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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Newt Gingrich's Ideal Border Fence Already Exists

| Thu Dec. 1, 2011 6:23 PM EST
Build the danged fence: The US-Mexican border at Santa Elena Canyon, Texas.

On Thursday, GOP front-runner—yes, front-runner—Newt Gingrich signed a pledge from the North Carolina group Americans for Securing the Border. Per the terms of the pledge, the former House speaker has committed himself to completing a fence along the Mexican border by the end of his first year in office. As Gingrich put it in Des Moines, "We haven't been able to build a fence on the border because we have not been a serious country."

But as the Los Angeles Times notes, the pledge has an important caveat: It explicitly states that the Department of Homeland Security should determine which parts of the border need a fence. Under that criteria, Gingrich would only need to extend the fence by two miles to finish the job America has been too unserious to complete.

Although the border fence mandated by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 called for a 700-mile stretch of fence, the Department of Homeland Security later urged Congress to modify the law. That's because only a fraction of the border actually stands to benefit from having a physical barrier; the billions of dollars it would take to construct a barrier through Texas' Santa Elena Canyon (see above) could be much be better spent doing pretty much anything else. As Border Patrol chief Michael Fisher told Congress in October, "we have now constructed 650 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles where Border Patrol field commanders determined it was operationally required along the Southwest border." By that standard, Gingrich's work is pretty much done.

There is a difference between "operationally required" and "optimal," of course. If Gingrich decided he wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money and completely ignore environmental concerns, he could probably expand the length of the fence even more. The ASB pledge also calls for the existing fence to be doubled, so that you'll have to go through two fences to get across. But if you can hop over one fence, the second one just seems superfluous. The point is that the current perimeter parameters have already been defined by the agencies Gingrich's pledge defers to.

Give Gingrich some credit, though: His new plan would cost tens of billions of dollars less than Herman Cain's proposal to build a 2,000-mile electrified fence.

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Newt Gingrich: The Ali G Interview

| Thu Dec. 1, 2011 11:07 AM EST

Now that Newt Gingrich is offically a serious Republican presidential candidate, everything he's done in his 68 years is up for scrutiny. His trip to the Harrisburg, Pa. city hall as a young boy to ask the mayor to open up a zoo reflects pretty well on him; his support for a bill calling for global population control in the name of global warming might not go over so well with the conservative base. It's not entirely clear how his interview with Sacha Baron Cohen character Ali G will play, but here you go:

The look of total spite on Gingrich's face as he explains how to properly pronounce his first name is fantastic.

Rick Perry's Freudian Slip on the Voting Age

| Tue Nov. 29, 2011 5:30 PM EST

America had a good laugh at Rick Perry's expense on Tuesday after the Texas Governor told students at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire to vote for him next November—but only if they're over 21. Zut alors! Le gaffe! The federal voting age is 18, not 21; 21 is the legal drinking age. Perry also managed to get the date of the election wrong.

But maybe he had a point. In Perry's Texas, as in various states across the country, Republicans have made a concerted push over the last half decade to make it harder and harder for certain Democratic-leaning constituencies—namely young people, senior citizens, and minorities—to vote. It's an attempt to suppress voter turnout in the name of cracking down on voter fraud (Ari Berman can explain it all for you).

Texas' new voter I.D. law, signed into law by Perry this summer, is a great example of that strategy. The law accepts concealed handgun license permits as a valid form of identification, but not student identification cards issued by state universities. The Department of Justice has blocked implementation of the law out of concerns that it discriminates against specific groups:

Democrats countered that there is no evidence of voter impersonation in Texas and that the bill simply was an effort to make voting more difficult for low-income Texas, students and the elderly, who typically vote for Democrats.

The new law would require voters to show a Texas driver's license, a Texas concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, citizenship papers, or a military identification card before they could cast a ballot.

Student ID cards issued by state universities, out-of-state driver's licenses, or ID cards issued to state employees would not be accepted.

Really, Perry's gaffe was that he asked college students to vote.

Map: Is Adultery Illegal?

| Tue Nov. 29, 2011 5:20 PM EST
Herman Cain's alleged extramarital affair with Ginger White lasted more than twice as long as Newt Gingrich's affair with Callista Bisek.

Monday's report that Herman Cain recently ended a 13-year affair with a Georgia woman is, according to the experts, bad news for his crumbling presidential campaign. Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace, a barometer of conservative wisdom in the state, called the former National Restaurant Association lobbyist "toast." Mike Huckabee told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that the news would likely steer Republican voters to a candidate "with less trouble, with less controversy"—such as Newt Gingrich. Herman Cain is reportedly so concerned about the report that he is "reassessing" whether Herman Cain will stay in the race.

But there's one question about Cain's alleged conduct that conservative commentators aren't asking: Is it against the law?

According to title 16, chapter 9, section 9 of the Georgia code of criminal conduct, "A married person commits the offense of adultery when he voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a person other than his spouse and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as for a misdemeanor." At least Georgia adulterers are in good company; adultery is a criminal offense in 23 states, with punishments ranging from a $10 fine in Maryland to life imprisonment in Michigan (at least according to one judge). It's also prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Here's a state-by-state guide, courtesy of my colleague Tasneem Raja:

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