Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


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

Get my RSS |

78 year-old Andrew Jackson.: Wikimedia CommonsSources say 244 year-old former president Andrew Jackson is privately seething over President Obama's reluctance to have his political opponents shot: Wikimedia CommonsAs 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.

The Associated Press' Ken Thomas reported on Monday that Newt Gingrich, "speaking at the Tennessee state capitol, says Andrew Jackson would have been 'enraged by Barack Obama."

We'll take a look at that last claim.

The facts: Historians agree that "rage" was a defining character trait of our seventh president. This is the same Andrew Jackson who, after a Nashville man insulted his wife, promised to "follow him over land and sea" until Jackson had the opportunity to kill him (he did). He challenged the first lawyer he ever argued a case against to a duel. He invaded Spanish Florida without authorization, singlehandedly drove future Sen. Thomas Benton from the state of Tennessee after an open-air gunfight (prefaced with the immortal line, "I am going to punish you"), and as a child had a tendency to "work himself into fits of rage so paralyzing that contemporaries recalled he would begin 'slobbering.'"

Jackson spent much of his life in acute pain from the bullets lodged in his chest and left arm. That produced a natural state of irascibility. Or at least it would have if it'd happened to us. From a policy standpoint, Jackson had a 19th-century southern plantation owner's view on race (in addition to serving as president, Jackson was a 19th-century plantation owner) and owned more than three dozen slaves—something that struck him in as not at all morally wrong. His views on human rights, checks and balances, internal improvements, and finance would be anathema to a large swath of today's public. And like we said, he had a habit of discharging firearms at people he didn't like.

Our ruling: There are some definite areas of agreement—Jackson was an unabashed proponent of class warfare, for instance, suggesting he'd be sympathetic to Obama's embrace of the 99 percent. His invasion of Florida in pursuit of the Seminole was cited by the Department of Justice in a memo justifying Obama's Guantanamo detainee policy. Nonetheless, Andrew Jackson, a man whose reputation was built in large part on acts of unbridled rage, would likely have been enraged by Barack Obama. Jackson, who allied with pirates at the Battle of New Orleans, might also wonder why the President has adopted such a hostile policy to Somali pirates. And Obama's insistence on adhering to the 13th and 14th amendments would be a particular sore point. The bottom line is Washington, through the extension of civil rights to women and minorities in the decades since the Civil War, would have become something totally unrecognizable to Old Hickory. Andrew Jackson fear change. Andrew Jackson angry. Andrew Jackson smash.

We rate this claim "mostly true."

The USS John C. Stennis, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, patrols the dangerous West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake.

Update: A little Internet scrutiny goes a long way, apparently: The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that the aircraft provision has been scrapped. We take full credit. Details are here.

On Friday, the Wyoming House of Representatives advanced a bill to set up a task force to prepare for the total economic and political collapse of the United States. Per the bill, the panel would investigate things like food storage options and metals-based currencies, to be implemented in the event of a major catastrophe.

Then it goes three steps further. An amendment by GOP state Rep. Kermit Brown*, calls on the task force to examine "Conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy and air force and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier." As the bill's GOP sponsor, state Rep. David Miller, explained to the Casper Star-Tribune, "Things happen quickly sometimes."

Buying an aircraft carrier is, as a rule, a great idea, but there are a few hiccups, not the least of which is that Wyoming is currently landlocked. Its largest body of water, Yellowstone Lake, is frozen from December through June and sits in the middle of a giant volcano that stands about as good a chance as anything else at triggering the aforementioned societal collapse. In that sense, Wyoming has a lot in common with another mineral-rich, landlocked, mountainous territory—Bolivia. Bolivians, who have a national holiday honoring the day in 1904 they lost their coastline to Chile, have made the best of their situation by maintaining a small flotilla on Lake Titicaca. No aircraft carrier, though.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks to reporters during the 2008 campaign.

In internal emails with her communications staff, then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin tried to censor a press release put out by an independent organization linking her to controversial Texas pastor John Hagee, the influential Christian-Zionist leader whose statements on Catholicism and Hurricane Katrina caused Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to publicly repudiate him in 2008. The exchange comes as part of a new trove of emails released by the the Alaska Secretary of State in response to a public records request first filed by Mother Jones.

After Palin appeared at an event in March 2009 sponsored by Hagee's organization, Christians United for Israel, CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern sent the governor's office a draft of its press release trumpeting the event, a courtesy often provided to high-profile figures. Although William McAllister, Palin's communications director, initially wrote back saying there was no need for coordination, Palin herself jumped in and began to micro-manage. She suggested two more individuals whose names she'd like to see referenced in the press release (including an Anchorage rabbi), and added, "Let me know when they have done so."

An hour and a half later, she had apparently thought about it some more and come up with an additional request: "Eliminate reference to Hagee." But she wanted her role in this de-Hageee-ficiation kept a secret. "[Y]ou guys do that—don't tell them 'the Governor said...'"

The idea that Palin would want to purge the name of CUFI's founder from CUFI's own press release struck her staff as an odd request. "I'm not a fan of Hagee, but I don't know how to propose eliminating him without offering an explanation for the request," McAllister wrote back. "In presenting this to use, I think mostly they wanted to be sure the reference to you raised no objections." At that point, Palin decided to take the conversation off list, asking McAllister to call her.

Palin's reluctance to be associated with Hagee was a marked shift from her positions a few years earlier, and reflected her increasing discomfort with the media spotlight. Palin had expressed her admiration for Hagee previously. In a May 3, 2007, email, Palin had asked her scheduler if she had time to attend a Hagee event at the Juneau Christian Center. When she was informed she had the day off, she replied, "I should try to get back to juno for this one." At that event, she and Hagee were joined by country singer Randy Travis (who starred in the film adaptation of Hagee's end-times thriller, Jerusalem Countdown).

This time around, no scheduling conflict prevented Palin from attending CUFI's event. The draft press release noted that she had spoken at two separate functions supporting Israel the previous week in Juneau and Anchorage, which were attended by a few hundred people. But afterward, she preferred that the rest of the world not know that just one year after McCain was forced to renounce Hagee, she was still hobnobbing with the pastor's group.

Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich feeds a panda.

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.

Newt Gingrich once told an interviewer that he's been fighting to save Western Civilization since 1958, so it shouldn't come as a total surprise that he spends most of his waking moments attempting to extrapolate grand, sweeping meanings from incredibly mundane items (Popsicles, for instance). As he told Atlanta magazine, his plans to save America often left little time for anything else:

"If you said to me, 'What are your hobbies?' they would be reading, going to the movies, going for long walks, animals and the outdoors. But the truth is when I read, I am reading about something that relates. When I go to the movies—I saw Parenthood the other day—I think, 'What does that tell me about America?' In a sense, I am almost always engaged. And that has a disadvantage to really break out of that and stop to think, All right, how do you have a private life?"

All of which gives some much needed context to Gingrich's confession, to CBN's David Brody last spring, that his extramarital affaiirs were "driven by how passionately I felt about this country."

Wed Mar. 30, 2016 9:57 PM EDT
Thu Mar. 24, 2016 4:32 PM EDT
Fri Mar. 18, 2016 4:28 PM EDT
Wed Feb. 17, 2016 5:12 PM EST