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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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.

Asked in 2008 about the Bush administration's efforts in the war in terror, Gingrich expressed his frustration that the public wasn't sufficiently concerned about terrorists on a day to day basis. As he explained: "The better they've done at making sure there isn't going to be an attack, the easier it is to say there was never going to be an attack anyway. It's almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to go through just to remind us":

Gingrich was joking—sort of. He really did think serious changes needed to be made to the nation's law enforcement framework at the expense of civil liberties. That's why he'd create a new agency, separate from the traditional domestic crime-fighting FBI (which would still be forced to comply with the Bill of Rights). "I would have a small, but very aggressive anti-terrorist agency. And I would give them extraordinary ability to eavesdrop. And my first advice to civil libertarians would be simple: Don't plot with terrorists." To quote Jefferson. Or was it Jay?

Newt Gingrich's War on the War on Dust

Newt Gingrich's biggest applause in Atlantic, Iowa, on Saturday wasn't his condemnation of President Barack Obama as a "Saul Alinsky radical." It wasn't his pledge to destroy Obamacare. It certainly wasn't his name-drop of consulting pioneers Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker. It was his promise to bring the troops home, declare defeat, and end major combat operations in the War on Dust.

Referring to the Environmental Protection Agency as a "job-killing dictatorial bureaucracy," Gingrich invoked the name of one of the state's leading Republicans to make his case. "Many of you have probably followed Sen. Grassley’s fight for the dust regulations," Gingrich says. "The EPA technically has the ability to regulate 'particulate matter,' as part of the Clean Air Bill, which I don’t think any congressman thought of as 'dust.' But of course it’s now interpreted to include dust. If you were to plow on a windy day, and some of the dirt was carried by the wind into your neighbor’s field, you would be polluting your neighbor's field with your dirt. Now, since your neighbor's field is exactly the same geologic dirt as your field, it’s implausible that you would actually be hurting it."

Then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich plays with a dinosaur puppet in Bozeman, Montana in 1998

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was challenged by supporters at an event at a Coca Cola bottling plant in Atlantic, Iowa on Saturday, on issues ranging from faith to his consulting work for Freddie Mac to his brief support for cap-and-trade. Gingrich, flanked by his wife, Callista, his daughter Jackie, and a 20-foot-high stack of Mello Yello, told voters that anyone who accuses him of taxing carbon as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is "dishonest" (evidence to the contrary notwithstanding), and then issued a curious explanation for why he doesn't trust the science on global warming: He's a scientist himself, and he knows better.

The carbon-tax question came from a senior citizen who had signed up to give a speech on Gingrich's behalf on caucus night. The man had taken a look at campaign talking points, but his son had additional questions about Gingrich's global warming positions, and so the father came to Gingrich seeking clarity. The former speaker had, after all, cut an ad with Nancy Pelosi calling for the federal government to take action on climate change. After first explaining that "first of all, it hasn't been proven" that global warming is really happening, he rounded out his answer by citing his own analysis.

"I'm an amateur paleontologist, so I've spent a lot of time looking at the earth's temperature over a very long time," Gingrich said. "I'm a lot harder to convince than just by looking at a computer model."

We've chronicled Gingrich's passion for dinosaurs. In addition to keeping a T-Rex skull in his congressional office (loaned from the Smithsonian), he twice debated famed Montana State paleontologist Jack Horner on the feeding habits of the T-Rex, with Gingrich arguing that the king of dinosaurs could not have been a scavenger because "I saw Jurassic Park and he ate a lawyer and it wasn't a dead lawyer." So while not professionally trained, his paleontological analysis clearly does carry a lot of weight.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

Rick Perry gave a polite nod to history when he took the podium at Doughy Joey's Peetza Joynt in Waterloo on Friday. It would've been weird not too. Crowded into the second floor party room, a big old Iowa flag just behind him, Risque gentlemen's club ("cold drinks, hot ladies") across the street and out of sight, the Texas governor took the microphone from his wife, Anita, thanked everyone for stopping by, and put the event, and perhaps his entire campaign, in proper context.

"This is where it all began," Perry said. This being Waterloo, where Perry made his first visit to Iowa as a candidate on the Sunday after the August Ames Straw Poll. He was the guest of honor at the Black Hawk County GOP fundraiser, and when it was over he'd jumped to the top of the field as a cocky, angry, government-slashing, Texas miracle worker, out to make Washington, DC "as inconsequential in your life as possible." He was the anti-Obama. This time around in Waterloo, he's pitching himself as the anti-Santorum.

Rick Perry stumbled on Thursday when he asked by a voter whether he still opposed the 2003 Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down his state’s statute prohibiting homosexual conduct—gay sex, in other words. At the time of the ruling, Perry had defended the law, telling reports, "I think our law is appropriate that we have on the books." In his 2010 book Fed Up!, Perry included Lawrence in a list of cases he believes were wrongly decided.

But when the topic came up in Iowa, he drew a blank, and instead segued into a very broad answer about states' rights:

He ultimately admitted that he couldn't remember what Lawrence was about, telling reporters, "I'm not taking the bar exam." That drew a swift response from Perry's biggest rival in Iowa, Rick Santorum, whose passionate opposition to the Lawrence decision inspired sex columnist Dan Savage to redefine his name. As Santorum put it: "Rulings like Lawrence v. Texas would be a good thing to know if you are running for president."

But if Perry's memory failed, he hasn't changed his views any. Pressed on Thursday in Marshalltown on why he opposed hospital visitation rights for gay couples, Perry explained, in a blunt ending to a roundabout answer: "Listen, I love the sinner, I hate the sin." I asked his spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier on Friday whether, given his foggy response the day before, the Governor still opposed Lawrence. Answer: Absolutely. "The remarks in his book are still the case," Frazier said. As for Thursday's slip-up: "It was part of a point about the 10th Amendment."

It's not the first time the Governor—who leans heavily on notecards when he's on the stump—has done a faceplant. (Perry, for his part, acknowledges that "I'm not good at Jeopardy or encyclopedia.") But it's worth taking a step back and pointing out that, in 2011, two top contenders in the Iowa caucuses believe states should have the right to criminalize homosexual conduct.

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