Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

Get my RSS |

Ben Carson Barely Has a Campaign and He's Still Winning

| Tue Jun. 16, 2015 12:17 PM EDT

Ben Carson's presidential campaign is in chaos. His deputy campaign manager quit to return to his farm. His general counsel just went on a safari. His campaign chairman left almost as soon as Carson announced his candidacy to work on a pro-Carson super-PAC—one of three outside outfits supporting Carson's run, while at the same time competing with each other for money and volunteers. Carson, meanwhile, is continuing to travel the country giving paid speeches—an unusual move for a candidate.

He's also leading the entire Republican field, according to the most recent poll of the race from Monmouth:

Monmouth University

It's early—the first meaningful votes won't be cast until January. But Carson's strategy of not really campaigning hasn't hurt him yet. He's actually jumped four points in the polls since his non-campaign began.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Iowa Straw Poll Is Dead. Good Riddance.

| Fri Jun. 12, 2015 10:59 AM EDT

The Iowa Straw Poll, a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Iowa that advertised itself as a pivotal proving ground for the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, died on Friday. It was 36.

Per the Des Moines Register:

The governing board for the Republican Party of Iowa voted unanimously Friday to cancel the straw poll, a milestone on the path to the White House that had passed the strategic tipping point. It was no longer a political risk for presidential campaigns to walk away from the straw poll, and too many of the 2016 contenders had opted to skip it for it to survive.

It was a brilliant scheme while it lasted—at least for the state party. Candidates would shell out tens of thousands of dollars to cover the cost of admission for supporters (or people who claimed to be supporters). They'd even bus them in from distant corners of the state in the hopes that the free ticket, transportation, and food would buy them loyalty in the voting booth. If it happened on Election Day, it'd be a scandal. (This is a state that spent $250,000 to prevent people from voting.) But in August in Iowa, it was just folksy.

The straw poll was not a good predictor of who would win the GOP primary, though. Only one victor (Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1999) ever went on to win the party's nomination. Maybe that's why Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, two of the GOP's leading candidates, decided not to participate. (Even Mike Huckabee, whose strong straw poll performance in 2007 presaged his victory in the caucuses, said he wouldn't spend resources to compete at the event.) The straw poll was a test, and the only way to pass was to recognize that you didn't have to take it.

But it was also a victim of its own success. Now conservatives don't have to wait until the straw poll to see their favorite candidates in one place, and interest groups within the party are getting into the business themselves. Weekend cattle calls are the new normal, whether it's a meet-and-greet with the Koch donor network, ribs at Sen. Joni Ernst's motorcycle barbecue, an appearance to Erick Erickson's RedState Gathering, or even a trip to Disney World.

This Is What the FBI Really Thought About LBJ's Top Civil Rights Lawyer

| Thu Jun. 4, 2015 11:12 AM EDT
John Doar (right) escorts James Meredith to his first class as the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962.

Few people in the federal government did as much for the civil rights movement as John Doar. As a lawyer in the Department of Justice, he rode through the South with the Freedom Riders in 1961, investigated the murders of three civil rights workers in 1964, and at one point in Jackson, Mississippi, put himself between police and demonstrators to defuse a violent situation using only his reputation. As the New York Times recounted in his obituary last year:

"My name is John Doar—D-O-A-R," he shouted to the crowd. "I'm from the Justice Department, and anybody here knows what I stand for is right." That qualified as a full-length speech from the laconic Mr. Doar. At his continued urging, the crowd slowly melted away.

The FBI's files on Doar, which was released to Mother Jones this week under the Freedom of Information Act, included a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of how J. Edgar Hoover's FBI viewed this civil rights crusader. When he was promoted to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, for instance, agents noted that Doar had been "straightened out" after complaining about the bureau's slow response to civil rights violations in the Deep South:



His file also contained an interview with a former colleague of Doar's which revealed a persistent character flaw—he cared way too much about civil rights and prioritized such cases over other issues:



All was not forgiven, despite what the memo to Hoover suggested. In 1967, after Doar had resigned from the Civil Rights Division and taken a new job in Brooklyn, an agent proposed using the former adversary as a liaison in handling racial unrest in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Hoover and his deputy, Clyde Tolson, gave the proposal an emphatic rejection:



You can read the FBI's full file on Doar here.

Switching to the Metric System Is Officially a Presidential Campaign Issue

| Wed Jun. 3, 2015 5:45 PM EDT

Lincoln Chafee kicked off his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday in Virginia by promising to fight climate change, curb extra-judicial assassinations, and switch the United States to the metric system.

Wait, what?

The Rhode Islander, who served in the Senate as a Republican before joining the Democratic party after being elected governor, unveiled his left-leaning, if idiosyncratic, agenda in a wide-ranging address at George Mason University. His continued opposition to the Iraq War, which he voted against authorizing as a senator, could put him in conflict with the party's front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As a senator, Clinton was an early supporter of the invasion, though she has since called it a mistake.

National defense was just one area in which Chafee advised heeding the wisdom of the international community. (He likewise proposed ending capital punishment entirely, and praised Nebraska for its recent ban.)

But then Chafee went a few feet—er, meters—further:

Earlier I said, let's be bold. Here's a bold embrace of internationalism: Let's join the rest of the world and go metric. I happened to live in Canada as they completed the process. Believe me, it is easy. It doesn't take long before 34 degrees is hot. Only Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States aren't metric, and it it'll help our economy!

Finally, a presidential candidate with a foolproof plan to bring down rising temperatures.

Fri Jul. 8, 2011 9:56 AM EDT
Wed Jul. 6, 2011 9:04 AM EDT
Tue Jul. 5, 2011 9:40 AM EDT
Sat Jul. 2, 2011 5:00 AM EDT
Thu Jun. 30, 2011 12:43 PM EDT
Thu Jun. 30, 2011 8:38 AM EDT
Wed Jun. 29, 2011 8:59 AM EDT
Tue Jun. 28, 2011 4:58 PM EDT
Thu Jun. 23, 2011 7:57 AM EDT
Fri Jun. 17, 2011 9:33 AM EDT
Wed Jun. 15, 2011 8:04 AM EDT
Mon Jun. 13, 2011 10:31 PM EDT
Mon Jun. 13, 2011 9:07 AM EDT
Fri Jun. 10, 2011 4:06 PM EDT
Wed Jun. 8, 2011 9:14 AM EDT
Tue Jun. 7, 2011 10:37 AM EDT
Tue Jun. 7, 2011 8:22 AM EDT
Fri Jun. 3, 2011 10:41 AM EDT
Fri Jun. 3, 2011 9:38 AM EDT
Wed Jun. 1, 2011 12:16 PM EDT
Wed Jun. 1, 2011 8:04 AM EDT
Wed May. 25, 2011 10:33 AM EDT
Tue May. 24, 2011 9:41 AM EDT
Fri May. 20, 2011 5:25 PM EDT
Fri May. 20, 2011 11:14 AM EDT
Tue May. 17, 2011 11:11 AM EDT
Mon May. 16, 2011 10:22 AM EDT
Thu May. 12, 2011 7:31 AM EDT