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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RIP Jon Huntsman's Campaign, 2011–2012

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman.

Former Utah governor and US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman dropped out of the GOP presidential race on Sunday, just five days after he proclaimed New Hampshire voters had given him a "ticket to ride," and four hours after emailing supporters that "our momentum is building." You could see the end on Tuesday, when Huntsman's father, chemical baron Jon Huntsman Sr., refused to commit to donating any more money to Our Destiny, the super-PAC supporting his son. On Monday, Huntsman will endorse Mitt Romney, a man he once referred to as a "perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day."

Huntsman's endorsement likely won't make much of a difference at the ballot box (the "Huntsman voter moves to Romney" jokes were fast and furious on Twitter) but, as the Democratic National Committee is already pointing out to reporters, it will provide an interesting contrast with...Jon Huntsman's previous statements. Huntsman's spent much of the last six months trying to tear Romney down, in speeches, debates, and advertisements (most of which have now been taken down from YouTube). At a debate in New Hampshire on January 8, Huntsman said that Romney's partisan attitude was "the problem with this country right now," and proceeded to call his rival ill-informed on foreign policy—in Mandarin. In July, he said of Romney's record, "You know your job creation record is bad when you brag about leapfrogging a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina." In November, he told NBC's David Gregory, "I don't know that he can go on to beat President Obama, given his record. When there is a question about whether you're running for the White House or you're running for the Waffle House, you have a real problem with the American people."

He also produced this spot drawing a connection between Romney and a wind-up monkey toy that flips back and forth. You know, a flip-flopper.

Enough of that, though. If you slept through the Jon Huntsman era, what did you miss? Here's a quick guide:

Your Daily Newt: Pirates!

Newt Gingrich prepares to speak outside the state house in Columbia, South Carolina.

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.

As we've documented previously, shortly before kicking off his presidential campaign last spring, Gingrich deleted much of his Twitter archive. Prior to that point, @NewtGingrich had offered a snapshot of his soul—a cornucopia of restaurant reviews, musings about dinosaurs, and condemnations of Sonia Sotomayor. And, for a week-long period in 2010, a space for Gingrich to vent about President Obama's hand-off approach to the Somali pirate menace.

Obama, according to Gingrich, was guilty of appeasing the ruthless corsairs. As he put it: "The correct answer to piracy is to destroy it not negotiate with it Seals can retake the lifeboat Track every boat leaving somalia" (sic). Gingrich argued that Obama needed to outline "the rules of civilization" and make clear that the United States wouldn't be pushed around. This sequence, flagged by Tommy Christopher, was typical:

And then this happened.

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."

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