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

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...

Stimulus Kudos.

It may not be the kind of thing that gets people joyously running to the polls, but the administration deserves some credit for this : The massive economic stimulus package President Obama pushed through Congress last year is coming in on time and under budget - and with strikingly few claims of fraud or abuse - according to a White House report to be released Friday... Even some former skeptics who predicted that the money would lead to rampant abuse now acknowledge that the program could serve as a model for improving efficiency in government... Meanwhile, lower-than-anticipated costs for some projects have permitted the administration to stretch stimulus money further than expected, financing an additional 3,000 projects, according to the report... "Certainly, the fraud and waste element has been smaller than I think anything anybody anticipated," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "You can certainly challenge some projects...