Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

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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Bachmann's Anti-Gay Ally: Obama's Not a Christian

| Fri May. 20, 2011 9:14 AM PDT

On Wednesday, we told you about the unlikely alliance between Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a possible GOP presidential candidate, and Bradlee Dean, a head-banging, tatooed, death* heavy metal drummer. (The relationship becomes a lot less confusing when you consider that Dean belives that gays are, by defintion, "criminals," and should be prohibited from holding government jobs; that the average gay man will molest 117 people before "they're found out"; and that he runs a ministry called You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, which travels to public schools to encourage students to find Christ).

Today Dean outdid himself. With the Minnesota legislature in the middle of a heated debate over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state—the opponents of which, Dean has pilloried on his radio show—the House Republican Caucus invited the controversial hair-metal evangelist to deliver the opening prayer for Friday's session.

How did it go? Well, the grand finale consisted of Dean alleging that the President of the United States is not a Christian. Via the St. Cloud Times:

I end with this. I know this is a non-denominational prayer in this Chamber and it's not about the Baptists and it's not about the Catholics alone or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans. Or the Presbyterians the evangelicals or any other denomination but rather the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus. As every President up until 2008 has acknowledged. And we pray it. In Jesus' name.

That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise: Dean recently explained on his radio show that there's no real difference between Obama and Osama bin Laden, and that the President's policies—like those of his predecessors—are part of a plot to bring about the New World Order.

Dean's remarks didn't go over well: legislators had to summon the House chaplain to deliver a new prayer, and Democratic Rep. Terry Morrow immediately took to the floor to denounce the whole affair. From the Minnesota Independent:

"Today hope was crushed by the words of a single speaker," he said. "Mr. Speaker, I do trust and hope that we understand the gravity and the severity of the prayer that has been given to the people within this chamber and out."

"I'm shaking right now because I'm mad," he concluded. "This cannot happen again."

Wow. According to WCCO's Patrick Kessler, Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Republican, has since publicly apologized, saying "I denounce him, his actions and his words." (The caucus did not vet Dean's remarks).

Update: The Independent has the video and a follow-up interview with Zellers. Yes, Dean really wore a track suit:

*Thanks to the readers who pointed out that Dean's music is better classified as heavy metal, or even "rap-core." We regret the error.

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DEVELOPING: Shariah Bill Sponsors Still Kind of Clueless

| Thu May. 19, 2011 8:18 AM PDT

The South Carolina legislature is debating a bill to halt the spread of Islamic Shariah law in state courts. Because there are no documented instances of Shariah law being forced on the good people of the Palmetto State, the bill has been criticized as superfluous, if not outright discriminatory. The bill's sponsor, GOP state Sen. Mike Fair sat down with Think Progress this week in an effort to set the record straight. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Here's Fair explaining the stakes if South Carolina doesn't act:

In Columbia, South Carolina, that beautiful state house right over there...you gotta walk through its gorgeous, but no horns sounding five times a day at times of prayer, which I'm told – haven't been to Michigan in a long time – been told that there are Islamic communities where there have […] in Dearborn, that’s exactly right, where with taxpayer dollars they're doing certain funded, doing certain things to accommodate Islam.

Sounds like he's really researched the issue! The good news is that the United States is in no danger of falling under the spell of a Muslim theocracy. The ACLU, which is a pretty big a fan of separation of church and state, is out with a new report this week that more or less eviscerates the myth that Shariah has unlawfully crept into American courts:

[The report] examines, in detail, the cases repeatedly cited by anti-Muslim groups as evidence of the alleged "Shariah threat" to our judicial system. The report concludes that these cases do not stand for the principles that anti-Muslim groups claim. Rather, these court cases deal with routine matters, such as religious freedom claims and contractual disputes. Courts treat these lawsuits in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths. So instead of the harbingers of doom that anti-Muslim groups make them out to be, these cases illustrate that our judicial system is alive and well, and operating as it should.

There are lots of problems with the American judicial system. Fortunately, the imposition of Islamic law is not one of them. Or so I've been told; I haven't been to Dearborn in a while, though.

"Discipline" is not Newt Gingrich's Biggest Problem

| Wed May. 18, 2011 7:54 AM PDT

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has had a bad week. On Sunday, he criticized GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to phase out Medicare as "social engineering," prompting party leaders to declare his candidacy dead only days after he officially announced it, and forcing Gingrich to personally apologize to Ryan. On Tuesday, Politico reported that Gingrich at one point had a six-figure tab at Tiffany's, the high-end jewlery store. He had a box of glitter dumped on his head at a fundraiser for the anti-gay group Minnesota Family Council. And he co-starred in a viral video clip in which an Iowa Republican encourages him to get out of the race "before you make a bigger fool of yourself."

Not good times, in other words, if you're Newt Gingrich.

So how did things get so bad so fast? 

The emerging consensus seems to be that Gingrich's problems stem from a lack of discipline—his tendency to flip from one idea to the next, possibly contradictory idea, without properly explaining himself. As Rich Galen, a former Gingrich aide, told Mike Allen: "This is what people in Washington knew would be the great weakness of a Newt presidential campaign: that he would say whatever came into his head, the moment it came into his head."

That's true-ish; Gingrich is not incredibly disciplined. But the more fundamental problem is this: The things that Newt Gingrich says are very frequently kind of nuts, and members of both parties seem to agree. The problem isn't so much that he can't keep straight whether the country is under assault from a "gay and secular fascism" or an atheist–Islamist agenda; it's that he thinks either one of those is a distinct possibility. There's a real tendency in covering electoral politics to blame campaign implosions on "discipline." Writing last week on former Virginia GOP Sen. George Allen's comeback bid, for instance, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza explained that Allen's famous use of the obscure racial slur "macaca" demonstrated "a lack of discipline on Allen's part." (Another way of looking at it, given that Allen once kept an actual noose in his office, is that George Allen has, or at least had, a race problem.)

Discipline is a good quality for a candidate to have. But it only counts if you have a quality candidate.

Gingrich, Bachmann Address Wannabe Hate Group

| Tue May. 17, 2011 9:11 AM PDT

Update: Gingrich spoke at the event on Tuesday as scheduled and, it's safe to say, things didn't quite go as planned. Full update, with video, below the jump.

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has drawn tons of bad press in the past two days for criticizing GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare, for charging that President Obama is the "most successful food stamp president in history," and for his bulging debt ceiling at the jewelry store Tiffany's. What's gone overlooked are the former Speaker's Tuesday night plans. This evening, Gingrich and fellow presidential aspirant Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) will headline a Minneapolis fundraiser for the Minnesota Family Council (MFC), a Twin Cities-based conservative Christian organization that's bankrolling the effort to ban gay marriage in the state, and whose president has written that gay teens who commit suicide brought it upon themselves.

In a statement posted on the group's website, Gingrich writes that the group "is vigorously defending our God-given freedom in our communities, schools, at the Capitol and the ballot box. Join me and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in rediscovering God and the vital role of faith and family in our American freedoms." The $100-per-plate event will also include a screening of the ex-Speaker's documentary, Rediscovering God in America, and a book signing.

One of the group's leaders has suggested that anti-gay organizations should be proud to be labeled "hate groups." In an interview last December with Peter LaBarbera of the anti-gay group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, MFC research analyst Barb Anderson urged him to embrace the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center had designated his outfit a "hate group." "I think it's becoming perhaps a badge of honor to be called a hate group," she said. Anderson went on to describe the "radical homosexual agenda" as "the greatest threat to our freedom and to the health and well being of our children." Last fall, the SPLC added a handful of anti-gay groups to its list of hate groups, including the Family Research Council, which joined such outfits as the Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Council of Conservative Citizens. That prompted Republican members of Congress, including Bachmann and then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), to sign onto an open letter declaring their support for the FRC.

But MFC's most chilling comments concern the recent surge in suicides by LGBT teens.

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