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 Coming Health-Care-Reform Theater.

Republican apostate David Frum makes an interesting argument : By committing not to compromise with Democrats, Republicans have assured that all they'll be engaged in is theater, particularly when it comes to health-care reform. As an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, Frum thinks it stinks: They'll schedule a vote to repeal the "cuts" in Medicare under health care reform. (Not really cuts -- restrictions on future growth.) They'll refuse to appropriate funds to implement aspects of health care reform. They'll call hearings to publicize problems with the law and complaints from those negatively affected. And at the end of two years, the law will still be there, more or less intact... But if there is no compromise, there can be no negotiations. And if there are no negotiations, there can be no fixes -- because every important fix requires the concurrence of the Senate and the president... As is, we're getting a bad trade: Republicans may gain political benefit, but Democrats get the...

Taking Rick Perry With a Grain of Salt.

As a big-state governor who just got re-elected, Rick Perry -- whom the great Molly Ivins used to call "Governor Goodhair" -- would seem to be a natural for a presidential run. And he's even taken the first step, "writing" a silly book outlining his ideas about how to make America awesome again (channeling the moment, his is called Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington ). And as he goes around promoting it, Perry is telling everyone that Washington is getting way too involved in our lives, down to telling us "how much salt we should put on our food." He repeats this over and over again, wherever he goes. You're probably wondering what the hell he's talking about. And this would seem to be a prime candidate for the question I'm always begging reporters to ask politicians when they start to throw around these kind of outlandish claims: "What are you talking about?" It's a simple question, but one that almost never gets asked. Fortunately, The Washington Post' s Dana Milbank...

Hostage Negotiations, the Madman Theory, and the Debt Ceiling.

The first real test of the new Republican House majority will be coming around February, when Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling to allow the Treasury to continue borrowing money to pay for all the things government does. Republicans are now figuring out what they want to demand in exchange for going along, and both sides are trying to determine just how this is going to play out politically. One thing we can anticipate is that Republicans will get very indignant when Democrats charge that this is a "hostage" situation. But it will be. The essence of a hostage situation is that the hostage taker says, "Give me what I want, or I will do terrible harm to this thing you care about." The threat is believable only if the hostage taker is thought to be willing to actually do that harm. Is it believable in this case? Well, in this case, the thing being held hostage is both the U.S economy and the world economy. The potential is that if the Republicans don't budge on not raising the...

Democrats Sticking With Pelosi.

Since Nancy Pelosi announced over the weekend that she'll be seeking to retain her leadership of House Democrats, we've seen multiple articles quoting anonymous Democrats saying it's a bad idea. We've even had the reasonably liberal New York Times editorial page call for her to step aside. Republicans are saying much the same thing. Among the reasons are that Democrats need new blood, Democrats need to compromise with Republicans and she's a serious partisan, and if she stays around, she'll continue to be vilified by the right. All of this is just silly. The fact is that Nancy Pelosi is the toughest and most skilled pol on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. She just engineered the most productive session of Congress in memory, delivering health-care reform, financial reform, student-loan reform, a stimulus bill, and a whole lot of other things to boot. One thing you can say about her is that she understands governing -- she knew that the Democrats had the best opportunity they might...

Campaign in Poetry, Govern in Prose

Republicans spun a good tale on the trail -- but Democrats have the advantage of better policies.

In the days before the midterm election, President Obama makes a final get-out-the-vote push for Democratic candidates at Midway Plaisance Park in Chicago. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In charting the last two years, from the euphoria of election night 2008 to the despair of election night 2010, I keep returning to Mario Cuomo's famous dictum that you campaign in poetry but govern in prose. The poetry of campaigning is lofty, gauzy, full of possibility, a world where problems are solved just because we want them to be and opposition melts away before us. The prose of governing is messy and maddening, full of compromises and half-victories that leave a sour taste in one's mouth. Governing, however, is also specific where campaigning is usually vague. And that fact may provide a means for Democrats to regain the political advantage over the next two years. Now that Republicans too will be expected to at least participate in governing, they could find themselves dragged down by the prose. In campaigns, candidates reduce their ideas to simple statements of principle and 30-second ads, and the side whose simple message is more attuned to the moment will probably win. Two...