Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. 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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Iowa Conservatives Unveil Anti-Gay Marriage Pledge

| Thu Jul. 7, 2011 4:51 PM EDT
Bob Vander Plaats

On Thursday, one of Iowa's most influential social conservative organizations, The Family Leader, informed GOP presidential candidates that to win the group's endorsement, they'll have to sign a pledge. Family Leader president Bob Vander Plaats, a former Mike Huckabee ally, wants GOP contenders to commit to a list of 14 red-meat items, including opposition to gay marriage, a ban on Islamic Sharia law, a rejection of pornography, and an affirmation that married couples have better sex.

The group, which spearheaded the successful campaign to unseat state supreme court judges who had voted to legalize gay marriage, has been courted by candidates like Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty as a way of tapping into the state's huge bloc of conservative Christian caucusgoers. What's in the pledge? Here's a quick rundown:

Presidential candidates who sign The Marriage Vow will sign off on support of personal fidelity to his/her spouse, appointing faithful constitutionalists as judges, opposition to any redefinition of marriage, and prompt reform of uneconomic and anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and divorce law. The Marriage Vow also outlines support for the legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), humane efforts to protect women and children, rejection of anti-women Sharia Islam, safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. military personnel, and commitment to downsizing government and the burden upon American families.

The document itself gets more specific. Point 5 begins with a "Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex..." Point 9 rejects "forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence."

So who will jump on board? Much of the platform seems to mix fairly well with standard conservative talking points, but there might be a few dissenters. At the New Hampshire Republican debate last month, for instance, frontrunner Mitt Romney pointedly came to the defense of Muslims and smiled away any suggestion that American Muslims would be any less qualified to serve in his administration than anyone else. Because Sharia Islam is actually just a synonym for Islam, it would seem like a radical departure for Romney to suddenly embrace the Family Leader's far-right language. He also declined to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's pledge, which affirmed candidates' opposition to appointing pro-choice officials, because he felt it limited his flexibility to make cabinet and judicial appointments.

Update: That was quick. Bachmann's on board.

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Flashback: Bachmann Praises Huck's Birther Ally

| Thu Jul. 7, 2011 9:37 AM EDT

Two months back, I reported on Mike Huckabee's ties to Janet Porter, a social conservative crusader who has suggested that President Obama is a Soviet mole, that Haitians are "dedicated to Satan," and that gay marriage caused Noah's flood. Now Kyle Mantyla points out that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), floated by some as Mike Huckabee 2.0, also has ties to Porter; Bachmann spoke at her conference in September, 2009—six months after Porter accused the President of being a spy:

Of course, the radical views held by Porter and the others in no way dissuaded Bachmann from attending. In fact, Bachmann appeared on Porter's radio program ahead of the event and used it as an opportunity to [praise] her and endorse the May Day at the Lincoln Memorial prayer event Porter was planning for the following spring.

That May Day event ended up being so infused with Seven Mountains Dominion Theology that Porter lost her radio program and almost ended her career at a Religious Right activist, until she showed up in Ohio earlier this year where she began scheduling fetuses to "testify" on behalf of her extremist anti-choice "Heartbeat Bill."  In her downtime, she was busy praying for God to give Christians control over the media and every level of government.

Seven Mountains Dominion Theology, for the uninitiated, posits that Christians have an obligation to fill the ranks of government and other key areas—mountains—of life ahead of the second coming. Bachmann's relationship with Porter isn't as deep as Huckabee's (who called her a "prophetic voice"). But it does underscore a problem she'll face as she looks to establish her credibility with mainstream Republicans: Bachmann has made it in politics by forging alliances with folks whose ideologies make her own conspiratorial views and anti-gay positions seem downright pedestrian.

Michele Bachmann’s Marcus Bachmann Problem

| Wed Jul. 6, 2011 10:04 AM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, greet the crowd at a campaign stop in South Carolina.

Politico's James Hohmann published a story Tuesday on the unique role of Rep. Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus, on the campaign trail. Aside from the obvious points about how he's had to pick up the slack on the home front since his wife left for Washington, the piece notes a few of the recent controversies that could become "liabilities" on the campaign trail—namely, the fact that his family farm received subsidies, and that his Christian therapy practice accepted Medicaid funding.

That might be a stretch. The fact that Marcus Bachmann received farm subsidies is bad because they're the kind of government handout the candidate loves to hate, but it's really not the kind of thing that sways voters—especially when you consider that a lot of Republican primary voters also receive farm subsidies. There is one part of the Marcus Bachmann story, though, that is already becoming an issue for the Bachmann campaign.

Michele Bachmann's Redistricting Whopper

| Tue Jul. 5, 2011 10:40 AM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

In successive weeks, GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has been the subject of fawning profiles in the nation’s two most influential conservative political magazines, the Weekly Standard and the National Review (subscription required). The stories, which lean heavily on interviews with the congresswoman, are revealing in that they more or less present Bachmann's life story as she'd like to portray it—her political conversion after reading Gore Vidal's Burr, her travels in Israel, her unexpected entry into state politics. And her perpetual underdog status: Both stories report that Bachmann had so riled up Minnesota Democrats that, when they drew up new state senate districts in 2002, she was their top target. Here's the Standard's Matthew Continetti:

Bachmann won the state senate seat in November 2000. The question was how long she'd be able to keep the office. Redistricting forced her to run against a 10-year Democratic incumbent, Jane Krentz, in 2002. A committee chairman, Krentz had the support of environmental and women's groups. The Democrats who controlled the state senate had created the new district with her in mind.

National Review's Robert Costa says much the same thing: "Minnesota pols tried to shoo her out of office during the 2002 redistricting process."

You can see why this is an appealing narrative for Bachmann. In her telling, she was exposed early in her career to the ruthless Democratic political machine. Why? Because liberals are afraid of her. This isn't the first time she's parroted this line, either. In 2006, when she was seeking the GOP nomination for her first congressional campaign, she sent out a video stating that she was "the number one target of Minnesota senate Democrats" who "redistricted me out of my Senate seat so I had to run in a completely new district against a 10-year [Democratic] female incumbent." 

But that isn't what happened. At all.

11 Patriotic Songs That Don't Suck

| Sat Jul. 2, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

Happy Independence Day! (Last month it was Flag Day! Flag Day!) Whether you're roasting a whole pig as the Founders intended, or just throwing some veggies—or peaches—on the grill, no July 4 barbecue is complete without a corresponding playlist.

Alas, America's birthday has been held hostage for eons by the dull, repetitive compositions of John Philip Sousa. We'll give the man his due, but after years of hearing it over and over again, "Stars and Stripes Forever" has begun to feel as interminable as the name suggests. He also famously predicted that the arrival of recorded music would cause people to stop creating new music altogether, and that "the vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."

So we thought we'd try something new: We asked you on Facebook for your favorite patriotic tunes. They didn't have to be jingoistic—in fact, the best one aren't. Just something that gives you a little bit of a pride in place when you hear it. And you responded—about 250 times, actually.

Here are 11 of our favorites:

Pavement, "No More Kings": This adaptation of the Schoolhouse Rock classic tells the story of how a plucky band of patriots broke away from the cackling, purple-lipstick-wearing tyrant King George III—and did so with just four fingers on each hand.

Marvin Gaye, "Star Spangled Banner": How to take a frequently butchered, oft-criticized anthem that's set to an old drinking tune, and turn it into a classic: Step 1: Add Marvin Gaye. Step 2: There is no step 2. (Apologies to Jimi Hendrix.)

Bruce Springsteen, "4th of July, Asbury Park": With an assist from the late, great Clarence Clemons.

Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the USA": Via MoJo Facebook commenters Larry, Heather, and Brandon (who prefaces it with an "Ok, I admit..."). We won't judge, Brandon! One mitigating factor here is that Greenwood went on to write a nearly identical song called "God Bless Canada," which strikes us on some level as patriotic bigamy.

James Brown, "Living in America": Because like it or not, most of us are.

Titus Andronicus, "A More Perfect Union": This one mixes Abraham Lincoln quotes, Harriet Beecher Stowe verses, independent-league baseball references, and an homage to Bruce Springsteen. If it were any more American, it would have to be deep-fried.

Johnny Horton, "The Battle of New Orleans": In which a band of American misfits teamed up with a band of actual pirates (!!) and, apparently, alligators, to score an ultimately meaningless victory. We'll take it.

Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land": Look. We know. Woody Guthrie was none too happy with what was going on in America when he wrote this song. But we're pretty damn proud to be a part of a country that produces such powerful and aspirational expressions of discontent—and more generally, produces badasses like Woody Guthrie—and, ahem, Mary Harris Jones.

Funkadelic, "One Nation Under a Groove": Gettin' down, just for the funk of it.

Steve Goodman, "City of New Orleans": Goodman looks visibly nervous during all of this, which only serves to make the song even more endearing. Trains! Morning! Working people! Rust belt scenery! America!

Ray Charles, "America the Beautiful": A good note to close on. One of the classics, performed by one of the greats.

Click here for more music features from Mother Jones.

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