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

The Joke's on Us?

Our current political leadership just isn't all that funny.

George W. Bush (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Stop me if you've heard this one: Barack Obama and Joe Biden walk into a bar ... have a drink, shake some hands, and leave. Not laughing? Well, our current political leadership just isn't all that funny. It's not just the Democrats -- have you heard any good Mitch McConnell jokes lately? Granted, John Boehner has that orange tan, which is always good for a laugh. But apart from Sarah Palin, who sometimes seems to be doing a subtle yet devastatingly vicious impression of herself, today's top politicians don't offer comedians a particularly target-rich environment. When Obama won the 2008 election, a lot of people predicted that all the comedians who had been making fun of George W. Bush would be at a loss for jokes. There was an assumption that since they're a bunch of liberals, the comedians wouldn't go after Obama. But if comedy has an Obama problem, it doesn't have much to do with ideology. The guy is just difficult to mock. Politicians who make good targets for humor tend to have a...

Return of the Hard Hats.

When I opened my copy of The New York Times this morning, I saw this photo , in which a bunch of burly looking guys in hard hats are protesting the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. Hard hats -- now where have we seen that before? Well, we saw it during the 1960s, when the Nixon administration saw electoral gold in pictures of construction workers in hard hats beating up hippies, demonstrating that the working man was on the side of the Republican Party against the unruly, effeminate elitists of the anti-war movement. And we saw it in 2001, as conservatives looked to hard hats to help create the illusion of blue-collar support for George W. Bush's tax-cut plan, whose benefits went mostly to the wealthy: [The National Association of Manufacturers], which pushed for yesterday's passage of President Bush's proposal to reduce income tax rates, circulated a memo among business groups this week urging lobbyists to show up in full force at the photo opportunity. And it urged them to be "...

Getting Government out of Your Eggs 'n Salmonella.

As you've no doubt heard, a recent salmonella outbreak in eggs sickened more than 1,300 people and led to a recall of half a billion eggs. Why wasn't the government doing more to prevent this kind of thing? Well, here's a clue, in an article from 2007: The federal agency that's been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago. The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls. "We have a food safety crisis on the horizon," said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press. That's small-government conservatism in action. According to one recent study , 5,000 Americans die every year because of food-borne illnesses, and the total cost of...

Don't Blame the Media

Greg Sargen t points out that in the now-infamous Pew poll in which nearly a fifth of Americans think Barack Obama is a Muslim, 60 percent of them say they learned it from the media. So should we blame the media? No, for two reasons. The first is this: Who is this "media"? When people choose that answer, they might mean Katie Couric , or they might mean Time magazine. Or they might mean Rush Limbaugh , who has taken to calling the president "Imam Obama." Or they might mean some nutball website like World Net Daily. They could mean any of these things, because they're all "the media." The second reason is the really important one: People have a great deal of trouble remembering where they learned things . This is a long-standing finding in research on media and politics. When you get a piece of information, it isn't placed in a box in your brain called "Things I learned from NBC Nightly News," with that source information linked to it forevermore. It's more likely that it gets put...

Hatred of Foreigners and Hatred of Government Are Not the Same Thing.

Politico has an interesting article titled "The New Battle: What It Means to Be an American," that manages to say barely a word about what it means to be an American, or what different people believe it means to be an American. But anyway, the point of the piece is that the right is losing interest in its old standby social issues like abortion and the threat of national gayification in favor of its new fears of socialism. Which is all well and good as a short-term strategy. But the thing about it is that it is necessarily short-term. Once the economy turns around, President Obama 's approval ratings will rise, and most of the country will no longer be concerned about most of the things Republicans are yelling about. And even Republicans themselves will stop being outraged by big government the moment the next Republican president takes office. The handy thing about social issues, on the other hand, is that they're eternal. That couple down the street with the washboard abs and...

Pages