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 Unhappy Warrior.

One thing most successful presidential candidates demonstrate is a sunny disposition. Americans may want candidates who feel their pain, but they also like them to be hopeful and optimistic. Nobody wants to vote for Debbie Downer. It's one of those axioms (along with "the taller candidate always wins") that the more optimistic presidential candidate always seems to prevail. Which is what makes Sarah Palin 's latest outburst so curious. Palin seems to be moving closer and closer to a presidential run, yet as she does, she seems to grow angrier and angrier. Not that it's anything particularly new -- her political identity was always built on resentment -- of elites, and urbanites, and liberals, and the media. I'm sure that every time she uses the term "lame-stream media" her supporters cheer, even if to the rest of us it just sounds juvenile and mean. This time, it concerns a recording of some local news folks in Alaska, either joking around about what will happen at an event for Senate...

Tomorrow's Fox News Reports Today.

Via Andrew Sullivan , we get this amusing clip of a reporter for a Texas television news program, amazed at the way some San Franciscans are enjoying themselves as they float in McCovey Cove awaiting World Series batting practice. "They're smoking weed!" he says again and again: View more news videos at: . They all think this is pretty funny, rather than being contemptuous. But tomorrow, Fox is going to have lots and lots of camera crews covering the Stewart/Colbert rally, and you can bet they'll be on the lookout for any signs of dirty hippies. If anyone on the mall starts smoking pot, Sean Hannity will be watching. And they'll pick out the craziest people there to interview. It's unclear what story the rest of the media will tell about this event, but Fox will be telling a story of a how a bunch of out-of-touch elitists gathered for a "hatefest" directed at Real Americans. In case you were wondering. -- Paul Waldman

Boring Explanations for Elections.

Part of the reason pundits and journalists don't much like the analysis of political scientists about elections is that political science can be kind of boring. Political science tells us, for instance, that structural factors are much more important than the actual conduct of campaigns. If you want to know what's going to happen in an election, just use a few variables, particularly economic ones like real income growth or unemployment, and you can predict with a fair degree of accuracy what the outcome will be. From the pundit's perspective, that removes all the interesting stuff. It leaves you no reason to talk about the spectacle of politics, the inept candidates and shocking ads and hilarious gaffes. It doesn't allow room for the armchair strategizing ("What the Democrats ought to do is...") that is the pundit's stock in trade. The political scientist responds, well, sorry about that, the truth is the truth. While the political scientists may not be able to tell you what's going...

Karl Rove's New Machine, and Its Limitations.

One of the interesting questions over the next couple of years will be how establishment Republicans and Tea Party Republicans will deal with each other, particularly since the latter are more concerned with ideological purity and ceaseless partisanship, even when it may not be strategically wise. Keep that question in mind as we ponder the present and future of Karl Rove . When George W. Bush left the White House, Rove surely wondered where he could go from there. After having run a couple of presidential campaigns and worked as a top adviser in the White House, he certainly wasn't going to go back to writing candidates' direct-mail pieces. But then a few things happened to show him the way to the next phase of his career. First, Michael Steele got elected chairman of the Republican National Committee and quickly showed himself to be a buffoon whom major Republican donors couldn't trust with their money. Then the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United decision, removed most of the...

In Defense of Meg Whitman.

My main objection to Meg Whitman 's campaign for California governor has been the way she has been an exemplar of the "I'm not a politician, I'm a businessperson" argument, which is one of my pet peeves . I will say one thing about her -- the $150 million or so she's dropping on this race should give a boost to California's economy. But I've got to rise to her defense for what just happened to her. As you might have heard, Whitman and her opponent Jerry Brown got up on a stage with Matt Lauer , who asked the two this: "In one week left, would either of you, or both of you, be willing to make a pledge that you would end the negativity?" Brown sort of said yes, but Whitman wouldn't take the bait. For which, of course, she was criticized, and even booed by the crowd. But this is a bum rap. First of all, the California governor's race has been mild -- an undocumented housekeeper here, a potty-mouthed aide there, but nothing really brutal. Second, just because an ad is "negative" doesn't...