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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Your Daily Newt: Among the Forest People

Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich.

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's 1995 class at Reinhardt College focused largely on themes of personal responsibility, the unsurpassed awesomeness of the Founding Fathers, and futurism. But his two-hour-long lectures were prone to long digressions on all manner of subjects—which led to this epic musing on the lost tribes of the Amazon:

As late as 40 or 50 years ago, there were still fairly significant stretches of the planet that had hunting-gathering societies. There are a handful left today, but mostly as deliberately maintained museums. I mean, the people who survive in the Brazilian rain forests survive because we deliberately will them to survive, because the sheer reach of modern civilization is now so enormous that if we didn't discipline ourselves, we'd overrun the Bushman of the Kalahari. I mean, these are people who are—who will rapidly be absorbed into this. And you have to raise an ethical question at some point, is it really fair to the human being who happens to have been born randomly into this environment to not let them have a laptop, not give them a vaccination against polio, and not dramatically raise their lives? And yet the second you do, you blow apart this system.

I mean, it's all wonderful and it's all romantic in the 90-minute film, and then you start thinking about the 12-year-old who has a limp and they're not going to make it. And it's a wonderful book by Colin—let's see, "the mountain people" and "the forest people." I can't remember Colin's last name. It will come to me in a minute. Anyway—I haven't read it in almost 30 years, but it is a—it's very romantic, it's very wonderful. Look how natural they are, and then you realize the cost of being natural.

The solution, of course, is to give them all laptops.

Your Daily Newt: A Modern-Day Moses

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 has a habit of comparing himself to famous historical leaders, a tic Mitt Romney's campaign seized on in January in a press release entitled "I think grandiose thoughts" (an actual quote from Gingrich). At various points, he's compared himself to Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, William Wallace, Pericles, "a viking"—and, as Matt Bai reported, Moses:

The night after lodging their protest against the bill on the House floor, Republican congressmen arrived at a retreat in Virginia feeling jubilant for the first time since before the presidential campaign. Waiting for them there was the evening’s keynote speaker — Gingrich, of course. Having seen his engage-and-divide strategy founder almost immediately when it came to the stimulus, Gingrich seemed to have changed his mind about Obama and resorted to his more instinctual, more confrontational cast. No longer did he talk of Obama as the kind of centrist guy you could get your arms around. In the coming days, in fact, he would deride the president's "left-wing policies" while at the same time accuse him of "Nixonian" abuses of power.

On this night, Gingrich congratulated his troops on standing united and inspired them with stories about Charles de Gaulle’s heroism and George Washington at Valley Forge, as well as the football legends Joe Paterno and Vince Lombardi. Now was the time for Republicans to rediscover their principles, Gingrich told the congressmen. At one point, he likened himself, lightheartedly, to Moses. He'd help them cross the Red Sea once again, Gingrich vowed, but only if they promised, this time, to stay on the other side.

This one actually makes a good deal of sense, albeit not in the way Gingrich wants us to think. Moses led his followers through the desert until they were within sight of the Land of Milk and Honey—but because of his own personal failings, never made it to the promised land.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) raised money for the Minnesota Family Council, a supporter of Anoka-Hennepin's "no promo homo" policy.

Back in July, my colleague Stephanie Mencimer reported on a disturbing trend in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district—a cluster of teen suicide attempts, including nine deaths, that had led state officials to declare it a "suicide contagion area." Parents and activists directed their ire, at least in part, at the district's anti-LGBT gag rule, dubbed "no promo homo," which prohibited faculty from casting homosexuality in a positive light. The policy was boosted by the Minnesota Family Council, a close ally of Rep. Michele Bachmann, who addressed a fundraiser for the group last spring. (The MFC has stated that gay teens who take their own lives bring it upon themselves.)

On Monday, the "no promo homo" policy was officially retired by the school board—an investigation from Rolling Stone may have been the last straw—and replaced it with a policy requiring staff to "affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students." But as the American Independent's Andy Birkey reports, the anti-gay activists behind "no promo homo" didn't go down quietly:

Lori Thompson, a frequent testifier at the board meetings and a member of the Parents Action League, complained of a "relentless campaign by homosexual activists" over the last 18 months. She said that the idea that the policy aided and abetted anti-LGBT bullying was false.

"Only the gullible and oblivious believe that line," Thompson said.

She said repealing the policy would lead to "indoctrinating the porous young minds with the homosexual propaganda" and that "homosexual activists" had created a controversy where none exists.

"I blame these same adults for creating an unsafe environment for students who believe in traditional values," she said, adding that that environment was perpetuated by "liberal sassy teachers who don’t know how to behave."

As Birkey notes, activists in Anoka-Hennepin had also unsuccessfully pushed gay students to pursue conversion therapy to make them heterosexual.

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