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 Name-Drops Sustainable Development Conspiracy Theory

| Sat Nov. 12, 2011 8:51 PM EST
Agenda 21 activists fear the United Nations would value manatee lives over human lives.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spent much of Saturday's foreign policy debate doing what he does best: haranguing moderators Scott Pelley and Major Garrett for asking him questions he doesn't like. But in the middle of one such effort, he did offer a revealing insight in his views. Gingrich rattled off a list of subjects on which President Obama's policies have been harmful (it was a long list), and then dropped a bomb: President Obama, he explained, was wrong to support something called "Agenda 21."

The response drew loud applause from the audience. Here's why: Agenda 21 is a United Nations agreement that has never been considered by the Senate, and more or less just calls on signatories to promote sustainable development practices. But in the eyes of tea party activists, it's a stepping-stone to a one-world government, which will lead to forced population control and mass displacement. My colleague Stephanie Mencimer covered this subject in an excellent 2010 piece for the magazine:

Virginia activist Donna Holt is among those who believe that Agenda 21—unveiled during the UN's "Earth Summit" in 1992—is really a plot to curtail private property rights and deprive Americans of precious constitutional freedoms. In reality, the document will do nothing of the sort, but it has nevertheless been the target of conspiracy-minded UN haters for years. Holt and other tea partiers are taking their cues from people like Henry Lamb, a WorldNetDaily columnist and founder of Sovereignty International and Freedom21, groups designed to fight Agenda 21 and its ilk. He has been arguing for decades that the UN is secretly plotting to herd humans into crowded cities so that the rest of the world can be devoted to wildlife preservation. (Lamb declined to comment for this story because back Mother Jones once included him in a story called Wingnuts in Sheep's Clothing, and another article that described his role in Astroturf lobbying against the Kyoto treaty.)

Long the subject of fringe groups, Agenda 21 has taken on more prominence in recent years. Michele Bachmann fought against it as a Minnesota state senator, and again as a congresswoman. As she said in 2008 of congressional Democrats, "They want Americans to take transit and move to the inner cities. They want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, [and] take light rail to their government jobs. That's their vision for America." The non-profit education watchdog she worked with in Minnesota even went so far as to oppose International Baccalaureate, the worldwide advanced placement system, on the grounds that it undermines national sovereignty and furthered the goals of Agenda 21.

In Florida, tea party groups are currently fretting that, under the guise of Agenda 21, the United Nations will forcibly displace Americans to protect the endangered manatee. (One Republican congressman, Rep. Rich Nugent of Florida, has even introduced legislation to address these concerns.) Other activists are concerned that they'll be forced to live in underground, earthen "Hobbit homes."

Does Gingrich really believe any of this—or is it just a pander to the far-right?

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Herman Cain's Number-One Foreign Policy Priority is Impossible

| Sat Nov. 12, 2011 8:38 PM EST

Saturday night's GOP presidential debate in South Carolina focused on foreign policy, which was bad news for Herman Cain. By his own admission, it's a subject he doesn't know much about. And it showed. Taking the first question of the debate, about how he would address the prospect of a nuclear Iran, he offered a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Cain's big point—one he's made before—is that he would defeat the Iranian regime by choking their economy. Specifically, he would develop American energy sources (in the form of offshore oil drilling, among other things) so that we're no longer reliant on hostile nations for resources. That sounds nice. He sounded confident enough as he rattled off his talking points.

But there's a problem: The United States doesn't currently get any oil from Iran. If a Cain administration would try to curb Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's power by increasing domestic oil production, that wouldn't have any impact on the Iranian economy. In the long-term, domestic energy self-suffiency is a positive. But in response to the immediate threat of a nuclear Iran—a long-term energy plan doesn't mean anything.

Montana Senate Race: Who Hates Wolves More?

| Fri Nov. 11, 2011 3:47 PM EST
Does Sen. Jon Tester's disdain for wolves also extend to t-shirts that become Internet memes?

Next fall's Montana Senate race is shaping up to be the most expensive election in the state's history. Karl Rove's dark money outfit, Crossroads GPS, is already saturating the airwaves in the state (it's also going after Elizabeth Warren). The race, pitting incumbent Democrat Jon Tester against longtime Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), could well decide which party controls the Senate. There's a lot at stake—so naturally, the race has come down to the important question of which candidate hates the endangered western wolf more.

Eli Sanders files a dispatch from Montana and highlights this element of the race:

While in most states you won't find a Democrat trying to out-hustle a Republican over who got an endangered animal like the Western wolf less federal protection, this, again, is Montana — where a lot of voters see wolves as livestock predators. So when Rehberg, who has a stuffed Canadian Black wolf in his office, suggested he's the one responsible for the de-listing of American endangered wolves, Tester's campaign pounced, reminding people that Rehberg's bill actually didn't go anywhere in Congress. "The record is clear as to who did what," Tester told me. "It is absolutely, unequivocally clear. He could not get his bill out of committee. I got my bill signed by the president."

Boom. Maybe noted coyote-killer Rick Perry is running for the wrong office.

Rick Perry's Debate Gaffe, Coming to a Mall Near You

| Thu Nov. 10, 2011 6:54 PM EST

Wednesday night's presidential debate debacle left many Republicans wondering if Rick Perry had totally lost his marbles. As one top donor told Aaron Blake, "Perry campaign is over. Time for him to go home and refocus on being Governor of Texas." Perry thinks, at least publicly, that he can make things better by going on a media blitz. But this promotion that just landed in our inbox, from Marbles, "the brain store," can't be a good sign:

Courtesy of MarblesCourtesy of Marbles

Brain Games, the site helpfully notes, is "a great choice for those who want a mental workout that's fun and challenging at the same time." The cost? You guessed it: $9.99.

Rove's Crossroads GPS Takes On Elizabeth Warren

| Thu Nov. 10, 2011 10:50 AM EST
Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren (D) is taking on Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

On Tuesday, iWatch's Peter Stone reported that the GOP groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which are affilaited with Karl Rove, expected to raise and spend $150 million to recapture the Senate for Republicans in 2012. Crossroads GPS has been on the air in Montana for a while now, and on Tusesday it began what is likely to be an extended and very expensive campaign to take Massachusetts Senate candidate and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau architect Elizabeth Warren down a notch.

Noah Bierman reports that Crossroads GPS is targeting Warren with a $560,000 ad buy, attempting to define her as the candidate of the increasingly unpopular Occupy Wall Street:

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