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

It's About Who You Are.

In my continuing effort to point out when I agree with conservatives, Ross Douthat is absolutely right in his assessment of Glenn Beck : Now more than ever, Americans love leaders who seem to validate their way of life. This spirit of self-affirmation was at work in evangelicals' enduring support for Bush , in the enthusiasm for the Dean campaign among the young, secular and tech-savvy, and now in the devotion that Palin inspires among socially conservative women. The Obama campaign raised it to an art form, convincing voters that by merely supporting his candidacy, they were proving themselves cosmopolitan and young-at-heart, multicultural and hip. In a sense, Beck's "Restoring Honor" was like an Obama rally through the looking glass. It was a long festival of affirmation for middle-class white Christians — square, earnest, patriotic and religious. If a speaker had suddenly burst out with an Obama-esque "we are the ones we’ve been waiting for," the message would have fit right in...

Have We Met the Next Basil Marceaux?

The great thing about primaries is that anyone can run. You don't have to be approved by the party bosses or be some polished, experienced candidate. All you need is a song and a dream. And here ( via Ben Smith ) is a guy -- one Chris Young , running for mayor of Providence -- who's got himself a song: I really encourage you to watch it. You've never seen a politician quite like him. And we should give some serious props to the show's host. She maintains that iron smile all through and manages to get herself out of the segment without frantically screaming for security. Very professional. Is this a great country or what? -- Paul Waldman

Triumphs of Bureaucracy.

A number of people have given kudos to Michael Grunwald 's Time magazine piece, " How the Stimulus Is Changing America ." But there's one piece of this that's worth taking note of: [ Joe] Biden himself always saw the Recovery Act as a test — not only of the new Administration but of federal spending itself. He knew high-profile screwups could be fatal, stoking antigovernment anger about bureaucrats and two-car funerals. So he spends hours checking in, buttering up and banging heads to keep the stimulus on track, harassing Cabinet secretaries, governors and mayors about unspent broadband funds, weatherization delays and fishy projects. He has blocked some 260 skate parks, picnic tables and highway beautifications that flunked his what-would-your-mom-think test. "Imagine they could have proved we wasted a billion dollars," Biden says. "Gone, man. Gone!" So far, despite furor over cash it supposedly funneled to contraception (deleted from the bill) and phantom congressional districts (...

Leave Mitt Romney Alone!

Mitt Romney has a problem, which is that the portrait about him has already been written. Not only that, it's the kind that can't really be proved wrong. Let's say you're Sarah Palin , and part of the portrait about you is that you're an utter ignoramus when it comes to things like policy, or things like ... well, anything really. You could hit the trail and prove people wrong by showing yourself to actually be remarkably well informed and insightful. Not that you will, but you could. And over time, some might decide that maybe you're not so dumb after all. But if the portrait of you says that you're an opportunistic phony who's willing to switch positions at a moment's notice, you get virtually no credit for having the same position you've always had on some things. You can't say, "Look at me, I didn't pander or flip-flop today -- don't you think you were wrong about me?" Not only that, people may accuse you of flip-flopping even when you're not. Worst of all, you'll watch your...

Defending a Constitution Under Attack

Shahid Buttar, a civil-rights lawyer and executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, talks about recent constitutional flare-ups.

Shahid Buttar (Courtesy of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee)
With the First, Fourth, Fifth, 14th, and 17th amendments all coming under attack from one quarter or another, there's recently been a renewed focus on civil liberties. TAP spoke with Shahid Buttar, a civil-rights lawyer and executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, as well as a poet and singer, about the administration's record on these issues, what the FBI is up to, and even the state of music and politics. A lot of people on the left were hoping that Barack Obama would wipe away everything George W. Bush had done to restrict civil liberties. Obviously, that hasn't happened. But what would you say is the best thing the Obama administration has done in this area, and the most glaring omission in its policies? I'd say the single best thing the president has done in this arena is to renounce extraordinary/coercive interrogation. Ending torture is a big deal, period. Having said that, the failure to impose accountability has invited more torture in the future by eroding...