Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

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's Balanced Budget Claim Doesn't Add Up

| Thu Dec. 15, 2011 9:17 PM EST
Newt Gingrich.

Questioned by Fox News' Bret Baier on his conservative credentials at Thursday's GOP debate in Iowa, Newt Gingrich made a curious claim: As Speaker of the House, he said, he'd balanced the federal budget four times. It's a claim he's made before—in a video on his campaign website, and on the stump. But as Politifact notes, it's false: Although Congress did pass balanced budgets for four straight years beginning in the late 1990s, the latter two came after Gingrich had resigned from the House and he'd played no part in crafting them.

Per Politifact:

The federal budget runs on a fiscal year calendar that begins October 1 and ends September 30. During fiscal years 1996 and 1997—the first two that Gingrich helped shape as speaker—there were deficits, of $107 billion in 1996 and about $22 billion in 1997.

By fiscal year 1998, the federal budget did reach a surplus of $69 billion. And in fiscal year 1999—which Gingrich can claim some responsibility for, even though he was out as speaker for most of the fiscal year—it was in surplus as well, to the tune of $126 billion.

But that’s only two balanced budgets he can claim credit for. The federal government did run four consecutive surpluses, but for the last two of those—fiscal years 2000 and 2001—Gingrich was no longer serving in the House.

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Your Daily Newt: Politicians Can't Be Bought

| Thu Dec. 15, 2011 9:15 AM EST
GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, in simpler times.

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.

Gingrich took his great leap forward in Washington politics as a young congressman by launching a string of ethics charges against House Speaker Jim Wright, which ultimately brought the Texas Democrat down. But that didn't make Gingrich any sort of ethics crusader—far from it. When asked by MoJo in 1989 whether he'd support legislation to crack down on the amount of money elected officials can earn on the speaking circuit, Gingrich didn't just reject the idea, he scoffed at the very notion that money can buy influence:

[D]on't look to Newt Gingrich as a shining example of even his own proposed reforms. Not only did he receive $265,697 in PAC money for his 1988 re-election campaign, he's one of Congress's highest spenders on junk mail. Naturally, he also pocketed close to the limit, $26,800 of $26,850, allowed per year in honoraria. "The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument," explains Gingrich.

And he doesn't just throw that term around lightly.

Gingrich has taken the same line of attack in his run for president. Asked by USA Today in November to respond to criticism over his seven-figure paycheck from Freddie Mac, he dismissed his critics as "people with a socialist bias that you shouldn't earn money." Take that, George Will.

Newt's New Endorser: OWS is a Muslim Brotherhood Plot!

| Wed Dec. 14, 2011 7:06 PM EST
Newt Gingrich (left) and Fred Grandy.

On Wednesday, former Congressman Fred Grandy (R-Iowa), best known for his role as "Gopher" on Love Boat, officially endorsed Newt Gingrich for the GOP presidential nomination. As Grandy told the Sioux City Journal, "[Gingrich] is the only guy that I see who is offering real leadership positions on these critical issues, whether you're talking about foreign policy, or economic policy or cultural policy." Newt, for one, was thrilled, tweeting that he was "honored" to have Grandy's endorsement.

As a former conservative congressman, Grandy's support could be an asset for Gingrich. But it should also give him pause. Since leaving the House, Grandy has reinvented himself as an anti-Islam activist, delivering dire warnings of the threat of what he calls "galloping Shariah" law. At a tea party event in Maryland in October, Grandy warned that Occupy Wall Street was being propped up by the Council American Islamic Relations—which, according to Grandy, is in turn a front for the Muslim Brotherhood. Is #OWS part of an Islamist plot to take over the United States? In the eyes of Gingrich's newest endorser it is.

Grandy's pet issue is the perceived creep of Islamic law into American courts—in October, he wrote that there had been "attempts in 23 states to use shariah law either in trial or appellate cases." After losing his job as a talk radio host in March (in part because his wife, who co-hosted the show, had warned that the government had been infiltrated by "Shariah-compliant" officials), Grandy embarked on a "Shariah Awareness Tour," culminating in a  appearance at the national Constitution or Sharia Conference in Nashville last month.

Of course, in linking Occupy Wall Street to Islamists, Grandy is only marginally more out-there than the man he's supporting for President. Gingrich, as we've reported previously, has gone from courting Muslim leaders in 2001 to filming documentaries about the threat of stealth jihad. In 2010, he called for a ban on Shariah law in the United States.

Your Daily Newt: Bringing Back the Dinosaurs

| Wed Dec. 14, 2011 6:00 AM EST
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.

Gingrich signed a $4.5 million contract with HarperCollins to write his third book, To Renew America, in 1995. He ultimately gave the advance to charity—taking millions from News Corp., Harper's parent company, while shepherding major telecommunications legislation didn't sit well with the public.

The book was overflowing with big ideas and five-step plans, from how to win the War on Drugs, to how to fix Medicare, to where to take the family on your family vacation (Ocmulgee Indian Mounds Park in Macon, Georgia). Most of Gingrich's ideas wouldn't result in the full-scale destruction of the human race at the hands of a science experiment gone horribly wrong. But as the Los Angeles Times found out, there was one exception:

[E]ven as Gingrich knocks best-selling author Michael Crichton for works that he calls "just standard alarmist environmentalism in which humans are forever messing up nature," the one-time aspiring zookeeper wonders: "Why not aspire to build a real Jurassic Park? (It may not be at all impossible, you know.) Wouldn't that be one of the most spectacular accomplishments of human history? What if we can bring back extinct species?"

That's one way of looking at it. Here's a counter-point:

Your Daily Newt: "I Don't Do Foreign Policy"

| Tue Dec. 13, 2011 9:00 AM 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.

Newt Gingrich created a minor international incident in July of 1995 when, in an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, he declared that the United States should recognize Taiwanese independence and seek to "undermine" the stability of the Chinese government. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and GOP foreign policy yoda Henry Kissinger told him to step back. So did China.

What was Gingrich thinking? He told the New York Times shortly thereafter that he didn't actually believe the US should recognize Taiwan; he was simply acting out a scene from a novel he had read:

[There] he had been, enduring questions about China policy under the bright lights of "Face the Nation." He had to say something, and the fictional President in Allen Drury's classic novel about power in 1950's Washington flashed into his mind.

"It came out of a scene in 'Advise and Consent,' toward the end of the novel, where the Russians are bullying the new American President," Mr. Gingrich said in an interview. "And he says, 'Here are the three things I can do.' And he goes through three things, all of them so outside the Russian planning that they were aghast. They said, 'You can't do this.' And he said, 'Watch me.'

"On reflection, Mr. Gingrich said, "I don't particularly care about having said the thing about Taiwan either way."

When the Times asked Gingrich if he'd consider traveling to China to smooth things over, he was blunt: "I don't do foreign policy."

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