Paul Waldman

Fear Wins, Obama Loses

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on Monday, November 30, 2015. B arack Obama's critics—a bit on the left, some on the right, but mostly in the press—often say that he's too cerebral, has too much faith in reason and logic, and fails to tap into the public's emotions when trying to convince them of something. He may have rode into office on a wave of hope and inspiration, but he sometimes seems to lack a feel for the more negative emotions, or at least the desire to exploit them. Anger, fear, outrage—these are not for him. So it was that Obama has failed to convince the public that taking 10,000 refugees from Syria would be part of a long American tradition of aiding those in need. Depending on how you ask the question, between 50 and 60 percent of Americans will tell pollsters that we shouldn't accept the refugees, and the House in its wisdom already passed a bill to...

It's Beginning to Feel Like 2002 All Over Again

(Photo: AP/Rachel La Corte)
(Photo: AP/Rachel La Corte) Protesters on opposing sides of the refugee issue rally in front of the state capitol in Olympia, Washington, after Governor Jay Inslee said the state would welcome refugees. A t the end of last week, the liberal group Media Matters noted that in the wake of the Madrid bombings in March 2004, Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly asserted that "If al-Qaeda attacks here, President Bush is re-elected in a heartbeat," since "unlike the Spanish," who are passive sheep (or something), the strong American public "won't surrender, they'll get angry." But after the recent attacks in Paris, O'Reilly sang a different tune: "We get hit, [Obama] goes down as the worst president in U.S. history. No doubt." While Media Matters's purpose in juxtaposing these two quotes was surely to mock O'Reilly for his partisan hypocrisy, you can look at it another, much more depressing way: O'Reilly was probably right both times. Not about history's judgment of Obama, obviously. But given...

Will the GOP Candidates Try to Reignite Voters' Fears?

(Photo: AP/Morry Gash)
(Photo: AP/Morry Gash) Republican presidential candidates take the state during the November 11 GOP Debate in Milwaukee. I t's easy to believe that the way things are today is the way they're going to stay, to be be swayed by the momentary intensity of a situation into thinking its effects will be longer-lasting than they are. So it might be that a few months from now, the attacks that took place in Paris on Friday will have exerted no meaningful pull on American policy and American politics. But a few days out, it sure feels familiar. Fear—its presence among the people, but even more so its exploitation by politicians—is back. No one was more energized by the news from France than the Republicans running for president, who fell all over each other trying to see who could sound the toughest. Marco Rubio declared , "This is a clash of civilizations," as though ISIS were in fact its own civilization. Ben Carson, displaying his usual commitment to factual accuracy, attacked the Obama...