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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Newt Gingrich holds up a stuffed animal at a town hall in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

On Thursday, Newt Gingrich told CNN that the South Carolina Republican primary "is going to be Armageddon." On Friday, the candidate picked up the endorsement of the co-creator of the End Times series, Left Behind.

That, at least, is this morning's big announcement from the Gingrich campaign: Per a release, Tim LaHaye, best-selling author and probably the single greatest influence on the way Americans think about the Rapture (to the extent that we think about the Rapture), has come off the bench to throw his support behind the former House speaker. It's not a game-changer, but it's not nothing, either; LaHaye and his wife, Beverley, supported Mike Huckabee in 2008 and carry a good deal of weight with a certain kind of evangelical Christian. After intitially declaring he could support any of the trio of Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Tim Pawlenty, he'd been forced to find someone new.

President Obama's policies are "going to work against our country and bring us closer to the apocalypse," LaHaye says.

But, as befitting an End Times novelist, LaHaye's views are also quite radical. In a May interview with the Daily Beast, LaHaye explained that President Obama couldn't be a Christian because of his supposedly socialist views. And besides, he added, "have you ever heard of as many communists or socialists that have been appointed as tsars in our country? There are 134 of them and they've been appointed by this man who you claim is a Christian." In the same interview, he said that the Haiti earthquake and Japanese tsunami were "warnings to mankind that we ought to get right with God."

But LaHaye's most damning criticism of the president came in an interview on Huckabee's Fox News program in 2010, in which he stated explicitly that President Obama's policies were helping speed up the arrival of the Apocalypse. "Our present president doesn't seem to get it. He doesn't understand that some of the things he's introducing that many of us call 'raw socialism'—it's a different name, but it's essentially government control and government domination of everything. And he sees that as a panacea, but instead it's going to work against our country and bring us closer to the Apocalypse."

In a statement released by the campaign, Gingrich said: "I am honored to have Tim's endorsement. His work as both a minister and author is truly unmatched. Tim will be a terrific partner for the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition as we work to combat the influence of radical secularism and activist judges." Or else.

Last February, activists pitched a fit when it was announced that, for the second consecutive year, the gay Republican group GOProud would be a cosponsor of Washington's biggest right-wing confab, the Conservative Political Action Conference. The Heritage Foundation and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) both skipped the event in protest. That came a year after Ryan Sorba, chairman of California Young Americans for Freedom, delivered an epic rant against GOProud at CPAC's main stage. In July, the American Conservative Union, which puts on the conference every year, bowed to complaints, and in July informed GOProud the group would not be invited back in 2012 (the only other group to receive a disinvite was the John Birch Society).

CPAC isn't so discerning about the rest of its cosponsors, though. As Right Wing Watch notes, one of the sponsors at February's conference will be Youth For Western Civilization, a group dedicated to, as the name suggests, preventing the "extinction" of Western Civilization at the hands of multiculturalism. Per its mission statement, the group boasts that, "in spite of the continual assault and hatred it endures from the radical left, we wish to revive the West, rather than see our civilization be sent to the graveyard of history."

Your Daily Newt: The Iceman Cometh

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 led Republicans into power in 1994 on the promise of sweeping, transformational change—entire departments would be eliminated or consolidated, taxes would be slashed, the "corrupt welfare state" would be a thing of the past. That didn't quite work out. So as conservatives sought to keep their grip on Congress two years later, Gingrich instead sought to win the hearts and minds of voters through props.

Leading up to the 1996 election, Gingrich criss-crossed the country brandishing a white bucket, as a symbol of how Gingrich had cut bureaucratic waste by eliminating an anachronistic ice delivery service to congressional offices. Dating back to before the advent of refrigeration, ice had been delivered via white buckets to each office twice a day at no cost. Gingrich boasted that the program had cut $400,000 per year from the federal budget by eliminating 23 paid staff positions. "If there was any one symbol I wish we could be remembered by, I believe it should be an ice bucket," Gingrich said at the time. "We didn't authorize a study, we didn't phase it out, we didn't call for a training program, we just went cold turkey."

"If there was any one symbol I wish we could be remembered by, I believe it should be an ice bucket," said Gingrich.

It was, to be sure, an absurd perk. One Democratic aide told the New York Times in 1994 that, "We tried to get it stopped, but it keeps coming—from the ice machine in the heavens, I guess"; the paper found no compelling reason why the deliveries still continued, but noted that Hill sources said "it is unacceptable for lawmakers to drink warm soda."

But, bucket-tour notwithstanding, Gingrich didn't actually end the free ice service at the Capitol; he just created a new system. Under Gingrich's watchful eye, Congress set up five ice distribution centers around the Capitol complex, so that staffers could haul their daily load of ice back to the offices. The ice was still free, in other words, and it was still being distributed. According to Roll Call at the time, Gingrich was himself taking advantage of the free ice entitlement he derided, dispatching a staffer to the ice distribution center twice a day to fill a bucket. And he wasn't the only politician making the ice bucket a campaign issue. His Democratic opponent in 1996, Michael Coles, duly noted that while the Speaker had chipped $400,000 off the ice entitlement block, "Mr. Gingrich increased his office budget by $600,000—a difference, measured in ice terms, of more than 130,000 bags of ice."

This is not a dog, but you get the point.

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.

In 2009—shortly after accidentally naming the founder of Pink Visual, a California porn superstore, "Entrepreneur of the Year"—Newt Gingrich's Business Defense and Advisory Council accidentally bestowed the same award to the Dallas strip club "The Lodge." Or tried to, anyway. Dawn Rizos, the club's owner, received a letter out of the blue from Gingrich's 527, American Solutions for Winning the Future, informing her that "Newt is looking forward to finally meeting you face to face"—and asking for her to make a $5,000 contribution to the group in order to attend. She happily obliged and booked her travel arrangements, only to find that her invitation was rescinded and her donation returned.

But all was not lost. After receiving her refund, Rizos decided to take her $5,000 and put it good use in a way that would honor the man who'd spurned her: She built a shelter for pit bulls, "Newt's Nook," at the Animal Guardians sanctuary 35 minutes north of Dallas. As Pegasus News explained:

The Lodge, the country’s best-known and most-honored gentlemen’s club, helps hundreds of people support their families and further their educations, while setting industry standards for beauty, elegance and integrity.

"So we weren’t surprised to get the award, and we were disappointed to suddenly be rejected," Rizos said. "But instead of holding a grudge, we decided to make something positive out of his bad manners."

Gingrich, for his part, recently launched the webite "Pets With Newt," which invites supporters to "send photos of your pet," and includes a list of Newt's 12 favorite zoos ("The Omaha Zoo is one of the three best zoos in America. Its nocturnal house is the best in the world.") Perhaps Rizos will get another shot at Gingrich's endorsement.

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