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

Look What You Made Them Do

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If the last eighteen months have been defined by a single question, it might be this one: How did this happen? By "this" I mean not just the election of Donald Trump but also everything that surrounds it: the ideological polarization, the newfound strength of right-wing extremism, the degradation of American civil life, all of it. And who's to blame? Why, liberals, of course. Perhaps not entirely, but many conservatives want to be sure we understand that the more extreme and embarrassing rightists wouldn't be what they have become were it not for the relentless contempt heaped on everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders by snooty liberal elitists. And if Trump gets re-elected, well, that'll be liberals' fault too. That's the opinion increasingly expressed not just in safe conservative spaces, but in places like The New York Times , which on Sunday ran a piece on the front of the Week In Review section entitled "Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think" by University of Virginia...

Don't Expect the Trump Scandals to Tie Up Neatly

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The Trump omniscandal—which is really four or five separate but related scandals swirling around each other in a boiling stew of venal criminality—is slowly coming into focus. When that process is complete, it may wind up being simultaneously less than many believe, and more appalling than we could have imagined. It's important to keep that in mind, because as we get each new revelation we have a tendency to measure it against our expectations of what a real scandal ought to look like, expectations that may make it harder to come to grips with all the places these investigations are taking us. Specifically, we yearn for a kind of narrative coherence in which motivations are simple, individuals' actions make sense, and the whole thing has at least some measure of organization to it. We've been taught by innumerable movies and TV shows what a conspiracy looks like, and one of its characteristics is that things become more clear as you move along. What had seemed like a...

The Federal Prohibition on Marijuana Is On Borrowed Time

AP Photo/Josh Edelson
If you're a politician wondering whether you should try pot, I've got news for you: Everybody's doing it. Why not give it a try? You don't want people to think you're square, do you? By "try pot," I don't mean actually smoke it (though who knows what's going on in the cloakroom these days). I mean come out for some form of marijuana legalization. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner recently joined the board of a cannabis company, and last week on semi-official marijuana holiday April 20, certified cool dude Chuck Schumer, the leader of Democrats in the Senate, announced that he will soon be introducing legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Oh how times have changed. They're hardly the only ones. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, being pushed to the left by a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, now says the state should start preparing to legalize it. Major corporations like HP are inching their way toward involvement in some corner of what is already a...

Michael Cohen Could Be the Instrument of Trump's Doom

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Let me suggest an image from the near future and see what your reaction is. It's a few months from now, and Michael Cohen is being led into a police station in Manhattan in handcuffs, his jacket slightly askew, his face wearing an expression that's two-thirds defiance, one-third fear. In fact, you might have pictured that already yourself. If you look at Cohen on the news and say, "Oh yeah, that guy's definitely going to jail for something," you are not alone. While Cohen is usually described as "Donald Trump's personal lawyer," in fact he was much more: a deal-maker, a problem-solver, and the guy Trump would turn to if he wanted to threaten somebody. "If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump's benefit," Cohen once told ABC News . "If you do something wrong, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I'm not going to let you go until I'm finished." If there are shady things going on in the Trump organization,...

What Should We Do About Syria? Don't Ask Trump.

(Photo by Cheriss May/Sipa USA via AP Images)
I wonder if, after some of his national security aides brief him about the latest developments in Syria, President Trump shakes his head and says, "Boy, nobody knew wars in the Middle East could be so complicated." That, you'll recall, is what he said about health care, when in fact everyone, except for him, knew how complicated it is. But perhaps I'm being unfair. There are reasons to think that Trump already had a sense of how complicated the Middle East can be, which is why as a candidate he expressed much more of a distaste for military adventurism there than your average Republican. Just last week, Trump declared his intention to bring all of our troops home from Syria, where they have been working to eradicate ISIS. "I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home," he said . But then came an apparent chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma, in which dozens of civilians were killed. Trump took to his favorite medium to express his outrage. "Many dead,...

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