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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Bachmann: Hurricane Irene Was Message From God

| Mon Aug. 29, 2011 9:13 AM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says last week's natural disasters were a response from above to out-of-control spending.

As a general rule, if you're a candidate for higher office and you've previously bragged about attending conferences devoted to Biblical prophecy, you should avoid saying things like this:

[Bachmann] hailed the tea party as being common-sense Americans who understand government shouldn't spend more than it takes in, know they're taxed enough already and want government to abide by the Constitution.

"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."

Bachmann's remarks came at a tea party rally in Sarasota, Florida on Sunday. Hurricane Irene was thankfully not as bad as it could have been (and the earthquake wasn't very bad at all), but it still took an enormous economic toll on the East Coast and has caused serious flooding in upstate New York and Vermont, which are not part of Washington. The wisdom of using it as a political bludgeon is questionable to say the least.

But it's also kind of an odd point to make. Congress is in recess for the month of August, and about a fifth of the chamber is actually in Israel right now. President Obama was out of town as well. The "politicians," of which Bachamnn is one, were for the most part not affected by the storm. Which isn't to say God's not infallible—but maybe Michele Bachmann isn't.

Update: Spokeswoman says Bachmann's comments were "clearly in jest." I think the point stands, though, that this is kind of a risk for a politician who has publicly dabbled in Biblical prophecy before.

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GOP Rock: Rick Perry (Drums), Jon Huntsman (Keys), Mitt Romney (Vox), Thad McCotter (Ax)

| Mon Aug. 29, 2011 3:01 AM EDT
Jon Huntsman on the keyboard.

We're still months away from the first meaningful votes in the GOP presidential primary, and a full 14 months away from 2012 election. But it's never too early to start scrutinizing the field. We've written pretty extensively on the various candidates' views on gay marriage, civil liberties, foreign policy, and (most notably) the economy. But in our effort to leave no stone unturned, we got to thinking: Where do the presidential contenders stand on music?

Here's an incomplete guide to their musical careers, their tastes, and the bizarre music they've inspired:

Jon Huntsman, keyboard: When Jon Huntsman was 18 years old, he dropped out of high school to join a prog rock band called Wizard. It was only a matter of time; Politico talked to a former classmate who "recalled the long-haired, diffident Salt Lake City high schooler sitting next to him in history class 'hitting his desk as if it were a piano.'" Now, watching the former Utah governor and US ambassador to China slog through a Republican primary that doesn't seem to have a place for him, you almost get the impression he's secretly plotting to ditch the campaign thing entirely and get the band back together.

Newt Gingrich Fundraising Machine Shuts Down

| Fri Aug. 26, 2011 3:50 PM EDT
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is running for president.

Newt Gingrich has officially lost the future. The former Speaker of the House raised $52 million over the last four years through his political action committee, American Solutions for Winning the Future—but now that Gingrich has jumped ship to run his own (floundering) presidential campaign, the 527 he founded and chaired has officially shut down. Per Peter Stone:

To make his bid for the GOP nomination, Gingrich had to sever his ties with the 527, as federal election law requires for candidates, and that proved to be a big blow to its growth and ongoing operations, [chairman Joe] Gaylord said...

The group was well known in conservative policy circles for promoting a "Drill Here, Drill Now," drive to increase the use of domestic energy resources and was invariably a sharp critic of government regulations. This year, the group created a website called noMoreObamaCare.com to spur GOP lawmakers to repeal the sweeping health care reforms that the administration signed into law in 2010.

One election-law expert wasn't surprised by the group's quick demise. "Some political organizations are like one man shows on Broadway," quipped lawyer Larry Noble of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in an interview with iWatch News . "Once the stars leave, the shows often fold."

As Alex Burns notes, Gaylord had initially planned to keep the PAC afloat while Gingrich ran for president; instead, it's become yet another casualty of his disastrous campaign.

Rick Perry Pledges to Investigate Intimidation of Gay Marriage Foes

| Fri Aug. 26, 2011 2:47 PM EDT
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is a favorite to be the Republican presidential nominee.

On Wednesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a pledge to defund Planned Parenthood if elected President. On Thursday, he promised never to vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. On Friday, he kept the streak alive by signing another pledge—this one from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)—to support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But the pledge actually goes much further than that, committing signees to a "appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters," among other things. Here's what's in it:

  • Support and send to the states a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman,
  • Defend DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] in court,
  • Appoint judges and an attorney general who will respect the original meaning of the Constitution,
  • Appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters,
  • Support legislation that would return to the people of D.C. their right to vote for marriage.

Really sweet of Perry to keep Washington, D.C. in his thoughts, one day after he called the city "seedy." As I noted before, Perry's two top rivals, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, have alread signed the pledge. Perry has faced criticism from the right—notably from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum—for initially calling gay marriage a Tenth Amendment issue that should be settled by the states, before quickly backtracking. Perry has also suggested gay people should live a life of celibacy, and supported a law that would make it a misdemeanor for gay couples to have sex. 

What the Washington Post Gets Wrong on Dominionism

| Fri Aug. 26, 2011 11:10 AM EDT

The world's largest straw man, if I had to guess, is most likely located in central North Dakota, somewhere near the world's largest Holstein cow and the world's largest sandhill crane. But this Washington Post column, from former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, certainly has to be a part of the conversation. It's a few days old, but it presents an argument that I imagine we'll be hearing pretty frequently over the next year or so: liberals are totally paranoid when it comes to the religious views of GOP presidential candidates. (To wit: Here are Ralph Reed and Lisa Miller making that exact point.)

Gerson, who is generally credited with applying an Evangelical varnish to Bush's every uterrance, takes on the argument—promoted to various degrees by Ryan Lizza, Forrest Wilder, Michelle Goldberg, and myself—that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann are part of a movement to turn the country into a Christian state. Here's how Gerson summarizes that argument:

Perry admittedly doesn't attend a Dominionist church or make Dominionist arguments, but he once allowed himself to be prayed for by some suspicious characters. Bachmann once attended a school that had a law review that said some disturbing things. She assisted a professor who once spoke at a convention that included some alarming people. Her belief that federal tax rates should not be higher than 10 percent, Goldberg explains, is "common in Reconstructionist circles."

The evidence that Bachmann may countenance the death penalty for adulterers? Support for low marginal tax rates.

Bachmann is prone to Tea Party overstatement and religious-right cliches. She opened herself to criticism by recommending a book that features Southern Civil War revisionism. But there is no evidence from the careers of Bachmann or Perry that they wish to turn America into a theocratic prison camp.

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