Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. 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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Poll: Elizabeth Warren Leading Scott Brown in Mass. Senate Race

| Tue Sep. 20, 2011 12:07 PM EDT
Democrat Elizabeth Warren (left) now leads GOP Sen. Scott Brown by two points.

Public Policy Polling's Ton Jensen tweeted on Tuesday morning that his new poll of the Massachusetts Senate race was the "most surprising Senate poll we've done since we found [the Republican, now-Sen. Scott] Brown up on [the losing Dem candidate, Martha] Coakley." Whether the poll lived up to the hype is up for debate (it would be a pretty boring debate), but the results are pretty jarring: Democrat Elizabeth Warren, the Wall Street watchdog and Harvard professor who entered the race last week, leads GOP Sen. Scott Brown 46–44. To put it in perspective, when PPP last polled the race in June, Warren trailed Brown by 15 points.

Courtesy of Public Policy PollingCourtesy of Public Policy PollingThat's a pretty big swing when you consider that a.) Warren has only just started campaigning, and b.) Brown remains fairly popular in the Bay State—and significantly more popular than the national GOP. What's just as striking is the breakdown when Brown is pitted against Warren's Democratic rivals for the nomination (she currently has four). Brown leads every other Democrat by at least 10 points.

We're still more than 13 months away from election day, so the usual disclaimer applies: everything could change. But barring some sort of catastrophic gaffe—say, Warren deciding to shake hands in the cold at Fenway Park in a John Lackey jersey—this is shaping into the marquee Senate race of 2012. And Warren has come a long way from the days when time said she'd rather stab herself in the eye than move to Capitol Hill.

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What Else Should Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio Investigate?

| Mon Sep. 19, 2011 4:33 PM EDT
Cat-Nipped: Did Hillary Clinton kill this cat? Sounds like a job for the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse.

Maricopa (Az.) County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who depending on your point of view is either "America's Toughest Sheriff" or simply the one least constrained by basic standards of decency, announced on Monday that he had deputized a five-member "Cold Case Posse" to investigate whether President Barack Obama was really born in the United States. (Spoiler: He was.)

Despite the unprecendented release of a short- and long-form birth certificate from the state of Hawaii, along with birth announcements in two Hawaii newspapers, Arpaio decided to launch the investigation after being asked to do so by members of the Surprise(!), Arizona, tea party. As he explained to WorldNetDaily: "My door is open to everyone, and I don't kick them out. If a complaint is legitimate, I don't dump it into the wastebasket...When I get allegations brought to me by the citizens of Maricopa County, I look into the allegations, just like I am doing here."

The unit is being funded through a 501c(3) non-profit that's been set up by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. Arpaio's announcement comes just as he's being courted by a slew of GOP presidential candidates—Rep. Michele Bachmann met with Sheriff Joe last week; Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have both called to ask for his endorsement.

One way of looking at this is that it's a horrible waste of taxpayer resources in a state that's so cash-strapped it actually sold the state capitol. Another way of looking at this is that it's a tremendous opportunity to investigate some more totally implausible cold cases. So what else should the Cold Case Posse be looking into? Dave Weigel suggests it re-examine David Ickes' claim that world leaders are being secretly controlled by a super race of lizard people. Here are some other ideas for the Cold Case Posse: Was Zachary Taylor secretly poisoned? Did Hillary Clinton order a hit on a former aide's cat? Was Dwight D. Eisenhower secretly controlled by his communist brother, Milton? What if we're all color-blind and people who are color-blind actually have normal vision? Why does the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department own a tank?

On a more serious note, this is more evidence of what we pointed out last month: birthers are not going away. And at this point, it doesn't seem like they ever will.

Bachmann on Teen Suicides: "Not a Federal Issue"

| Mon Sep. 19, 2011 11:04 AM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

For months, Rep. Michele Bachmann has been conspicuously silent on the rash of teen suicides in her suburban Twin Cities congressional district. (The situation in the Anoka-Hennepin School District has gotten so bad that state public health officials have officially designated it a "suicide contagion area.") Activists have claimed the school district's "no promo homo" policy, which prohibits teachers from saying positive things about homosexuality, abetts anti-gay bullying in the area. Another possible factor in the epidemic is the activism of groups like the Bachmann-supported Minnesota Family Council, which has stated that gay teens who commit suicide bring it upon themselves "because they've embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle."

Now Bachmann's finally weighed in—sort of. Over the weekend, Bachmann was in Californa for a series of fundraisers, a campaign rally, and an appearance on Jay Leno. At a stop in Costa Mesa, she was asked what she would do about the bullying contagion in her district. Her response? "That's not a federal issue." And then she moved on. The Minnesota Independent notes that last week, activists brought a petition with 100,000 signatures to Bachmann's district office.

The problem with Bachmann's position is that, whether or not it's a federal issue, she's already made it a Michele Bachmann issue. In May, she keynoted a fundraiser for the Minnesota Family Council, which at the time was lobbying hard against any bulling legislation in the state legislature. And as a state senator, she fought anti-bullying legislation, asking her colleagues, "Will it get to the point where we are completely stifling free speech and expression? Will it mean that what form of behavior will there be, will we be expecting boys to be girls?"

David Barton: Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings Affair Was Liberal Plot

| Fri Sep. 16, 2011 11:41 AM EDT

Texas pseudo-historian David Barton, as we've reported previously, is something of a legend among Christian conservatives. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) invited him to testify before the Minnesota Senate and to lecture her Republican colleagues in Congress; Gov. Rick Perry courted his support earlier this month at a Hill Country retreat; Newt Gingrich has nothing but praise for him; Mike Huckabee says Barton's tracts about the Founding Fathers should be required reading for everyone in America. The New York Times calls him "a guiding spirit of the religious right." Barton's work has been pretty soundly repudiated by respected historians, but he tells conservatives what they want to hear—and makes a lot of money doing it.

But even we're a little surprised by his latest bombshell: Speaking at the ultra-conservative Liberty University last week, Barton explained that the now-historically and scientifically accepted narrative that Thomas Jefferson had children with his slave Sally Hemings was actually a liberal plot to distract the public from the horrors of the Clinton impeachment scandal. As he explained it, prominent liberal historians concocted the theory in order to put Clinton's improprieties in a more favorable light. Watch:

It's worth noting that this argument is, of course, total baloney. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which has a real vested interested in not repeating baseless Thomas Jefferson smears, acknowledges the affair on its website. And as Brian Tashman notes, Barton's narrative about the DNA testing is sort of the opposite of what happened. Joseph Ellis was not involved in the DNA testing, but he did eventually come around to the fact that Jefferson and Hemings had conceived children. So did uber-historian Annette Gordon-Reed, who literally wrote the book on the subject. The DNA tests Barton cites as discredited said that there was a 99-percent chance that Hemings had birthed children by either Jefferson or a very close male relative (of which Jefferson is really the only plausible option). Another problem: The Jefferson-Hemings thesis predated any rumblings of the Lewinsky affair.

h/t Right Wing Watch.

Meet John Boehner's Primary Challenger

| Fri Sep. 16, 2011 11:14 AM EDT
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio)

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) is pretty aggressively anti-abortion. Under his watch last spring, the House pushed a "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion" bill that initially would have gone so far as to redefine rape, along with another measure that could have required IRS agents to conduct abortion audits in certain cases. Pretty anti-abortion in other words—but not anti-abortion enough for David Lewis of Cincinnati, who announced this week that he will launch a primary challenge against the most powerful Republican elected official in America.

Per his statement:

In his first nine months as House Speaker, John Boehner has had several opportunities to defund the largest baby killers in America – Planned Parenthood. But Boehner caved in to Obama, and gave Planned Parenthood taxpayer's hard earned dollars. Neither pro-lifers nor Tea Party activists should ever forgive John Boehner for lavishing our money on Planned Parenthood. It is clear from the facts that Planned Parenthood is not only the largest killer of unborn babies in America, but also that they have become a criminal syndicate covering up the crimes of rapists, sex traffickers, and pedophiles.

His website doesn't currently list any issues, save for this brief platform: "The Word of God, including the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, is the foundation that America and the Bill of Rights rests on." In March, Lewis was arrested at Boehner's district office, where he was protesting over the Planned Parenthood issue. As he told the Middletown Journal, "the only way to hold his feet to the fire...is to hold demonstrations like this one." Apparently, he thinks he's found another way.

Update: Right Wing Watch argues, somewhat comepllingly, that Lewis' campaign is basically an excuse to run graphic images of fetuses on local television stations.

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