Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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This Is Bigger News Than Bobby Jindal's Health Care Plan

| Thu Apr. 3, 2014 1:14 PM EDT

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made another effort to jump back into the upper tier of 2016 Republican presidential wannabes on Wednesday, releasing a 26-page plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with...something else. Jindal's plan includes things like block grants for Medicaid, an elimination of the employer subsidy for insurance, and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines—basically the same things conservatives have been pushing for years. (Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's 2015 budget, unveiled one day earlier, also calls for block grants.) As I reported in the most recent issue of Mother Jones, it's only the most recent in a string of efforts by Jindal to elevate his sagging national profile to its previous heights.

But while he was pushing a hypothetical agenda for his hypothetical presidency, things weren't going so well in Louisiana:

Louisiana's House Education Committee voted down legislation that sought to scrap the Common Core education standards and replace them with a not-yet-developed set of academic benchmarks and assessments. The committee's vote was 12-7.

Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a green card—indicating support—for [State Rep. Brett] Geymann's legislation to the House Education Committee, after several weeks of being circumspect about the his views on Common Core. But no one from Jindal's staff testified on the bill and his spokesmen did not respond to media requests for information about why he backed Geymann's legislation.

Jindal originally supported the implementation of the Common Core standards, a set of defacto national math and English standards approved by 46 states in 2009. But the standards became a lightning rod for conservative activists, who considered it a government takeover of local schools (or worse). So when the backlash came to Louisiana last year, he changed his tune. Sort of. Jindal argued that Louisiana shouldn't take orders from Washington, and after a long period of indecision, quietly signaled his support for Geymann's bill, which would have put the state's tests on hold and form a 32-person committee for further study. It's not quite hitting control-z on the entire program, but it would certainly be a step away from the original plan. But that attempt at damage control is dead for now, and so instead of being able to tell voters about how he reined in Common Core, Jindal is stuck with it.

That might not be on the 2016 radar yet, but given how despised the Core is among grassroots voters in Iowa, Florida, and South Carolina, it's potentially a much bigger deal than a boilerplate white paper.

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In Defense of Scott Brown, Carpetbagger

| Fri Mar. 28, 2014 7:41 AM EDT
Illustration: Thomas Nast/Library of Congress; Scott Brown: Seamas Culligan/ZUMA

Scott Brown has a carpetbagging problem. On Monday, the former Republican senator from Massachusetts—who is now running for Senate in New Hampshire—defended his Granite State bona fides by taking a page from Lisa Simpson: "Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. 'Cause, you know, whatever."

At this point, it's the rare Brown story that doesn't at least allude to the dreaded C-word. "Carpetbagger or Comeback Kid?" asked the Washington Examiner's Rebecca Berg. "Scott Brown's first hurdle in the Granite State will be addressing the carpetbagging charge," argued US News & World Report's David Catanese. Respondents to a March poll from Suffolk University, a plurality of whom disapproved of Brown, used words like "carpetbagger" and "interloper" to describe the ex-senator. His opponent in the Republican primary, former Sen. Bob Smith, has even offered to buy Brown a road map to the state—although Smith has run for Senate in Florida twice in the last decade.

If Brown wants to go back to Washington next winter, he should probably come up with a better response than "whatever." But his critics in Washington have it all wrong. For more than a century, carpetbaggers have gotten a bad rap for all the wrong reasons.

Flashback: GOP Senate Candidates's Anti-Gay Diatribe

| Thu Mar. 20, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has some competition in the race to take on New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in November. In late February, former Sen. Bob Smith—who represented the Granite State in the Senate from 1990 until 2003 before losing a primary, moving to Florida, and twice running for Senate unsuccessfully there—threw his hat into the ring. Smith has vowed to debate Brown "in 10 towns he's never heard of," and offered him a map in case he got lost.

Notwithstanding the fact that Smith himself moved to Florida to start a real estate company after losing his primary, or that he once gave a 45-minute floor speech on why circus elephants shouldn't be allowed on the Capitol grounds, there are plenty of reasons why Brown's opponent may not be palatable to swing voters in a state that went to President Obama in 2008 and 2012. As a senator in the 1990s, Smith spent much of his time pushing back against the "gay agenda" and supposed attempts by LGBT radicals to indoctrinate children into their ranks. The propaganda campaign, according to Smith, was being pushed into public schools in the form of AIDS education literature and sex ed materials. In 1994, he joined with arch-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) to introduce an amendment that would strip federal funding from any school that promoted homosexuality as a "positive life style alternative"—or that directed students to organizations that did. Because when you're trying to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, the point is to be as vague as possible.

In an impassioned floor speech, Smith warned colleagues that he was prohibited by decency standards from displaying most of the materials he was hoping to de facto ban. Then he read aloud from the children's book Heather Has Two Mommies:

When Smith was finished, he began reading from another book, Daddy's Roommate:

The kicker: In 2010, 14 years after Smith last won an election, New Hampshire made it legal for Heather's two mommies to get married. Sure, Smith can tell voters he represented New Hampshire in Washington before, but it was a Granite State he'd need a road map to navigate today.

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