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

Smearing Michelle

Frustrated by their inability to successfully call Barack Obama's character into question, his opponents have seized on the next best option -- attacking his wife.

From the moment Barack Obama began contemplating a presidential run, conservatives saw one thing about him they didn't like a bit: his wife. She had a career of her own. The way she kidded her husband about his morning breath suggested that theirs might actually be a marriage of equals. And most of all, she was black. Way, way too black. So it shouldn't have surprised anyone when a phony story started making the email and Internet rounds claiming that a videotape existed of Michelle Obama giving a speech in which she supposedly said something or other about "whitey." When asked about it, she told The New York Times , "I mean, 'whitey'? That's something that George Jefferson would say." And who else says "whitey"? Virtually no one under the age of 60 -- the term is a relic of the 1960s, that primordial ooze from which all cultural conflict continues to seep. Let's remember why some conservatives were briefly so enamored of Barack Obama: in right-wing eminence grise William Bennett's...


Open up the New York Times op-ed page today, and you'll see that David Brooks is deeply disappointed in Barack Obama : But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes. This is the same David Brooks who back in January wrote this : Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this...This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance...Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too. And what do you know - over on the...


At long last, Barack Obama is on the air with his first ad of the general election. Take a gander: Like every Obama ad, this one features high production values and a crisply defined message. The script is all about this great land of ours, which you can hardly blame them for, given the sustained attempt by the right to characterize Obama as a flag-hating, terrorist-coddling, Al Qaeda Manchurian candidate. But this isn’t just a reaction to the smear campaign. It’s actually consistent with what Obama has been saying all along. Let’s remember that Obama has been telling a story about America from the moment he emerged on the national scene at the 2004 Democratic convention. (I wrote about this back in October 2006 here . As a bonus, the article has a link to none other than Ezra Klein arguing that Obama should wait to run for president. Even the best among us can be wrong!) He has always presented himself as the embodiment of what we all want America to be: inclusive, future-oriented,...

McCain's Desperate Debate Gambit

John McCain knows his campaign is in trouble, and so he's trying to pressure Barack Obama into a long series of town hall meetings. But speeches are the real way the president appeals to the public.

Few controversies of the presidential campaign seem less momentous once they conclude than the traditional “debate over debates.” One campaign pushes for more debates, the other pushes for fewer, and the two perform a ridiculous tango of dudgeon, disappointment, and expectations-gaming. As with so much else in this long, long campaign, the debate over debates has started early this year. John McCain is pressing Barack Obama to join him for ten town hall-style debates, while the Obama campaign has countered with an offer of five debates, only one of which would be a town hall. But, posturing aside, how much will the debates, and the rest of the campaign, really tell us about the next presidency? It’s hard to blame the McCain campaign for wanting to turn the race into little but one town hall after another. They seem to have noticed that what’s tickling their ankles is the quicksand of defeat. Desperate for a hanging branch to grab onto, they have seized on the town hall, the forum that...

The Soft Art

Obama's defining political skill may prove to be his ability to parry attacks and turn them to his advantage. It kept his campaign moving forward and upward when others would have found themselves unable to go on.

In the modern age of American presidential elections, primary campaigns have followed a very specific pattern. First, a front-runner is anointed by the elite journalists. He is either a vice-president (current or former) or someone who has been a longtime national leader, but in either case he is the most famous of his party's contenders. Next, a challenger emerges, donning a glittering cloak of "new ideas." He briefly captivates the voters, though few can quite put their finger on what his ideas are, or what makes them so new. Then voting begins, and the front-running candidate's advantages of recognition, money, institutional support, and organization prove too much for the challenger, who fizzles out ignominiously, with everyone left wondering what it was about him that was supposed to be so appealing in the first place. To one degree or another, this has been the pattern in almost every contested primary since the current system was inaugurated in 1972 (when the smoke-filled room...