Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Can Obama Make Wonks and Hacks Work Together?

After eight years in the wilderness, the reality-based community is back in charge. Now they have a chance to prove that they know what they're doing.

A lot will change on Jan. 20, when George W. Bush takes one last wistful glance around the Oval Office before heading back to Texas, and a few thousand Republicans begin finding out whether having "former Bush administration official" on their resum é is a help or a hindrance in getting that next job. It's more than just a new set of policy goals and a round of executive orders undoing some of Bush's worst offenses. For the first time in eight long years, the federal government will be managed by people who have a clue about what they're doing. During the election, Barack Obama's Republican opponents liked to criticize him for not having actually run anything before. But the one thing he did run -- his presidential campaign -- was as well-organized, efficient, and effective as any in American history. When Obama's campaign started, some believed it would be a replay of Howard Dean's 2004 run -- inspiring, exciting, and doomed. But Dean's effort was held together with duct tape and...

Goodbye and Good Riddance

After eight years of President Bush, we almost don't know how to function without him -- almost. But before we move on, we should pause to remember just what we're leaving behind.

Just over two years into George W. Bush’s presidency, The American Prospect featured Bush on its cover under the headline, "The Most Dangerous President Ever." At the time, some probably thought it a bit over the top. But nearly six years later, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the multifaceted burden that will soon be lifted from our collective shoulders. Since last week, I have stopped short and shaken my head in amazement every time I have heard the words "President-elect Obama." But it is equally extraordinary to consider that in just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. Let me repeat that: In just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. So though our long national ordeal isn't quite over, it's never too early to say goodbye. Goodbye, we can say at last, to the most powerful man in the world being such a ridiculous buffoon, incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences. Goodbye to cringing with dread every time our...

Why We Vote

Whatever problems our politics have, Election Day is a moment when we hope for the future and revel in the solemnity of the democratic process.

For years, some economists and political scientists have scratched their heads in bewilderment at what they call "the paradox of voting," which states that going to the polls is a profoundly irrational act. If the only reason we do anything is because the material benefits of an action outweigh its costs (an assumption embedded in this theory, among others), there's no reason at all to vote. The odds that the election will be decided by one vote -- and therefore your vote will be decisive -- are vanishingly small. Therefore, whatever benefits you will derive from your favored candidate's policies must be multiplied by that infinitesimal chance that your vote will decide the election, to ascertain the return on the investment of voting. On the other side is the effort, time, and possibly the expense of walking or driving to the polling place, or filling out an absentee ballot. No matter how you calculate it (and many intrepid scholars have tried), the costs clearly outweigh the...

The Real October Surprise

If Osama bin Laden releases a pre-election tape like he did in 2004, don't assume it will be to the Republicans' benefit.

Osama bin Laden speaks on a tape broadcast on Friday, Oct. 29, 2004. (AP Photo/AlJazeera via APTN)
On Oct. 29, 2004 -- four days before the election -- Osama bin Laden released a videotape attacking President Bush. As Ron Suskind later reported in his extraordinary book The One Percent Doctrine , CIA analysts concluded that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection." John McLaughlin, the acting director of the CIA at the time, said at a meeting to discuss the tape, "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president." At the time, it was universally understood that the more voters were reminded of terrorism and external threats, the more they would gravitate toward the Republican candidate, particularly one who was so skilled at standing on top of rubble and issuing lusty promises of vengeance. What wasn't remarked on much was the possibility that -- as the CIA understood -- George W. Bush's re-election was exactly what al-Qaeda wanted. Chances are that they'd like the current Republican presidential nominee to win as well. The...


If you thought there wasn’t much interesting left to learn about Sarah Palin , you should read Jane Mayer ’s piece in The New Yorker about how Palin shrewdly laid the groundwork for her selection as John McCain ’s running mate. It turns out it wasn’t all that hard -- all it took was charming some of the conservative pundits who came through Alaska on fundraising cruises for The Weekly Standard and National Review . But what really stands out is what a bunch of pushovers these guys were, and how her looks played no small part in convincing this bunch of middle-aged men that she was just the bee’s knees. Here are some excerpts: On June 18, 2007, the first group disembarked in Juneau from the Holland America Line’s M.S. Oosterdam, and went to the governor’s mansion, a white wooden Colonial house with six two-story columns, for lunch. The contingent featured three of The Weekly Standard ’s top writers: William Kristol , the magazine’s Washington-based editor, who is also an Op-Ed...