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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Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign has run into trouble recently after national media refocused on decades-old racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and deeply conspiratorial articles published under Paul's name (and at least occasionally under his signature) in late 1980s and early 1990s newsletters.

The Texas congressman, who defended the newsletters when they first became a political issue in 1996, has since disavowed their contents repeatedly. But in a 1998 John Birch Society film unearthed by Andy Kaczynski, Paul endorsed some of the more paranoid ideas outlined in the Ron Paul Survival Report—including the the idea that a United Nations dictatorship was imminent:

As a narrator scarily intones that American churches will be forcibly shuttered under UN rule, Paul urges viewers to stay informed. "If the United Nations has their way, there will be curtailment of our right to practice our religion," he says. "They are not going to be believers in the right to practice our religion as we have seen fit throughout this country. And therefore individuals who are interested in this subject certainly cannot be complacent about what the United Nations is doing."

The scene is preceded by an image of of a building that's been converted into a "United World Temple" emblazoned with UN flags, and immediately followed by images of soldiers and guerillas fighting in the streets.

This is exactly what you'd expect from the John Birch Society, an organization that has spent four decades urging the United States to leave the United Nations. It's not what you'd expect from a serious Republican presidential candidate. It's not even the kind of language you tend to hear from Paul on the campaign trail, where he's more likely to talk about raw milk than the New World Order. And that's been Paul's best defense; the newsletters just don't sound like anything he's ever said. 

That's partially true, but in the last few days, we've seen a clip (from 1990) of Paul embracing the idea that the Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations are secretly running the country, and now this. Josh Marshall reminds us, meanwhile, that back in September, Paul said that the border fence might actually be used to keep Americans penned in. Setting the racist articles aside, Paul really did endorse some of the more out-there arguments in his newsletters.

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Many of Newt Gingrich's tweets have been lost to history.

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 often says that, at heart, he's still a four-year-old boy "who gets up every morning hoping to find a cookie that friends or relatives may have left for me somewhere."

Thank goodness for Twitter, which has the democratizing effect of making almost all male elected officials sound like four-year-old boys bounding down the stairs in search of snickerdoodles—none more so than Newton Leroy Gingrich, whose verified account chronicled his every meal, TV appearance, and stray thought about electro-magnetic pulses and dinosaurs. ("If you have never seen dunkleostus the armored fish from the devonian you should visit cleveland museum of natural historu It is amazing".) Or at least it did. As Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner noted, shortly before jumping into the presidential race in May, Gingrich quietly deleted his Twitter archive for 2009 and much of 2010.

Gingrich had an uneasy relationship with the micro-blogging platform. It was there that he'd called future Supreme Court Justice Sonio Sotomayor a "Latina woman racist" for touting her life experiences as a qualification for the bench. But he'd also given us a peek at his four-year-old side. On Easter of 2010, for instance, he live-tweeted his consumption of foil-wrapped chocolates. Fortunately, Wonkette grabbed a screenshot:

Screenshot via WonketteScreenshot via Wonkette

He concluded: "I like Reese's peanut butter cup because Reese's is also from Hershey. However Callista got me a Reese's peanut butter egg. It is good too."

Well, he's easy to shop for anyway.

Update: Washingtonian has, like an 11th-century monk transcribing the works of the ancients, carefully preserved some of the early @NewtGingrich tweets. My favorite sequence:

@newtgingrich: Having a good lunch at the mcdonalds in osseo with callista and her mother bernita. Good crispy chicken sandwich, great fries, good coffee

@newtgingrich: Drugans restaurant and golf course in holman wisconsin has great food and a seven foot tall wooden troll. They do a wonderful job

Your Daily Newt: Mighty Morphin' Gingrich

TK: Tk/TK; TK/TKThe path not taken: James Colburn/ZumaPress; Andrea Renault/Globe Photos; photo illustration by Tim Murphy.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's big ideas about killer-lasers and Moon colonies and highway-illuminating space mirrors do tend to make him sound like a super-villain. But on his first day as Speaker of the House in 1995, Gingrich solidly aligned himself with the forces of truth and justice and tights by inviting the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers to perform for the House Republican Caucus (and their families). As the Los Angeles Times reported:

After going through their high-kicking, fist-throwing and crime-fighting television show routine, the Power Rangers stood, arms akimbo, as Gingrich rushed onto the stage.

Linking the Power Rangers' popularity with youngsters to his appeal with their parents, the Speaker noted that the Rangers' emphasis on "family values" and "anti-drug" messages fit nicely with GOP political themes. And, he added, "they are multiethnic role models with male and female characters."

Because it was the 1990s, Gingrich faced mild criticism for endorsing a television show that promoted violence—violence against the evil and often inept forces of Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa, but violence nonetheless. The show had been pulled from the airways in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and banned by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. But Gingrich was undeterred. "You ride the waves in America, and if something's hot, it's hot," he told his fellow Republicans. Yes, there's video:

Gingrich, has elsewhere warned that the United States is under attack from gay and secular fascism, so we suppose it's worth pointing out that the blue ranger, "Billy," is gay.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)

Even as he's climbed to the top of the polls in Iowa and gone so far as to preemptively claim victory in New Hampshire, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has spent much of the last week distancing himself from racist and homophobic articles that appeared in his eponymous newsletter in the 1980s and early 1990s. In part, that's because anxious conservatives have decided to make an issue of it—last week, the Weekly Standard dispatched James Kirchik to rehash his original 2008 bombshell on the newsletters. It's also because, as Dave Weigel explains, Paul has failed to put together a coherent response. On Wednesday, Paul walked out of an interview with CNN's Gloria Borger when she pressed him on his role in publishing them.

The story hasn't gone away, and now Reuters has the latest: A newly unearthed subscription pitch circa 1993, this time bearing the signature of Paul himself. It reads like a caricature of the conspiratorial, unhinged, early '90s militia movement, the kind of thing that would make the John Birch Society blush. Written in the first person, it warns of threats from the "demonic fraternity" we know of as Yale's Skull and Bones society, the Trilateral Commission, the "perverted, pagan" rituals at Bohemian Grove, a global government, "the coming race war," the Council on Foreign Relation, and FEMA. Paul (or his ghostwriter, at least) carefully explains that you can trust his view that the federal government is behind AIDS, because he's a doctor:

 

 

It's plausible enough that Paul didn't write the newsletters he published, and that he doesn't agree with all of the opinions expressed therein, and that he was lying in 1996 (when he endorsed the opinions contained therein) and not in 2001 (when he first claimed ignorance). That's the case Weigel and Julian Sanchez made, anyway.

But even setting all of that aside, there's another element to the story.

Hipster Newt Gingrich was into protesting banks before it was cool.

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 won the gratitude of the tech world—and smut-loving Americans everywhere—when he fought against an Internet censorship provision in the 1996 Communications Decency Act. But his career as a free speech activist actually began some 28 years earlier, when the former speaker launched a campus occupation in defense of the student newspaper's right to publish nude photos.

Although he had refrained from partaking in the counter-culture movements of the time, young Gingrich, while a graduate student at Tulane, became a rabble-rousing activist when the school administration censored two sexually explicit photos from a student newspaper. (One image depicted a nude male art professor standing in front of a sculpture of two figures engaged in intercourse). Gingrich denounced the administration for unfairly censoring materials that had been produced by students and funded by student activity fees. To correct the injustice, he formed a new activist organization, Mobilization of Responsible Tulane Students, to force the powers that be to step back.

With MORTS, which included members of the more radical Students for a Democratic Society, Gingrich led a march of 700 students to the school president's house—where, according to Tim Wise's account, Tulane president Howard Longenecker was hanged in effigy. He followed it up by leading boycotts against a number of local businesses whose executives sat on the Tulane board of trustees, among them Merrill Lynch and another local bank. When he secured a meeting with Longenecker, Gingrich played hardball:

He threatened the university president with disrupting campus life for weeks if he did not relent. "It is now a question of power," the brash young man told university president Herbert Longenecker, according to minutes of the meeting that NEWSWEEK discovered in Tulane archives. "We are down to a clash of wills."

As Gingrich explained to the alumni magazine Tulanian in 1995, "Our argument was that it ought to have intellectual freedom because it was a student newspaper...I told [the school president] that we were paying for it and had a right not to be censored by the people who were not paying for it." MORTS' agenda extended beyond nude photography. As Steve Gillon reported in The Pact, Gingrich's followers later occupied the student center, demanding that (among other things) the administration turn the school's swimming pool into a public bath. Gingrich also pushed to give students a role in the hiring and firing (and promoting) of faculty and all major university decisions—an assault on the Ivory Tower that's echoed in his more recent broadsides.

Despite his feverish protests, the nude photos were ultimately not published, and Gingrich's taste for activism was short-lived. After leaving Tulane, his views on student activists have changed considerably. In a 1984 book, Window of Opportunity, he blamed the "social decay and disorder" of the 1970s and 1980s on the Free Speech Movement. By November, he'd descended into outright hippie punching. Asked about the Wall Street Occupiers at a forum in Des Moines, he had a simple message for th 99-Percenters: "get a job, right after you take a bath."

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