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.

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Your Daily Newt: Speaker of the Yurt

| Fri Dec. 9, 2011 12:33 PM EST

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

By April 1997, House Speaker Newt Gingrich's approval rating had dipped to 14 percent in the national polls. The balance of power in his party was beginning to shift to the now-GOP controlled Senate, and there was an ethics investigation targeting him for several allegations of wrongdoing. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) went on the record describing his speaker as "road kill." But Gingrich was riding high, for he had just conquered Central Asia.

In advance of Mongolia's national elections in 1996, Gingrich and Republican allies dispatched a band of consultants to groom a slate of free-market-oriented candidates. They crafted a "Contract With the Mongolian Voter," based on the "Contract With America" Gingrich and his Republican allies composed for the 1994 election that brought him to power. The Gingrich-backed Mongolian candidates pledged to privatize 60 percent of state property, cut social services, slash taxes, and "support herders' rights to use non-cash payment methods." Baby steppes. As the Washington Post reported, "Even the new Mongolian election law was lifted verbatim from the election law manual of Texas."

The election was a huge success for Gingrich. His Mongolian allies went from five votes in the legislature to 50—out of a total 76. Maureen Dowd dubbed him "Speaker of the Yurt."

Holding up a crown-shaped hat that had been giften to him by an adoring Mongolian, Gingrich appeared on stage at the annual GOPAC conference in Washington, DC to claim victory. From that speech:

"On a stool in his portable felt and canvas yurt, Yadamsuren, a seventy-year-old nomadic sheepherder, offered a visitor chunks of sheep fat and shots of fermented mare's milk to ward off the unspeakable cold....Many miles from the nearest neighbor, he spoke glowingly of the work of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party."

I am not making this up. I am reading from the Washington Post, this is a direct quote from Mr. Yadamsuren: "I read the contract with the voter very closely."


Isn't it exciting to know that not only in America but in Mongolia, ideas are working?

Gingrich's overseas revolution was short-lived; the new Mongolian governing coalition collapsed four years later.

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Your Daily Newt: The Speaker as Anti-Colonial Samurai

| Thu Dec. 8, 2011 12:53 PM EST

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich —until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

If you want to understand Newt Gingrich, start with what's on his book shelf. That's his advice, anyway. He assigned a reading list to his Republican caucus in 1995, and he peppers his speeches with references to writers like French existentialist Albert Camus. And as Connie Bruck explained in her epic 1995 New Yorker profile, Gingrich was particularly influenced by a novel about a 17th-century Japanese samurai named Toranaga:

[Former campaign manager Carlyle] Gregory also said that in 1978 Gingrich was reading the novel Shogun by James Clavell, and that a major character—Toranaga, a seventeenth-century samurai warlord—had a powerful influence on him. [Gingrich's friend] Daryl Conner, too, told me that Toranaga was a critical model for Gingrich. The book is a narrative of Toranaga's quest for the absolute power of shogun. Throughout the book, Toranaga, who confides in no one, violently repudiates the suggestion of his most loyal followers that he should seek to become shogun, even calling it "treason." Yet, through his study of individuals' psychology, his patience in listening, his system of punishment and reward, his establishment of an elaborate information network of spies, and his talent in projecting a wholly false self-image (he is an accomplished Noh actor), Toranaga is able to use, manipulate, and deceive all who come in contact with him; thus, in the end, he achieves his goal. 

It gets better:

He will become shogun, and, moreover (this the reader learns at the very end), it has also long been Toranaga's long-held secret plan to rid Japan of white people.

What if Gingrich is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Japanese, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together his behavior?

Wall Street Goes After Elizabeth Warren For Being Too Nice to Wall Street

| Thu Dec. 8, 2011 12:50 PM EST

Republicans are sweating next year's Massachusetts Senate race, and for good reason. The latest poll, out on Wednesday from UMass–Lowell and the Boston Herald, gave Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren a seven point lead over incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown—a 10 point swing from the group's previous survey. Which sort of explains this new ad hitting the airwaves in Massachusetts, from Karl Rove's dark-money outfit, Crossroads GPS:

Notice something odd? Just a few weeks ago Rove's group released an ad chastising Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who started up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for inciting Occupy Wall Street. Now, his group has done a complete 180. Warren's no longer a radical anti-capitalist crusader; she's Wall Street's best friend (albeit a friend one banker called "the anti-Christ").

The kicker: As Michael Isikoff reported, "A substantial portion of Crossroads GPS' money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls." So Wall Street is attacking Warren for associating with Wall Street. Got it?

Rick Perry: Kids Can't Even Celebrate Christmas Anymore

| Wed Dec. 7, 2011 11:38 AM EST

How do you know you're lagging in the polls and running out of time in Iowa? When you start cutting ads like this, accusing President Obama of waging a "war on religion":

What is this war on religion, anyway? Did Congress authorize it? How is it being paid for? If Rick Perry is a Christian and President Obama is at war with Christians, can Obama detain Perry indefinitely without trial?

Perry doesn't say. Instead, he leaves us with this: "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." (Note: Kids are still allowed to celebrate Christmas.) This comes just one day after the Texas governor blasted President Obama for supporting human rights for gay people, warning that it was "not in America's interests." Perry has purchased $1 million worth of air time in Iowa in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign; he's looking pretty desperate at this point.

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