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

Yes, I Miss George W. Bush.

Lately, some Republicans have been saying with a smirk that pretty soon people are going to start missing George W. Bush . They mean that will happen because of the socialist nightmare Barack Obama has turned America into, of course. But we may start missing Bush for quite the opposite reason: because today's Republicans are making him look better and better. Goodness knows, I figured I'd be the last person to be throwing compliments at W. But as this letter to Talking Points Memo reminds us, Bush actually went out of his way to repeat that America was not at war with Islam as a whole, only with certain radical elements engaged in terrorism. It seemed like the most obvious thing in the world -- first, because it's plainly true, and second, because the idea that America is at war with Islam is exactly what al-Qaeda wants people to believe. It's central to their recruiting efforts. Right after September 11, Bush got criticized for calling the fight against terrorism a "crusade." It was...

Who's the Extremist?

As a progressive, I tend to think the Republican Party is much more ideologically extreme than the Democratic Party. There are many reasons, some of which may be more legitimate than others. But it turns out that my opinion isn't representative. According to this research from the Pew Research Center, the typical Democrat thinks the GOP is kind of conservative, while the typical Republican thinks the Democratic Party is really, really liberal. This isn't something new -- as one influential study put it in 1985, "Liberals do not like conservatives; however, they do not dislike them nearly as much as conservatives dislike liberals." But you can really see it in this picture: It's a little fuzzy, but if you look at the dark brown dots, you see that people of all stripes put the Republican Party at pretty much the same place -- somewhere between "moderate" and "conservative." But if you look at the gray dots, you see that Democrats think the Democratic Party is kind of moderate,...

Scare Tactics

What we're seeing now isn't racism; it's race-baiting.

Andrew Breitbart speaks during a news conference. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
The latest installment in our never-ending "conversation" about race is underway, thanks to the Shirley Sherrod affair. But before we get to the week's developments, a bit of history. In June of 1988, George H.W. Bush started telling a very scary story about his opponent, Michael Dukakis. Or rather, not so much about Dukakis, but about a man named Willie Horton. Horton, a prisoner in Massachusetts, had skipped from a furlough while Dukakis was governor and victimized a young couple, raping the woman and assaulting the man. There were some key points of the story Bush left out: The furlough program had been started by Dukakis' Republican predecessor, and Dukakis had ended it, for instance. Horton's name also wasn't actually "Willie" but William, and he had never been known by the name the Bush campaign was using. Bush also didn't mention that "Willie" Horton was black and his victims white, but he didn't have to -- Horton's menacing mug shot would soon be shown hundreds of times on the...

Opposites Don't Really Attract.

Literature and pop culture are full of characters who start off hating each other -- couples fated for romance, a black cop and a white cop thrown together unwillingly as partners, a new recruit and a grizzled old sergeant. They fight bitterly, then go through trials together, and come to realize that underneath all that arguing is love and trust. But how often has that happened to you in real life? It probably happened more often the opposite way -- you started off liking someone, then over time got into disagreements, until you finally realized that this person is kind of a jerk and you don't really want to have much to do with them. Your ex became your ex for a reason, your boss turned out to be a backstabbing liar, that sort-of-friend started to really get on your nerves. I bring this up because today, Reihan Salam , a member of a small but hardy band of reasonable conservatives, uses the Journolist imbroglio to make some interesting points : A distinguished art critic told a...

Is the Left Capable of Spreading Misinformation?

Today, E.J.Dionne takes on everyone's propensity to pick up bogus stories from the right, especially Fox News, which raises a point I've been thinking about: This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had. There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that last August, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates. The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream...