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

Tim Russert: Stop the Inanity

Russert passes for a "tough" interviewer by adopting a confrontational pose rather than asking genuinely challenging questions. Which is why he's a terrible moderator for our presidential debates.

MSNBC debate moderator Tim Russert speaks to the audience before the Democratic debate on Sept. 26 in Hanover, N.H. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
Last month, near the end of the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator Tim Russert -- known as "Washington's toughest interviewer" and perhaps the most influential journalist in America -- had one last chance to pin the candidates down with his legendary common sense, persistence, and no-bull style. This is what he asked, first to Barack Obama: "There's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?" When Obama finished his answer, Russert said to the other candidates, "I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds." Predictable banality ensued. A foreign visitor unfamiliar with our presidential campaigns might have scratched her head and said, "This is how you decide who will lead your country?" Indeed it is, because the process is controlled by Tim Russert and people like him. Russert's Bible question encapsulates everything...

Haunted by the Hippie

Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative Democrat running for president, the right makes her out to be a radical. Perhaps this is because the right still fears the social change hippies represented.

A specter is haunting the 2008 presidential campaign. It is a terrifying beast that walks through mud, dances to eerie music, wears strange garments, and copulates wantonly. It smells vaguely of patchouli. I speak, of course, of the hippie. Or rather, the conservative image of the hippie, grafted onto a woman who could barely have been less countercultural back in the times when the actual species roamed the Earth: Hillary Clinton. If you thought we'd get through this campaign without the people who were too square to be down with the scene in the 1960s once again venting their resentment at their cooler peers, think again. But this time around, it's even less likely to work than it has in the past. Not that they won't be trying. Imagine the quivers of delight over at RNC headquarters when they learned last week that back in June, senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton inserted a $1 million earmark into the health and education appropriations bill for the Museum at Bethel Woods in...


Last night, Mike Huckabee was interviewed on ABC News, and he gave this standard-issue tribute to our nation's uniqueness: I still remember my father taking me to meet the governor of Arkansas when I was eight years old. And he said, "Son, you may live your whole life, and you may never get to meet a governor in person." And to think that, you know, his son could become one. Only in America." It's a wonderful thing that in our country, a person born to modest circumstances can rise to become a political leader, governor of a state and perhaps even president. But the idea that this is possible "only in America" is just ridiculous. Using the repository of all human knowledge , I was able within a few minutes to come up with a bunch of world leaders whose parents were not earls or dukes. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark 's father was a farmer, and her mother was a schoolteacher. German Chancellor Angela Merkel 's father was a Lutheran pastor. Say what you will about Mahmoud...

Al Gore and the Gaffe Wars

Gore's Nobel Prize win was a well-deserved honor for one of our finest politicians. It's also a stark reminder of how far into trivia the race to the presidency has fallen.

When Al Gore finished his brief statement to the press upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, he walked from the lectern, ignoring the shouted questions from reporters about whether he would now make another run at the White House. Given how he was treated by the press eight years ago, it would be shocking if Gore had the stomach for another run. What the press has been up to lately demonstrates exactly why, and makes each new accolade Gore receives all the more poignant. Distracted for a moment, the pundits soon turned their attention back to the tool with which they had made such mincemeat out of Gore -- the search for the latest campaign "gaffe," those moments in which a candidate violates the rules the press has established to separate acceptable from unacceptable behavior. This week's perpetrator was Mitt Romney, who when asked in a debate whether military action against Iran's nuclear facilities would require authorization from Congress, quite sensibly said, "You sit...


One of the most positive developments in our national debate in recent years has been the great respect and appreciation offered to American soldiers. As divisive as the Iraq war has been, everyone on both sides acknowledges that those doing the fighting are enduring enormously trying circumstances with admirable courage. It is now a common sight to see strangers approach soldiers in an airport or on the street to thank them for their service to the country. But we don't often hear people offering the same kind of praise to the journalists who are performing a service just as valuable, and in many cases just as risky. Today's Washington Post contains a story about one of their reporters, Salih Saif Aldin , who was murdered yesterday in Baghdad. He was 32 years old, a father who risked his life every day because he believed that the world should understand what is happening in his country. Aldin had endured death threats, beatings, and countless dangerous situations to enable the Post...