Paul Waldman

You're Gonna Make It After All

The 20th century's most important hat toss.
The first grownup television show I can remember watching as a wee pup in the 1970s was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a favorite of my mother's (and millions of other women's). It was pretty revolutionary for its time, a show built around a single working woman who was uncertain of herself and vulnerable (and the victim of constant casual sexism), but also smart, competent, and determined to be successful in a world ruled by men. It made Moore probably the central cultural icon of the feminist movement's key period. The show ended its run in 1977, but it was no surprise when Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980 recruited Moore to encourage women to vote for Carter. Here's the ad she did: If Moore was the central cultural feminist icon of the 1970s, the central political/activist icon was Gloria Steinem, who is still going strong 40 years after she co-founded Ms. magazine. And she's now doing ads for Barack Obama. As Ari Melber observed , the Obama campaign on YouTube is...

A Coming War On Universities?

UC-Berkeley, where young minds are being poisoned at this very moment. (Flickr/Nina Stawski)
When Rick Santorum went after the University of California the other day, it might have seemed like a one-off, fact-free hors d'ouvre of resentment, the kind of criticism of elitist liberal professors that we've come to expect from conservative culture warriors like him. Sara Robinson, however, sees this as the first shot in a coming war on public universities, following up as it did on a report from the Hoover Institution about how the academy is dominated by liberals. And she may be right: But the content of this Hoover report isn't as important as the fact of its provenance, its existence, and its publication on the pages of the WSJ. Right-wing crusades almost always start with think-tank reports; and are issuized on the pages of conservative magazines and newspapers. From there, the ideas are picked up and disseminated by Fox, politicians, conservative ministers, and right-wing bloggers. If all goes well, within weeks, legislators will be paying attention, and lobbyists will be...

Brand Newt In Trouble

Newt in happier times.
Since leaving Congress, Newt Gingrich managed to put together a souped-up version of the way congressional heavy hitters make a living after leaving the world of legislating. As befitting a historical figure like himself, simply signing on with one of Washington's elite law firm/lobby shops wouldn't be enough. Instead, Gingrich constructed what I like to call GloboNewtCorp , a network of quasi-think tanks, policy centers, and publishing enterprises whose role was to promote all things Newt. They worked symbiotically, each feeding off each other's work. So for instance, if you're a health-care company, you could pay six figures to Newt's Center for Health Transformation, you weren't only paying for Newt's access to powerful Republicans, you also saw your favored policy ideas show up in the products of other arms of GloboNewtCorp, like Newt's op-eds and books. One would imagine that a presidential campaign could only aid GloboNewtCorp in acquiring new clients and new income, heightening...

Romney's Pivot to the Center Postponed Indefinitely

(AP Photo / Steven Senne)
In a new tactic that TPM appropriately called the "I'm rubber, you're glue" strategy, Mitt Romney has decided to accuse President Obama of being too vague in his plans for a second term. Once you get past the absurdity, there's something meaningful going on. But first, to Mitt's charges : "Nancy Pelosi famously said that we would have to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. President Obama has turned that advice into a campaign strategy: He wants us to re-elect him so we can find out what he will actually do. With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign." Riiiiight. This probably seems to you like a weird accusation to make. After all, Obama's plans for a second term seem pretty clear: more of the same! You may think that'd be great, or you may think that'd be a hellish nightmare, but either way it's not like it's some big mystery. It isn't as though he's going to come out and really shock us with some new policy...

Why Do Reporters Think Mitt Romney Is a Moderate?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
I'm sorry, but I refuse to let this one go, even if I have to repeat myself. Time 's Alex Altman writes , "A very conservative party is on the verge of nominating a relative moderate whom nobody is very excited about, largely because none of his rivals managed to cobble together a professional operation." I beg you, Alex, and every other reporter covering the campaign: If you're going to assert that Mitt Romney is a "relative moderate," you have to give us some evidence for that assertion. Because without mind-reading, we have to way to know whether it's true. What we do know is that when he ran in two races in the extremely liberal state of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was a moderate. Then when he ran in two races to be the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney was and is extremely conservative. There is simply no reason—none—to believe, let alone to assert as though it were an undisputed fact, that the first incarnation of Romney was the "real" one and the current incarnation...

Republican Pessimism Growing

Joe Scarborough, gloomy gus. (Flickr/WEBN-TV)
As gloomy as liberals can sometimes be, it's been a long time since there was a presidential election in which Democrats actually thought their presidential candidate was certain to lose. The last one would have to be 1984, and before that, 1972. But in the 28 years since Ronald Reagan got re-elected, there hasn't been a Democrat who has been totally blown out of the water, an election in which even his own partisans thought he had little or no chance. The closest would have been Michael Dukakis, who famously had a 17-point lead after his convention, even if he did end up losing by a healthy seven-point margin. But if you listen to Joe Scarborough, Republicans have basically given up on winning in November. He's not the first person to say it (George Will suggested a month ago that the time to give up on the presidential race was coming), but we haven't heard anyone of his prominence say so vociferously that Republicans are all thinking this one's over , as Scarborough did on today's...

The Long Moral View

Map of the uninsured by NPR
Someday, all Americans will have access to health care, just as all people in Germany and France and Japan and Sweden and every other advanced industrialized democracy do today. It may take a decade or two after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 (if it survives the whims of Anthony Kennedy) to fill in the gaps the law leaves behind, or it may take decades beyond that. But it will surely happen eventually. And at some point after it does, we'll come to a consensus as a society that it was a collective moral failure that we allowed things to be otherwise for so long. In those other countries they came to that realization some time ago, and today they look at us and shake their heads in amazement that their American friends could tolerate and even defend such needless and widespread suffering in their land. But our own collective moral sensibilities still have a good way to go. Over at the New Republic, Andrew Koppelman describes the striking parallels between the...

4,446 Lonely D.C. Republicans

Flickr/DonkeyHotey
One of the strange things about living in Washington, D.C. is the ongoing presence of lots and lots of Republicans. In my adult life I've lived in two other large cities (San Francisco and Philadelphia), and in both of those members of the Grand Old Party are not only few in number but nearly invisible. Sure, there are a few cities where Republicans are plentiful (Dallas, I hear), but on the whole the more urban the area you're in, the more likely Democrats are to dominate the place's political, cultural, and social life. But here in the nation's capital, Republicans are plentiful. You see them going in and out of think-tank offices, traipsing about Capitol Hill, even walking down the street in broad daylight. Famous ones, ordinary ones, ones in all sizes and ages and genders. They're everywhere. Except almost none of them actually live in the District of Columbia. Anyone who's been here for any time knows this; if you're a Republican in these parts, you live in Virginia. You can...

A Truly Ideological Campaign?

Are you ready for some campaignin'? (Flickr/Obama campaign)
Barack Obama's re-election campaign has finally begun in earnest, with a TV ad hitting Mitt Romney as an ally of the oil industry and a speech coming up later today in which he'll attack Paul Ryan's budget, which almost every Republican in the House voted for and Mitt Romney endorsed. Ryan's budget won't ever pass, but it's a pretty forthright ideological statement, and the Obama campaign is endeavoring to make sure everyone understands where it's coming from. And in doing so, he's offering more hints that his campaign could actually turn this into more of a real debate about fundamental values, and less of a clown show about things like who loves America more. Here are some advance excerpts : Disguised as deficit-reduction plan, it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It's nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism. It's antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it — a place where...

When Network Anchors Stop Being Polite ... And Start Getting Real

Peter Finch in "Network"
Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing , among other things, is coming out with a new HBO series called The Newsroom . What can we expect? If Sorkin's oeuvre is any indication, we can expect lots of rapid-fire dialogue delivered while people are walking purposefully down hallways, surprisingly cogent explanations of issues, and, above all, thorny moral quandaries tackled with bold truth-telling. Let's take a look at the trailer: This looks to me to be in some ways a news media version of Sorkin's The American President and, frankly, like a news media version of most films about politicians. I wrote about this a while back: "There's usually a scene in which the candidate begins giving a speech, stops in the middle and says, 'This is ridiculous,' to the horror of his handlers and the confusion of the crowd, then tosses away his prepared remarks and speaks from the heart. And it works—everyone is captivated, and the candidate achieves success, at least temporarily." In this case, it'...

Too Good to Check, Santorum Edition

You might not want to believe a thing I say.
A couple of weeks ago, Rick Santorum got into some trouble for saying that Barack Obama was "a snob" for wanting every American kid to be able to go to college. Santorum elaborated that universities today indoctrinate people in dangerous liberal ideas and convince them to abandon their religious beliefs. And now he's offering more details on just how un-American universities are: I was just reading something last night from the state of California. And that the California universities – I think it's seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It's not even available to be taught. Shocking! And it would be even more shocking if it were even remotely true. But as Think Progress notes , "In fact, of the 10 UC system schools, just one (San Francisco) doesn't offer American history courses. But that’s because it doesn't offer any humanities courses at all — it's a medical school." When Santorum says "I was just reading something last...

What Is George W. Up To?

Not what George W. Bush is doing these days. (Photo by the White House)
Poor George W. Bush. He served his country for eight years, doing all that decidin', trying to engineer a permanent Republican majority, and these days the politicians in his party practically pretend his presidency never happened. The people who worked for him, Politico tells us , are nevertheless convinced he'll be vindicated by history, even as Republican candidates avoid him like the Ebola virus. Yeah, I wouldn't hold your breath for that. Somehow it seems unlikely that the Iraq war and a couple of trillion dollars in tax cuts—mostly for the wealthy—that turned surpluses into deficits will, in retrospect, turn out to have been great ideas. The article also has a lot of bitter sniping from Bush aides at Bill Clinton, who is so "narcissistic" that he has been out, you know, doing stuff since leaving office. What a jerk. Which leads me to this question: What does George W. Bush actually do with his days? I mean hour-by-hour. He gives some speeches, but he's got people to write them...

Will Obama Get Blamed for High Gas Prices?

The good old days. (Flickr/photomatt28)
Everyone involved in politics knows that there is almost nothing the president can do to affect the price of gasoline. Democrats know this. Republicans know this. People in the oil industry certainly know this. But they all, at various times, play a game in which they try to deceive the American public into believing something they know to be false. So right now, an oil industry group is running ads saying the high price of gas is Barack Obama's fault (you'll be shocked to hear that the ubiquitous Koch brothers are involved ). Republican leaders are saying the increasing price at the pump is Obama's fault. And what about the public? Are they buying it? The polls we've seen so far actually show that the answer is, not really. A CNN poll asked how much blame people assigned to various factors, and the oil companies came in first, with 55 percent saying they deserved a great deal of blame. "The policies of the Obama administration" got a great deal of blame from 24 percent, just about...

A Grand Unified Theory of Romney

Flickr/DonkeyHotey
In advance of Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gave a tepid endorsement to Mitt Romney, worrying that "Romney's finger-to-the-wind tacking across the political sea leaves us to wonder if he is anchored anywhere," but also citing his "moderate inclinations" and saying, "it's those moderate impulses that make Romney the best candidate. His challengers don't share the same sense of pragmatism or were woefully shortchanged on the temperament gene." But here's the question: What, exactly, is the evidence that Mitt Romney has moderate inclinations? Here's what we actually know. When Romney ran for Senate and then governor, he was a fairly liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay Republican—in other words, the only kind of Republican who would have had a chance to win in Massachusetts. Then when he ran for president, he became a fire-breathing conservative—the only kind of Republican with a chance to win his party's nomination. The only way you can conclude that he's a...

Friday Music Break

Welcome Interstate Managers
For today's edition of Ridiculously Catchy Pop Songs By Bands Named After Towns In Northern New Jersey, we have "Hey Julie" by Fountains of Wayne. The offices of The American Prospect look strangely like the one depicted here, at least in so far as the constant, embarrassing group dancing goes. Which is why I work at home.

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