Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, at an MLK Day event in 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.

Newt Gingrich stepped in it in 2007 when he told an audience of conservative activists that Spanish is a "ghetto" language. In an address to the National Federation of Women, the former speaker argued that, "We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto." He later took to YouTube to issue una apologia—as they say in the ghetto—in Spanish. Now that he's a candidate for president, Gingrich has changed his tone, insisting that his quote was taken out of context. In January, he told reporters in Miami, "We didn't want any children trapped in a ghetto, it was a reference to the Middle Ages—being a historian."

Rick Santorum, Voting Rights Activist

We'll say this for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum: He can surprise you from time to time. He was, for instance, the first and only GOP candidate to seize on a lack of income mobility as a serious problem in the United States, as he did at an October debate in Las Vegas. And at Monday's to-do in South Carolina, Santorum attacked the front-runner on the unlikeliest issues in a deep-red, law-and-order southern state: felon voting rights.

Santorum raised the subject because the pro-Romney super-PAC "Restore Our Future" has recently released an ad statewide hitting Santorum for supposedly voting to allow felons to vote while still in prison. That's false—Santorum voted to restore voting rights to felons only after they've left prison and had been restored all of their other rights—and he called Romney out of it. Then he asked a question: "I would ask Governor Romney, do you believe people who are felons, who have served their time, who have exhausted their parole and probation, should they be allowed to vote?"

Romney initially dodged the question, switching to his prepared defense of super-PACs. But Santorum pressed: "I'm asking you to answer the question...this is Martin Luther King Day. This is a huge deal in the African-American community because we have a very high rates of incarceration, disproportionately higher rates, particularly with drug crimes in the African-American community. The bill I voted for is the Martin Luther King voting rights bill." Pressed again for an answer, Romney at last said he'd oppose restoring voting rights to anyone who has committed a violent crime.

And then Santorum played his trump card: While Romney was governor, Massachusetts had a policy of allowing felons to vote once they'd left prison—even while they were still on probation. Think Progress flagged the whole exchange, which you can watch below:

This isn't likely to win Santorum any votes in South Carolina; if anything, it might still cost him a few—that's why Romney's super-PAC initially thought this was a winning issue. But it's an issue that's worth raising and one that candidates for presidents should be forced to take a stand on.

You can almost set your clock to it at this point. If Mitt Romney gets a question about his record at Bain Capital at a GOP presidential debate, he'll inevitably talk about how many jobs he created as chief executive of the venutre capital firm. At last Saturday's debate in New Hampshire, he suggested he had created 100,000 jobs at Bain, and when pressed for evidence, said he had done the math himself. At Monday night's debate in South Carolina, Romney upped the ante, telling Fox News' Bret Baier that he had created more than 120,000 jobs. Apparently it'd been a pretty good week.

But for all his talk, Romney has still failed to produce any credibile answer for how he arrived at any of the various jobs figures he's tossed out. As I explained last week, the best answer we've seen is that his top aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, added up the jobs growth of a few of Bain's most successful spinoffs (Sports Authority, Staples, etc.), and that was it. No consideration of the various Bain investments that lost jobs. No allowance for the fact that Romney is effectively taking credit for every job Staples has ever created—dare I say he invented office supplies?—even though Bain provided just 10 percent of the seed money for the company. No calculation, in other words; just an arbitrary number. It's no surprise it fluctuates so much.

Romney wasn't pressed on the source for his newest figure by the Fox panel, but don't expect him to get off so easy. President Obama's re-election team has already set its sights on the 100,000 figure. On Monday, they took to Tumblr—yes, they're on Tumblr—to taunt Romney's inconsistencies in chart form (click to enlarge):

Via Barack Obama/TumblrVia Barack Obama/Tumblr

Mitt Romney says he watched his dad march with Martin Luther King Jr. He later clarified that he had done no such thing.

On Monday, the five remaining GOP presidential candidates will celebrate Martin Luther King Day by gathering in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and debating Rick Santorum's thoughts about Mitt Romney's response to Newt Gingrich's condemntation of Newt Gingrich's super-PAC's attack on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital. Or something like that. The timing of the Fox News debate hasn't been lost on folks like South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian, who suggested on Thursday it showed a lack of regard for the life of the Civil Rights icon.

The other, probably more plausible explanation is that, with the primary scheduled for Saturday, Monday was just an obvious date to hold the first of two debates. But it does raise the question—one that could come up in some iteration during the debate: How do the GOP candidates feel about Dr. King and his civil rights legacy? Here's a quick guide:

Mitt Romney: It was at a Martin Luther King Day parade in Jacksonville, Florida in 2008 that Romney made the ill-considered decision to chant the lyrics to the Baha Men's hit single, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Except instead of posing it as a question, he seemed to supply the answer: "Who let the dogs out. Who. Who."

His attempts to discuss King's legacy have gone about as smoothly. In 2007, the former Massachusetts governor told an audience in College Station, Texas, "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King." But as David Bernstein reported, that wasn't quite right. There was no evidence of Romney’s father, George, marching with MLK at Grosse Pointe, Michigan, as the campaign had claimed; for one thing, MLK had never been to Grosse Pointe. The campaign later clarified that George Romney and MLK had marched together in a metaphorical sense—they were in different cities, and the marches took place on different days—and that Mitt (who was not present for either event) had seen his father march in a metaphorical sense as well. Romney’s justice advisory committee includes failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, who has written that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 established "a principle of unsurpassed ugliness."

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