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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Pawlenty Friend: He Told Me He's Pro-Choice

| Tue Jun. 28, 2011 5:58 PM EDT

Is Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty secretly pro-choice? That's what a long-time acquaintance maintained today in an MinnPost op-ed. Shawn Lawrence Otto, a Hollywood filmmaker, writes that in the late 1990s he was considering a run for public office and Pawlenty, an occasional golfing buddy, sat him down to offer some friendly advice—and that's when the truth spilled out:

[Pawlenty's] first question was, "What's your position on choice?" I hadn't ever been asked the question quite so pointedly. "You've got to take a stand on that first," he said. "Well," I said, "OK. I don't like abortion; I think it's a really tough personal decision, but not something the government should be getting into one way or the other, so I guess I'm pro-choice."

He looked at me over his lunch and said, "Well personally, so am I, but here's the thing. You've got to find a way to get your mind around the language of saying 'pro-life.' It's in how you phrase it."

That's a sharp contrast to Pawlenty's current rhetoric. Pawlenty has taken a strong stance on the campaign trail against abortion rights, raising money for pro-life groups and suggesting, through a spokesman, that doctors who perform abortions ought to face criminal penalties. And when he was governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty pushed for and signed a controversial 2003 law mandating a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions. Last April, he issued a proclamation declaring a statewide "Abortion Recovery Month," to raise "awareness of the aftermath of abortion experienced by individuals and families."

But for Pawlenty, who is lagging in the polls in Iowa and struggling to shed a reputation as dull, the accusation that he's flip-flopped on abortion—or been covertly pro-choice all along—could place another road block on his already difficult path to the GOP nomination. It would also, crucially, undermine one of the key distinctions between Pawlenty and front-runner Mitt Romney, who supported abortion rights during his 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign and has struggled to convince socially conservative voters he's one of them.

Romney's about-face on abortion (which paralleled reversals on gay rights and gun rights) has long caused social conservatives to be suspicious of his commitment to their causes, and in recent weeks he has received a poke or two from the right for not being a reliable abortion foe. (New-to-the-field contender Rep. Michele Bachmann, for one, has questioned Romney's anti-abortion credentials.)

Will Otto's article lead to similar problems for Pawlenty? Or will this be just a he-said/he-said matter that T-Paw can essentially ignore? Mother Jones contacted Pawlenty's campaign to ask for a response to Otto's piece. So far, there's no reaction.

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Should Jon Huntsman Run as an Independent?

| Thu Jun. 23, 2011 8:57 AM EDT

Every presidential candidate talks about the importance of "independent" voters. But in an interview with Kasie Hunt, former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman takes it a step further:

In an interview with POLITICO, Huntsman made clear that he plans to capitalize on election rules in New Hampshire and South Carolina that allow independent voters to cast ballots in the GOP presidential primary.

"These are wide open primaries, we forget that," Huntsman said, predicting an independent turnout in New Hampshire as high as 40 percent. "[I] think, given the fluidity of the race in these early states, that we stand a pretty good chance, and we're putting that to the test."

The former Utah governor's strategy is an attempt to make a virtue out of necessity. His moderate positions on the environment, immigration and civil unions —and his time as Barack Obama's ambassador to China—are formidable obstacles to victory in a party where the energy is concentrated in the conservative core.

By Huntsman's own admission, his party's shift to the right has left him considerably out of step with the conservative base—a problem that's been reinforced by a string of polls, which show him bringing up the rear. So what's a professed Obama admirer and former moderate Republican governor to do? Nate Silver, riffing off of Huntsman's new anti-war push, tweets an unlikely scenario: "Independents want quick withdraw from Afghanistan too. Does the possibility of running as an independent enter into Huntsman's calculus?"

Are Sarah Palin's Emails Proof of Literary Greatness?

| Fri Jun. 17, 2011 11:50 AM EDT

One week ago today, the MoJo DC bureau was consumed by the arrival of Sarah Palin's emails covering the first half of her half-term as Alaska's governor. As David Corn detailed, there were plenty of interesting discoveries—a less than chilly attitude toward climate change, for instance, and a sometimes obsessive attitude toward media critics (marginal and otherwise).

While we were poring over the documents, though, Michael McLaughlin of AOL's Weird News was taking a different approach:

AOL Weird News brought samples to two writing analysts who independently evaluated 24,000 pages of the former governor's emails. They came back in agreement that Palin composed her messages at an [8.5] level, an excellent score for a chief executive, they said...

"She's very concise. She gives clear orders. Her sentences and punctuations are logical," Payack said. "She has much more of a disciplined mind than she's given credit for."

Although it's like comparing apples to oranges, Payack said that famous speeches like Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was a 9.1 and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" oration rated a 8.8 on the scale.

Having read several thousand pages of the Palin emails, I think apples and oranges might be a bit of an understatement here. But there's also a bit of truth there: Palin's written communications are noticeably more coherent than her efforts to explain herself verbally (witness: Paul Revere-gate). 

Meet the Right's New Agent of Intolerance

| Fri Jun. 17, 2011 10:33 AM EDT

With Texas Gov. Rick Perry teaming up with the American Family Association (considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) for a mega-event in Houston next August, the liberal watchdog group People for the American Way is out with a new report looking at one of the group's leading lights—issues director Bryan Fischer. Fischer, as we've previously noted, has used his radio show, Focal Point, and column to articulate a fiercely anti-gay agenda; he's called gays "Nazis" and advocated for the criminalization of homosexuality. (He shares the same disdain, incidentally, for grizzly bears and killer whales.) It's a pretty comprehensive report. Here's a sample:

Fischer's roots in anti-gay bigotry go back to his days as head of the Idaho Values Alliance, when he promoted Scott Lively, the former head of AFA’s California chapter. Lively's book, The Pink Swastika, blames gays for the rise of fascism and the Holocaust.

On Focal Point, Fischer not only defends Lively, but espouses the view that gays were responsible for the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. According to Fischer:

"Hitler recruited around him homosexuals to make up his stormtroopers, they were his enforces, they were his thugs, and Hitler discovered that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage, and brutal, and vicious enough to carryout his orders, but that homosexual soldiers basically had no limits in the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whoever Hitler sent them after. So he surrounded himself, virtually all of the stormtroopers, the brownshirts, were male homosexuals."

I would just add, riffing off of what Dave Weigel wrote earlier this week about Michele Bachmann, that it's important to understand Fischer isn't simply going off the rails when he says things like this. What makes him such a powerful advocate is that his message is actually steeped in loads and loads of research—not accurate research, mind you, but research nonetheless. Through books like The Pink Swastika, or the collected works of David Barton, there's a carefully crafted alternative historical narrative that give Fischer's incendiary views the illusion of legitimacy. The result is a remarkably potent and durable echo chamber, buttressed even further, as the report notes, by Fischer's cheery relationship with prominent conservatives like Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty (both of whom have appeared on Focal Point).

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