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 Power of the Campaign Narrative

All successful candidates have had a coherent, appealing story, while the losers tell bad stories -- or more often, no story at all. Plus, a gallery of narrative campaign ads.

On November 4, 1979, Senator Ted Kennedy, preparing to announce his primary challenge to President Jimmy Carter, sat down for an interview with Roger Mudd of CBS News. Polls showed Kennedy far ahead of the beleaguered incumbent, and many political experts at the time expected the youngest son of America's political royal family to take the mantle from his two slain brothers and charge to the White House. But when Mudd asked him a simple question -- "Senator, why do you want to be president?" -- Kennedy could not offer a simple response. His rambling, muddled answer dealt his campaign a terrible blow. It may seem strange that someone who had made the decision to run for president couldn't sum up in a few sentences what the purpose of his candidacy was. Kennedy's problem was not that he didn't have a good reason to run -- he had plenty of them. His problem was the way he thought about that run. He thought about issues, he thought about the weaknesses of the president he was trying to...


NOW THAT'S SOME FAMILY VALUES. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has interviewed the prostitute Senator David Vitter used to frequent back in Louisiana. But the article contains this puzzling passage: Yow, contacted through relatives, called The Times-Picayune Wednesday night and said Vitter was a regular customer of hers, but said the two did not have a romantic relationship. She claimed to have severed ties with him after she found out he was married. So they weren't dating, he was just a customer. But when she found out he was married, she told him not to come around anymore. I realize they have a long and honorable tradition of prostitution in New Orleans, but do the working girls down there have some stringent code of ethics that demands different standards than their counterparts everywhere else in the world? They don't service married Johns? Isn't that a significant portion of their business? What's going on here? You may now return to your regularly scheduled wonky policy...


OBAMA AND RACE, PART 2,354. In Salon today, Michael Scherer has an article, cleverly titled " Hillary Is From Mars, Obama Is From Venus ," arguing that Barack Obama is the girl candidate -- touchy-feely, empathetic, cranking up the Indigo Girls; while Hillary Clinton is the boy candidate -- direct, strong, presumably pumping up the Metallica in between Celine Dion tunes. Obama and Clinton "are fighting for undecided female voters who are attracted by Obama's feminine appeal, but still drawn to the macho performance of the only woman to ever have a real shot at the Oval Office," Scherer writes. "May the best woman win." In recent days I've written a lot about the question of gender roles and the campaign ( here , here , and here ). So this certainly grabbed my attention. And it made me wonder: does the fact that Barack Obama is black insulate him from attacks on his masculinity? The topic of Obama's race is already the most intricately examined cultural factor of this election, far...

GOP Candidates Cross the Line in the Culture War

Despite their carefully cultivated images, Romney and Thompson have recently found themselves on the wrong side of conservatives' view of sex.

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a presidential candidates forum co-sponsored by Iowa Christian Alliance on Saturday, June 30, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
In the past week, two of the leading GOP candidates for president found themselves in hot water with the Republican base over their connections to what we might call the other team in the culture war. Both Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson were left to explain (in Romney's case) or deny (in Thompson's) that their obeisance to the "traditional family" -- and all the necessary beliefs that go along with it -- is anything less than complete and abject. For neither the first time nor the last, it all comes down to sex. Romney's problem is about what goes on in hotel rooms when the blinds are closed. The former Massachusetts governor served on the board of the Marriott hotel chain from 1992 to 2001 (the Romney family and the Marriott family are extremely close; Romney's first name is Willard, after J. Willard Marriott, the company founder). As at most large hotel chains, guests at Marriott can sample from a variety of adult offerings on their televisions, whether their preference is for...


THE TROUBLE WITH IMPEACHMENT. Everyone has made good points about the possibility of impeaching President Bush ; there are lots of worthy arguments on both sides. But there's one political factor to consider: much as their epic incompetence at running the government has discredited the very idea of government, making new government solutions substantially harder to get past a skeptical public, Republicans' impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 discredited the very idea of impeachment. Say the word now, and many people think of "a partisan effort to drag the country through a ridiculously disingenuous show trial, trumping up phony claims of 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' for no reason other than revenge on your political enemies." It almost doesn't matter anymore what the president does; anyone who proposes impeachment is going to be greeted by many people with nothing but eye-rolling. Given that, short of killing a man on national television for looking at him funny, the president...