Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Where Was the Narrative?

There's no law requiring that State of the Union addresses be dull, overlong lists of provisions and proposals, but it has certainly come to seem that way.

When it comes to State of the Union addresses, the opinions of the chattering classes are usually wrong. For one thing, for all the predictions of its potential to change the political landscape, the speech tends to have only the tiniest effect on the president's approval ratings. For another, though the wags always complain that the speech was terribly long, the public never seems to mind (the one president who regularly got a bump from his SOTUs was Bill Clinton, who could drone on with the best of them). There's no law requiring that State of the Union addresses be dull, overlong lists of provisions and proposals, but it has certainly come to seem that way. It's more habit that makes the State of the Union what it is. Every executive branch department has input and pushes to see its programs mentioned and praised. The speechwriters labor to include as wide a panoply of issues as possible, both foreign and domestic. The addresses tend to include a raft of proposals to demonstrate...

The Courage of Their Convictions.

There are a lot of reasons to feel despondent at what's been going on with Democrats in Congress and the White House over the last week. What's remarkable is just how easy it was for them to get sent into this spiral of fear. I shouldn't have to keep repeating this, but all of this chaos – talking about abandoning their agenda, the president seemingly reconfiguring his entire political strategy – is happening because their 20-seat advantage in the Senate was reduced to an 18-seat advantage . Can you imagine what would happen if they suffered a really big defeat? It reveals not just how little faith Democrats have in their beliefs, but also how little faith they have in their own political abilities. Considering the disillusionment with Obama now spreading in progressive circles, particularly over his proposal for a spending freeze, Greg Sargent noted that "fairly or not, liberals saw in him someone who would use his extraordinary communications skills to expand the field of what's...

Spreading Health Care Panic.

This is most likely a case of reporters taking a couple of comments made by senators, and over-interpreting them to come to a dramatic conclusion. But it seems designed to make liberals' heads explode : Democrats Put Stop On Health Overhaul WASHINGTON — With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama 's top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid , Democrat of Nevada, deflected questions about health care. “We’re not on health care now,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.” He added, “There is no rush,” and noted that Congress still had most of this year to work on the health bills passed in 2009 by the Senate and the House. These same two reporters told us in Tuesday's paper, "Seeking to avert the collapse of major...

Improving Our Pokey Rail Network.

(Flickr/ John Curnow ) You might not remember, but one of the nice elements of the stimulus bill that passed last year was $8 billion in funds to develop high speed rail, something a lot of people have been waiting for. The Department of Transportation has been evaluating proposals from different states, and according to the Wall Street Journal , all signs point to Florida getting the first bunch of money. Down in the Sunshine State, they're guessing that's the reason President Obama is going to Tampa on Thursday, to make the big announcement. And it's about time -- after all, our trains are pathetically slow compared to what they have in Europe and Asia. Take a look at this chart, which I produced using a table in this report from the Progressive Policy Institute: And that doesn't count the next generation of France's TGV, which has been tested at a cheek-inflating 357 miles per hour. Plainly, when it comes to train speeds, we suck. Or as a Republican would say, "We have the best...

Damage Control for Democrats

Are Democrats doomed? Not necessarily -- but they need to stop acting like it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The midterm elections for Congress are a little more than nine months away, and they can go one of two ways. Democrats can lose some seats, but not so many that the fundamental balance of power in Congress is changed. Or they can be obliterated, lose the House, and maybe even lose the Senate as well. If they're going to avoid disaster, they have a few things they need to do. Ignore the pundits and reporters. When Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, the news media immediately proclaimed it The Most Important Political Event In History. You would have thought the GOP won 20 or 30 seats in that single election. Now, every time a Democratic politician walks down the halls of the Capitol, some reporter is sticking a microphone in his or her face and asking if the Massachusetts election means that all Americans have rejected the Democratic agenda and it's time to capitulate to Republican demands. The conventional wisdom that Democrats are doomed is wrong. But if they accept its premises (as...