Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Mitt Romney

Richard Grenell, Mitt Romney's newly christened foreign policy spokesman, stepped down from the campaign on Tuesday. Grenell, who is gay, had come under fire from social conservative activists who viewed his hiring as a slap in the face. Although a Romney spokesman claimed the campaign had wanted Grenell to stay on, Romney staffers had already begun to shut him out before his resignation, counseling the gay foreign policy spokesman to stay silent during a recent campaign press call on foreign policy. 

The episode is reminiscent of a controversy that occurred when Romney was governor of Massachusetts: The 2004 dismissal of Ardith Wieworka, longtime head of the state's Office of Child Care Services, who alleged that she had been terminated because of her decision to marry her partner.

In May of that year, the same month same-sex marriage was legalized in the Bay State, the Northeastern University press office published a story announcing that Wieworka intended to marry her longtime partner, Carol Lyons, who worked at the school as the dean of career services.

The next month, Romney traveled to Washington, DC, to testify in support of a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. "Marriage is…a fundamental and universal social institution that bears a real and substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare of all the people of Massachusetts," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Two weeks later, the Boston Globe reported that Ronald Preston, Romney's state health and human services commissioner, asked Wieworka to resign.

A veteran of three previous Republican administrations, Wieworka was at a loss about why she was fired. (She declined to comment for this story.) She told the Boston Globe later that month that, absent any clear motive, she suspected her ouster may have been a result of marriage:

Earlier this week, Wieworka strongly suggested that her firing was connected to her recent marriage to her lesbian partner. She said yesterday that she was not saying that was the reason, but that she wanted to raise the question in the absence of other credible explanations.

"When you accuse someone of something, you've reached a conclusion," Wieworka said yesterday. "I want to look into the motivation."

Wieworka noted that Preston's explanation for the move changed considerably over time. He initially said it was due to restructuring, but later suggested that Wieworka had also been uncooperative. He never offered a clear, specific reason for the termination. Romney and Preston vehemently denied Wieworka's firing had anything to do with her marriage, however. The governor told the Globe that Wieworka's sexual orientation was something he only learned about after she had been fired. Preston called the idea that Wieworka was fired for her marriage "an outrageous allegation with no foundation whatsoever." (Preston now teaches medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.)

Whatever the explanation, the move was divisive. "[T]hose who have worked with Wieworka express shock and dismay at her departure," Boston Magazine reported. The Boston Globe editorial board—making no mention of Wieworka's charge of discrimination—panned the firing, writing "It is unfortunate that Preston could not work out a way to make use of Wieworka's considerable experience and talent."

In the eyes of Massachusetts's LGBT community, the firing had a certain resonance. The state's LGBT monthly, Bay Windows, noted the firing in a January 2012 piece detailing Romney's record on gay issues as governor. Whether or not Wieworka's marriage played a part in her termination, the timing of her departure was fitting: The episode came as Romney was in the midst of his political evolution from a gay-friendly, pro-choice moderate into someone culture warriors could believe in—an evolution, as Grenell's resignation shows, that is far from finished.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)

Rep. Allen West, a tea party congressman who believes the House Progressive Caucus is filled with communists, may be the most polarizing of the 93 GOP freshmen, but he's revered by conservatives—some of whom have floated him as an (implausible) vice presidential choice. His status as the right wing's national security guru makes West's comments in Robert Draper's new profile of the 112th Congress, Do Not Ask What Good We Do, kind of damning. West, a 22-year-military veteran, was concerned about Mitt Romney's basic grasp of foreign policy:

It amazed him how some of his fellow Republicans remained clueless when it came to the basics of foreign policy—including Afghanistan, where America had spent the past decade at war. He had winced when he heard presidential candidate Mitt Romney referring to "the Afghanis." Afghanis were the country's currency! "Hugely embarrassing," West said. (Months later, when GOP presidential contender Herman Cain dismissed his own ignorance of the country he referred to as "Uz-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan," a disgusted West muttered, "Not funny at all."

Draper's sketch of West focuses on the congressman's complicated relationship with the Congressional Black Caucus (he's the only GOP member), and his unflinching military ethos (West analogizes his arrival in Washington to Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon). West does not suffer fools—or at least people he considers to be fools, whatever the basis in fact—gladly. The entire book is worth a read.

Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich, in happier times.

Newt Gingrich thanked all of the usual suspects at his campaign sendoff in a crowded room in the second floor of the Ballston, Virginia, Hilton on Tuesday. He thanked his two debate coaches, grandson Robert and granddaughter Maggie. He thanked his wife, Callista. He thanked Bill O'Brien, the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. He thanked Texas Gov. Rick Perry, satirist Herman Cain*, and former Alaska First Dude Todd Palin.

Then he threw in two more names. "And of course, while they weren't directly associated with the campaign, it would be impossible for me to be here without Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who single-handedly came very, very close to matching Romney's super-PAC," he said. "I'm very, very grateful."

Gingrich Wins! (An Alternative History)

Artist's rendering

On Wednesday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will formally suspended his presidential campaign, crushing the dreams of the dozens of supporters who hoped he'd follow through on his pledge to fight all the way to Tampa, Florida.

But for Gingrich, this is merely a shady highway rest area on the larger journey of political ambition. A prolific author, Gingrich specializes in alternative histories, novels based on the premise that (to use a couple of actual examples) Robert E. Lee was victorious at Gettysburg, or that the Germans invaded eastern Tennessee at the end of World War II.

Mother Jones has obtained an exclusive draft of Gingrich's latest, and most ambitious effort: The inside story of how a plucky, brilliant—dashing, even—former speaker of the House stuck it to the doubters to win the Republican presidential nomination. Here's the first chapter. 

Five Minutes to Liftoff: How Newt Gingrich Beat the Weakest Republican Front-Runner Since Leonard Wood in 1920
By Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
Thomas Dunne Books

1. The Briefcase

Wolf Blitzer blinked, blinked again, and tried, for the fourth time, to read the script in front of him. The news had come across the wire just a few minutes earlier, and it still didn't seem real. More like a magical illusion, like the hologram projector they had unveiled in 2008 and then scrapped a week later. He had really liked that hologram projector.

To hell with it, Wolf thought. Just tell them what you know. He took a long pause and looked into the camera. "We're watching this very closely," he said.

Wasn't everyone? Political pundits had known the 2012 presidential race might pivot on a handful of crises—high gas prices, gridlock, Iran. No one could have predicted that the Nazis would come out of hiding from their top-secret base on the moon, armed with a powerful electro-magnetic pulse that could end civilization as we know it. This was different. No one had prepared for this. No one knew what to do.

Well, almost no one. At his home in McLean, Virginia, Newt Gingrich flicked off the television, took a deep breath, and stared at the briefcase in front of him. He'd been waiting for this moment.

Since entering the Republican presidential race one year earlier, Gingrich had been mocked, scorned, cast aside. Rivals had laughed at his "grandiose ideas"—their term for proposals like a permanent colony in outer space and a fundamental overhaul of our defenses against electronic warfare. Projects they said couldn't work. Projects he said couldn't wait.

No one was laughing now. Those innovations just might be America's last hope.

Over the last 10 months, Gingrich had racked up enormous debts—$4.5 million, according to the most recent published reports. It was hard to keep track. Combat-ready robots don't build themselves. At least not yet, anyway. For years, he'd argued that racking up such debt was acceptable only in times of war. What was this, then, if not war?

He fidgeted with the briefcase and picked up his phone. Two missed calls.

Adelson.

If only he could see me now, Gingrich thought. For the first time in more than a month, he smiled.

Gingrich could hear the engineers making their final preparations on the other side of the bookshelf. It functioned as a trap door; he had had it installed in his home at a cost of $75,000 (for "catering," he told the FEC). He flipped open the briefcase: 100 percent charged. The rocket was almost ready. Callista was already onboard.

He flicked the switch and waited for the red button to light up, then turned the key. The lights flickered and the room went dark. The penguin in the corner let out a squawk. He had forgotten it was there. "Patience, Pericles," Gingrich said.

The ship shot out of the earth with a roar, leaving a vast plume in its wake as the land beneath faded from view; after 30 seconds, they were out of the atmosphere. In another half hour they'd be on the moon.

Out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia, Gingrich had emerged.  

Elizabeth Warren Is Part Native American

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D).

Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is in a little bit of trouble in her race against GOP Sen. Scott Brown. 

The Boston Herald has been going after Warren for identifying herself as "Native American" while she was a professor at Harvard Law School (she's currently on leave) and for listing herself in the Association of American Law Schools' annual directory as a minority professor due to her American Indian heritage. Warren and her colleagues have insisted her heritage was not an issue during her hiring, but she seemed to hedge in her comments on Tuesday: "Not that I can recall," she said, when asked if she had mentioned her ancestry during the application process. That's different than "No."

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