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

The POW Dodge

John McCain maintains that he doesn't exploit his captivity in Vietnam for his campaign, but in reality he can barely talk about anything else. That's fine, but McCain's service should be the start of a conversation -- not the end of one

When John Kerry made his Vietnam heroism a centerpiece of his 2004 presidential campaign, his colleague John McCain thought it unwise. "I said, ‘Look, you shouldn't talk about Vietnam because everybody else will. Let everybody else do it,'" McCain told the Washington Post. "In my [2000] campaign, as you know, I didn't talk about it because I didn't need to." McCain was half right. It's true that he didn't need to; in that campaign, as in this one, reporters seldom forgot to mention that McCain was a POW in Vietnam. In fact, according to Lexis-Nexis , in the first three months of 2008 over a thousand newspaper articles mentioned that McCain was a prisoner of war. Journalists often use "former POW" in their stories as an identifier on par with "Arizona senator" or "Republican" -- even when his years in Hanoi have nothing to do with the issue or event being discussed. But when McCain asserted that he "didn't talk about it," he was being either strikingly dishonest or simply delusional...


In his current round of rejecting and denouncing his radical cleric supporters John Hagee and Rod Parsley , John McCain was careful to note , "I've never been to Pastor Hagee's church or Pastor Parsley's church. I didn't attend their church for 20 years. I'm not a member of their church." In other words, my relationship with them is much less important than Barack Obama' s relationship with Jeremiah Wright . But we should take careful note of what this means. McCain's argument, in essence, is: Hey, this was just cynical politics. Sure, I begged Hagee for his endorsement, and stood next to Parsley and called him a "moral compass" and a "spiritual guide," but I didn't actually mean any of that. I didn't know anything about these guys, and until it became a political problem, I didn't really care. You tell me some preacher can bring in a few votes, and I'll kiss his ring, no matter how repellent his ideas are. The reason this matters is that for so long, McCain's amen corner in the press...

The Backlash That Wasn't

The conservative reaction to last week's California Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage was remarkably subdued. Even John McCain, desperate to pander to the base, had little to say.

What a difference four years makes. When the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in late 2003 that gay couples had the same right to marry as straight couples, the nation had a collective fainting spell, and constitutional amendments affirming the super-straightness of state after state popped up like dandelions. Republican politicians tripped over each other to predict the demise of American civilization if the marriage equality outbreak were not contained, and Democrats tugged at their collars and tried to explain their nuanced and complicated positions on the issue. Yet last week when the Supreme Court of the largest state in the union issued a similar ruling, making California the second state with full marriage rights for all citizens, the political reaction was remarkably subdued. Yes, there will be a constitutional amendment on California's ballot this November, and the campaign there will be hard-fought. But on the national level, there were no raised voices, no cries of anguish...

McCain's Judicial Hypocrisy

This week John McCain wholeheartedly embraced the idea of "judicial activism" -- a throughly mendacious concept that actually just means opposing judicial decisions that conservatives disagree with.

Both conservatives and progressives have the words and phrases they like to invoke, the commonly offered arguments, the villains and heroes who populate their rhetoric. But you could sift through every word of contemporary American political debate -- read every stump speech, pore over every press release, endure every moment of every cable chatfest -- and you would be unlikely to encounter a more complete, unadulterated, shameless piece of outright bullshit than "judicial activism." It is the ne plus ultra of disingenuousness, the zenith of cant, political deceit in its purest form. And seeing John McCain embrace it should disabuse anyone of the notion that he is somehow more honest than the typical politician. And embrace it he did, in a speech last week that got lost behind the noise of the Democratic nomination fight. Warning of the danger from "activist judges," McCain railed against the threat from "the common and systematic abuse of our federal courts by the people we entrust...


From the Arizona Republic : In tight Senate votes, McCain not a maverick When it matters the most, he seldom bucks his own party Ronald J. Hansen The Arizona Republic May. 7, 2008 12:00 AM Over the years, Sen. John McCain has publicly condemned Republican Party leaders and occasionally voted against the GOP on selected issues. But an Arizona Republic analysis of his Senate votes on the most divided issues in the past decade shows that McCain almost never thwarted his party's objectives. What do you know? An article that actually takes a feature of the McCain image, and -- hold on to your hats -- attempts to ascertain whether it's true . I'm floored. It's no accident that this is coming from the Arizona Republic. While the Republic is generally considered a pretty conservative paper, they have tangled with McCain a great deal over the years, mostly because they haven't been particularly inclined to simply repeat over and over that he's a StraightTalkingMaverickReformer. As a...