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: 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.

Romney Wins the Nomination!

The view from the floor at W&L's Warner Center Photo by Tim MurphyFred Thompson is winding his way through his prepared remarks at Washington & Lee University's Republican Mock Convention, and, as he gestures to the audience once more with his reading glasses, it is clear he has left some children behind. The gymnasium floor at the Warner Center, peppered with big red signs indicating where representatives of each of the 57 states and territories should sit, is about three-quarters full of students in varying states of concentration. The Alaska delegate who was sleeping at the beginning of George Allen's speech has dozed off again. His friend looks to be asleep too, but then he pulls out his phone and starts texting. A few rows back, another delegate tilts her head back and raises her eyebrows: "Jesus Christ, this is long."

Since 1908, students at W&L, located about three and a half hours southwest of DC in Lexington, Virginia, have been convening every four years to pick the presidential nominee of one of the two major political parties. They form properly proportioned state delegations, adopt bylaws, and spend the better part of a year studying voting trends and polling data. Before they ever take the stage for the roll call, they've spoken with all of the  delegations whose nominating contests fall earlier on the calendar, so as to best understand the hypothetical state of play—if Romney's cleaning up in the early states, the stragglers know better than to go swing en masse for Ron Paul. It's a political ritual akin to Groundhog Day, if only Punxsutawney Phil wore a blue blazer with boat shoes.

Your Daily Newt: "Gingrich Has Done It Again"

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 appetite for reading is notorious. He's a speed-reader, and friends and aides like to tell stories about Gingrich walking around in circles, moving his fingers across the pages of some massive history book. So it was only natural that, when his political talents were no longer in high demand in Washington, the former speaker reinvented himself as an Amazon.com reviewer. Between 2005 and 2008, Gingrich penned 156 reviews—all positive—at the online retailer, on subjects ranging from Civil War novels to science fiction and longform journalism. Here's one I've selected totallly at random, which will doubt endear him to the GOP's social conservative base:

Dave Freedman's Natural Selection is just plain fun. It is pop-Darwinism carried to its ultimate extreme, but it stresses your mind, gets you to wonder about the species that could be in the ocean deep and reminds you that things aren't always the way they seem. While this book is fantasy rather than science, it brings just enough science and high technology in to make you pay constant attention. The intelligence of the dangerous new species makes this a cross between Jaws and Michael Crichton's description of intelligent nano-biology. I recommend it for pure fun and for getting you to think a little differently about the possibilities on our planet.

Gingrich, whose weakness for adverbs is a matter of public record, adopted a new set of rhetorica; tics in his reviews. As Dave Weigel noted:

Gingrich was a master of blurb-speak; it's a surprise he didn't end up cited on the back covers of more paperbacks. On Robert B. Parker's thriller Potshot: "Parker has done it again." On Mark Bowden's drug war classic Killing Pablo: "Bowden has done it again." On Ken Follett's Jackdaws: "Follett has done it again."

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