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


The Reverend Wright “issue” is still with us, amazingly. But one thing I’m still waiting to hear from anyone is exactly what it is supposed to tell us about Barack Obama that is so troubling. Does anyone believe that Obama holds the views for which Wright was criticized? Does someone expect Obama to cry out “God damn America”? Does anyone think Obama believes that the government created AIDS to destroy the black community? Does anyone think Obama is going to appoint Wright to be Secretary of Health and Human Services? Are there any real questions -- by which I don’t mean “questions Sean Hannity might ask” -- that Obama’s association with Wright actually raises, questions that bear on what an Obama presidency might look like? Obviously, the answer to all these questions is “no.” So what, then, is the controversy actually about? Some have said, well, he sat in that church for 20 years, and didn’t walk out. OK -- so...

Is America a Center-Right Nation?

John McCain is counting on the idea that the country is center-right at heart. The Democrats are going to have to convince Americans that bad government is the result of conservative contempt for basic institutions of governance.

John McCain faces a serious challenge in this election year -- a struggling economy, a war the public is eager to see ended, a deeply unpopular president, and perhaps most importantly, the natural swing of the pendulum after eight years of Republican rule (only once since the 1940s has a party won three consecutive presidential elections). Nonetheless, conservatives continue to assure themselves that in the end, they reside where the country sits ideologically. McCain, avers George Will, is "a center-right candidate seeking to lead a center-right country." Tom Cole, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, agrees: "I believe that it is still a center-right country, and I think this election will show that," he told the New York Times Magazine. "America is a center-right country and in modern times has not elected a thoroughgoing liberal as president," pleaded former Bush adviser Peter Wehner last week in the Wall Street Journal . You can hear the hint of...


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...