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 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

The Truth About Lies

In politics, truthfulness is a virtue -- except where it matters most.

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell (AP/Rob Carr)
As children, we all heard the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. The rambunctious young George, age 6, was playing with his new hatchet when he decided to do a number on the family's backyard tree. When confronted about this act of vandalism by his father -- who apparently didn't have the foresight to predict that giving a 6-year-old a hatchet might result in some destruction -- George immediately fessed up. "I cannot tell a lie," he said. Instead of delivering the vigorous beating an 18th-century lad might expect, Washington's father praised the future president for his honesty. The incident never actually happened; it was the invention of the early Washington biographer known as Parson Weems. But 210 years after Weems' biography appeared, the tale is still valued for its lesson: The integrity and fortitude that made Washington the "father of our country" can be witnessed in his unshakeable commitment to the truth, even at such a tender age. Oh, that all our leaders...

Science Marches On.

Today it was announced that Robert G. Edwards , the co-developer of in-vitro fertilization, was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. Which gives us an opportunity to see what folks were saying when Louise Brown , the first "test-tube baby," was born in 1978. Witness this article from Time magazine (which began, of course, with a quote from Aldous Huxley 's Brave New World ): Other researchers were far more skeptical of going beyond in-vitro fertilization to the actual implantation of the developing embryo in the uterus. "The potential for misadventure is unlimited," said Dr. John Marshall, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Los Angeles County's Harbor General Hospital. How sure could anyone be that the Browns' baby will not be deformed, he asked. "What if we got an otherwise perfectly formed individual that was a cyclops? Who is responsible? The parents? The doctor? Is the government obligated to take care of it?" Fortunately, Louise was born with a full complement of eyes, placed...

Our "Hollowed Out" Military.

During the Cold War, defense and intelligence officials used to routinely go to Capitol Hill and warn that the Soviet military was a gargantuan colossus, one that would inevitably crush us when the inevitable third world war came to pass. In response, of course, it would be necessary to dramatically increase our own defense spending. Much of what they said about the Soviets was based on incorrect information or just wildly exaggerated, but it usually did the job. And today, with the Soviet Union gone, we account for most of the world's defense spending -- 54 percent in 2009 , according to a recent report. That's right: There are 195 countries on planet Earth, and if you added up the military spending of the 194 of them that aren't the United States, you'd still have less than what we are spending. Now, many conservatives think that's as it should be. Fair enough. But if they're going to convince the country to spend significantly more , what are they going to say? You guessed it: They...