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 Contours of the Campaign to Come

Obama may not have knocked Hillary Clinton out of the race yet, but his success is giving us a taste of what Republicans have in store for the general election.

The fight for the Democratic nomination isn't over yet, but the direction the other side thinks things are going can be gleaned from the salvos being lobbed at the Democrats. Go to the Web site of the Republican National Committee, or any of the more virulent conservative blogs, and you'll see that most of the attacks are being aimed at Barack Obama. The contours of the coming campaign are taking shape, and as usual, it's not pretty. Listen to the McCain campaign, and you'll hear that it intends only to engage in a debate about "issues," one that will elevate the discourse and offer voters an opportunity to make a reasoned, considered decision about the future of their country. If so, it would certainly be a reversal of every campaign in recent times. The pattern we've gotten used to is that the Democrat argues that he has a superior set of 10-point plans, and urges the electorate to peruse them, while the Republican points to the Democrat and says, "That guy is a liberal elitist who...

Will the Next President Lift the Ban on Gays in the Military?

What will our military look like in the years to come? Depends on if the next president addresses the increasingly unpopular "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

This presidential campaign has seen plenty of platitudes on matters of national security but precious little real discussion about what America's armed forces will look like in the years to come. There are extraordinary challenges ahead, not the least of which is rebuilding a military utterly spent by the war in Iraq. As for the people who would be commander in chief, we know that all the remaining candidates want to defeat terrorism and keep America strong. In other words, we don't know much at all. There are many facets to the issue of our military's future, but for the moment I want to discuss just one: whether the ban on gays serving in the military will finally be repealed. Of the 26 countries in the NATO alliance, only Portugal, Greece, Turkey—and the United States—ban gays from serving in the military. Other countries have reported no problems integrating gay service members into their military. This is true even in Israel, where they take military matters very,...


In his continuing campaign to become a walking punchline, Ralph Nader is running for president. Again. Four years ago, Harold, Matt, Garance and I ruminated on the prospect of what then the second Nader run. We all agreed it was a really bad idea. The question I'd like to hear Nader answer now is, "Why president?" I agree with much of the substantive critique Nader offers of the state of American government. But I have yet to hear him offer much of an explanation of why he thinks him embarking on another presidential campaign will do anything to address the problems he identifies. At the end of Nader for President 3.0, will corporate America's grip on the legislative process be loosened? Will we be closer to getting a more environmentally sound energy policy? Will the problem of widening inequality start to be addressed? Is there any imaginable way in which this campaign will have any impact on the problems he professes to care about? Ralph Nader accomplished great things in his life...


The particulars of what Barack Obama actually "pledged" to do on public financing notwithstanding, it's pretty clear that what coverage there has been of this issue assumes it's an ironclad pledge. Obviously, it would be of great benefit to Obama to opt out of the system, because as of now it appears he'd be likely to raise far more money than John McCain . So how can he opt out and still save face? The answer is: 527s. No, I don't mean that he should encourage people to organize 527s on his behalf. But he can use the very well-funded Republican 527s as the lever to enable him to opt out. The argument would go something like this: "I said I would 'aggressively pursue an agreement to preserve a publicly financed election' with my Republican opponent. And I'm happy to have our two campaigns sit down and see if there is a way to make the debate between me and John McCain, within the publicly financed system. But as long as there are 'independent' Republican groups out there planning on...

The Triumph of Narrative

Of all the things Barack Obama has done right this campaign, none may be more important than the fact that he has told a story perfectly keyed to the current moment in history.

This has been about as interesting and unpredictable a presidential primary campaign as any political junkie could have hoped for, and few would be foolish enough to say they know for certain what will happen next. But at the moment, Barack Obama has momentum and a lead in delegates, and Hillary Clinton will have to pull out overwhelming victories in nearly every contest from here to the end of the primaries if she is to become the Democratic nominee. Though we may or may not have reached the end of the unexpected upsets and dramatic reversals of the primaries, much less the general election to come, there is no doubt that of all the people who ran for president this year, Obama has run the smartest and most skilled campaign. But of all the things he has done right, none may be more important than the fact that he has told far and away the best story. This is a topic I addressed in two previous columns, and now that one nominee is chosen and the other will be soon (at least within a...