators, some of whom are as good or better at explaining, edifying, entertaining, and persuading than the lions of the op-ed page. So does the op-ed columnist have a future? Not if the newspaper doesn't, and the industry is in what could charitably be called a period of transition. According to the Newspaper Association of...

Their Own Worst Enemy

Health insurers stopped pretending they support reform. In doing so, they may have given new life to the public option.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Update For months, the insurance industry was remarkably quiet. Despite fears that it would publicly fight reform with a scorched-earth campaign of television ads like it did in 1993, until now it's been subdued. It was part of a carefully planned inside-outside strategy: On the outside, the industry constantly stressed its support of reform, while noting that it objected to some of reform's potential components, like the public option. On the inside, it was furiously lobbying to make sure the bill would maximize its profits and minimize its costs. Outside the halls of Congress -- and even inside those halls -- few took notice. Until last week, when the industry's lobbying group, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a study it had commissioned attacking the bill about to be passed by the Senate Finance Committee. They claimed the bill would increase costs, resulting in skyrocketing premiums for consumers. The report was quickly eviscerated for its methodological howlers,...