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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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."

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.

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