Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

With the Russia Scandal Getting Serious, the GOP Spin Machine Kicks Into High Gear

It sometimes feels as if the Trump presidency has been one long scandal, whether it manifests itself on a particular day in private jet flights taken by cabinet officials, the muzzling of EPA scientists, or president Trump exploiting the presidency to increase his own income. But underneath all those smaller scandals is the Big One: Russia. With special counsel Robert Mueller set to release his first round of indictments this week, the scandal is about to begin a new and intense phase. While Democrats are pretty much standing back and watching, Republicans are preparing for war. This is going to be one of the greatest tests their formidable spin machine has ever faced, and their mobilization has already begun. But before we discuss what that means, we have to stand back and marvel at the power of partisanship to shape people's views, at least Republicans'. Try to imagine for a moment what they would be saying if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election and there was either outright...

In the Trump Administration, Everyone Becomes a Liar

(Sipa via AP Images/Oliver Contreras)
Of all President Trump's multitudinous character flaws, it's the relentless dishonesty that does the most damage to anyone who works for him in the effort they must make to retain some shred of dignity as they labor in his service. You might to be able to spin or rationalize some of what Trump does—Sure, the Twitter stuff is nuts, but he's just speaking directly to the voters! Sure, he knows nothing about policy, but that's OK because his instincts are so sound! But you can't explain away all the lying, day after day after day—especially when you may eventually be called upon to step before the cameras and explain it, echo it, or even add lies of your own to the ever-growing pile. There's a cycle that repeats itself in some variation again and again: Trump lies about something, then when it gets pointed out he doubles down, insisting that he didn't lie, then someone gets sent out to defend him and usually ends up telling more lies, then the White House insists that not...

Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, and the (Sometimes) Beneficial Politics of Reaction

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File
Let's take a moment to thank Donald Trump for opening so many eyes—OK, so many men's eyes—to the reality of sexual harassment and assault that women continue to live with. That may sound strange, but it's entirely possible that had Trump not been elected, particularly after being caught on tape bragging about his ability to assault women with impunity, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein wouldn't have had his long history of repellent behavior revealed. And that's after Roger Ailes was exposed last year for doing similar things, as was Bill O'Reilly. We're at a moment where awareness of the reality of sexual coercion in the workplace is reaching levels we haven't seen before, and it's partly because we're living not only in the age of Trump, but in the age of reaction to Trump. The spectacle of this man being president changes the way people look at the country and the world, and alters their own decisions about what to do and say. Even as they share depressingly familiar...

The Personal Presidency

(Shawn Thew/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
Political scientists will tell you that we spend too much time worrying about personality in politics. All those stories in every presidential campaign—about the advice one candidate's grandpappy gave him down at the fishin' hole or what the other candidate's taste in music says about her—they're mostly irrelevant. What matters much more, not just for how elections turn out but for what happens between them, is larger, broader forces and institutions: the state of the economy, durable electoral and policy coalitions, the nature of partisanship, and so on. The personal stuff might be interesting, but its effects are only seen at the margins. In some ways, those buzzkilling political scientists doing their best to render politics dry and uninteresting are unquestionably correct. Impersonal forces have enormous effects, and the further back you set your view, the less the day-to-day decisions of individuals seem to matter. But this is 2017, and Donald Trump is the president...

Is There Any Problem Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Can't Solve?

Chris Rock had a routine in which he described how when he was a kid, the only health care his father offered for any ailment was Robitussin. Asthma? Robitussin. Cancer? Robitussin. "I broke my leg, Daddy poured Robitussin on it." Tax cuts are the Republican Party's Robitussin. Whatever you think ails the country's economy, if not its very spirit, tax cuts will fix it. Slow GDP growth? Tax cuts. Slow wage growth? Tax cuts. Long-term productivity declines? Tax cuts. Inequality? Tax cuts. And of course by "tax cuts," we mean tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. What's remarkable about this isn't only that it's justified with a shameless combination of magical thinking and outright lies (more on that in a moment). Most striking of all is the utter lack of imagination the Republican Party shows on the issue it cares most about. After eight years of waiting, preparing, plotting, yearning, and fantasizing about the day when they would finally have control of government again, what...