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


A month ago, Andrew Romano of Newsweek wrote a fascinating examination of the design features of the Barack Obama campaign. “Obama’s marketing is much more cohesive and comprehensive than anything we’ve seen before,” Romano wrote, “involving fonts, logos and web design in a way that transcends the mere appropriation of commercial tactics to achieve the sort of seamless brand identity that the most up-to-date companies strive for.” A big part is the use of a sans-serif font called Gotham, which manages to be authoritative, strong, open, and comfortable all at the same time. And now it seems that Obama’s design is spreading to candidates looking for a little of that mojo. Look at Obama’s web site , then compare that to this web site , for North Carolina Senate candidate Kay Hagan . Similar font, identical color scheme (although Hagan might just argue she’s using variations on Carolina blue). Even the way the headings go from dark...

Toward a More Nutritious Election

Every election cycle we bemoan the character-driven election coverage. But nothing seems to change.

If this presidential campaign has been about anything, it has been about character -- which candidate has it, which candidate lacks it, and what we can learn from the extemporaneous remark, the slip of the tongue, the company they keep, or their wayward (or not-so-wayward) youths. Every four years, it seems, we forget that this is exactly what the last election was like, and the election before it. And every four years, advocates of better, cleaner, more nutritious elections lament that we're not talking enough about the issues. And we aren't, of course, in no small part because the reporters who cover campaigns are experts on politics, not experts on issues. Give them a speech about a new energy policy, and instead of asking what impact the policy would have on the environment or job growth, they'll be much happier ruminating on what the effect will be on the candidate's poll numbers in the Rust Belt. The problem certainly isn't that the issues are too complicated -- at least this...

Conservatives' Hate-Based Campaign Against Obama

The right-wing smear campaign against Barack Obama has already begun. Conservatives intend, as they have so many times before, to appeal to Americans' ugliest prejudices and most craven fears.

For months, I've been predicting that conservatives would delicately prompt voters to see Barack Obama through the lens of race. They'd drop hints, they'd make roundabout arguments, they'd find a hundred subtle ways to encourage people to vote their prejudices, while denying vociferously that they were doing anything of the sort. It turns out I was wrong. Not about whether they'd try to exploit racial prejudice (that was about as easy to predict as the rising of the sun), but about how they would do it. After some hesitation and baby steps, the conservative campaign against Barack Obama has finally begun. And there's nothing subtle about it. When the controversy over Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright reached critical mass last week, it was the political equivalent of the green flag at a NASCAR race. The conservative strategists and talkers had been slowly circling the track, feet itchy on the accelerator, just waiting for the signal to floor it. But now, as The Politico reported...

Political Theatre of the Absurd

Groups like Code Pink have turned political protest on the left into a joke. Effective political movements have to both engage their participants and ensure that their actions are meaningful.

A few months ago, a day before one of the occasional marches the Capital sees demanding an end to the Iraq War, I began the descent into the Metro stop near my office, looked up, and saw a number of representatives of Code Pink standing at the railing overlooking the escalator. Or rather, I heard them first. They were screaming at the parade of commuters, at the top of their lungs and in a tone somewhere between simple frustration and righteous anger, "End the war!!!" Well, I thought, that ought to take care of things. Good work, hippies! I kid -- heck, some of my best friends are hippies. But that bit of fruitless shouting at Washington's Dupont Circle Metro station came to mind because last month, the Berkeley City Council touched off a controversy by issuing a declaration against a Marine recruiting station in town, calling the recruiters "uninvited and unwelcome intruders." While the council couldn't just evict the Marines, it did the next best thing: It gave Code Pink, possibly...

More Bellicose Than Bush?

Given how often we are told that McCain has "credibility" and "experience" on matters of foreign policy and national security, it's worth asking what effect all that alleged experience has had on him.

In May of 2006, as Iraq spiraled down into an orgy of sectarian bloodletting, John McCain had a solution. "One of the things I would do if I were president," McCain told a group of wealthy contributors, "would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit.'" If only someone had thought of that before. This is the man Brian Williams of NBC News recently referred to as having "vast foreign-policy expertise and credibility on national security." McCain's insightful plan to end the Iraqi sectarian conflict was just one comment, of course. But given how often we are told these days that McCain has "credibility" and "experience" on matters of foreign policy and national security, it's worth asking what effect all that alleged experience has had on him. Because when McCain actually opens his mouth to discuss these issues, his ideas and beliefs often sound so simple-minded they make George W. Bush look like Otto von Bismarck. And the one consistent theme in McCain's...