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

Out-Foxed, Finally?

When the Nielsen ratings for the second quarter of 2006 came in, FOX News Channel got some bad news. The network's entire weekday lineup -- every show -- had lost viewers from the first quarter of the year. Special Report with Brit Hume , down 19 percent. The Big Story with John Gibson , down 13 percent. The O'Reilly Factor , down 8 percent. And in nearly every case, the drop in ratings was even more severe among what television insiders call “the demographic” -- viewers between ages 25 and 54. If we look beyond quarters and compare this year to last year, things look just as bad. While both CNN and MSNBC's ratings were up from June 2005 to June 2006, FOX's overall ratings fell 13 percent (and by 22 percent among the 25 to 54 demographic). In contrast, the one cable show hosted by a progressive, Countdown with Keith Olbermann , while still trailing some of its conservative competitors, experienced a 30 percent growth in the last quarter in the 25 to 54 demographic. And as The New York...

The Liberal Moderates

The 2006 elections may be a year away, but already Democrats are working hard not to get cocky. With Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the multiple corruption scandals swirling around the Republicans, the ruling party is looking increasingly vulnerable. The president's approval ratings have slipped into the 30-percent neighborhood in some polls, and when people are given the "generic congressional ballot" question -- do you think you'll vote for a Democrat or a Republican in next year's election? -- Democrats lead by as much as 10 points, a gap that hasn't been seen since before the 1994 election. And we all remember what happened then. Yet Republicans (and more than a few Democrats) raise a caution. Americans, they argue, are pretty conservative; no matter what is going on this week or this month, conservatives far outnumber liberals, so Democrats always start at a disadvantage. Democrats who want their party to stand up for a strong progressive agenda, they claim, are barking up the...

Liars and Cheats

In October of 1962, upon being caught in a direct and unambiguous lie -- that the Pentagon knew of no offensive weapons in Cuba, when in fact Defense Department officials were debating whether to invade the island in order to remove those very weapons -- Arthur Sylvester, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, made the audacious claim, “It's inherent in [the] government's right, if necessary, to lie to save itself.” Begging the question of just whom the enemy was, Sylvester added, “News generated by the actions of the government … [are] part of the arsenal of weaponry that a president has.” Like so many before and since, the Kennedy administration seemed to conflate its own political advantage and the public good. Those of us who have written polemics against one president or another are prone to believe that our target is the worst liar to have ever sat in the Oval Office. This conclusion may come from a detailed examination of a particular president's record, but as...

Dishonor Guard

When Michael Moore called George W. Bush a "deserter" at a January 18 rally for Wesley Clark, he stepped way over the line, injecting into the public discourse a scurrilous charge with no basis in fact, the kind of defamation that has rightly earned the moniker "political hate speech" from Republicans. Or at least that's what you'd think if you listened to reporters' comments on Moore's statement. Speaking for his colleagues, ABC's Peter Jennings told Clark during Thursday's debate, "That's a reckless charge not supported by the facts. And I was curious to know why you didn't contradict him, and whether or not you think it would've been a better example of ethical behavior to have done so." Clark declined to do so, saying he didn't know enough about it. Unfortunately, most Americans don't either -- because reporters have refused to tell them. But the press consensus has been reached: Moore's charge was beyond the pale, and General Clark made a big mistake by not repudiating it. "Clark...

Gored by the Media Bull

W e may never know the real reason Al Gore opted to bow out of the presidential race. In his interview announcing this decision on 60 Minutes , the former vice president said he wanted the 2004 race to be about the future, not the past. While he had the "energy and the drive and the ambition" to make another bid for the White House, he realized it was not "the right thing" for him to do. Left unsaid was how much Gore's decision was affected by his treatment from the press. In his 2000 campaign, Gore was dogged by his image as a "phony." Coverage of his recent re-emergence on the public scene continued that story line. "Are people going to say this is just another reinvention of Al Gore?" asked Karen Tumulty, the Time magazine reporter who profiled him recently. If by "people" she meant the Washington chattering class, the journalists and pundits who shape a candidate's image, the answer was clearly "yes." Gore would have started another campaign with significant advantages -- such as...

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