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.

Get my RSS |

What Else Should Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio Investigate?

"America's Toughest Sheriff" is now investigating President Obama's birth certificate.

| 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.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Bachmann on Teen Suicides: "Not a Federal Issue"

The Minnesota Congresswoman is still not talking about the "suicide contagion" in her district.

| 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.

Michele Bachmann's Gay Biblical Alter Ego

Does the congresswoman know that her Old Testament hero was David's very special friend?

| Fri Sep. 16, 2011 6:00 AM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says she's a 21st-century version of Saul's son, Jonathan.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has a habit of breaking out Old Testament references when she speaks to religious audiences. She has previously compared her (increasingly) small but determined band of followers to the Men of Issachar, one of the 12 Tribes of Israel that helped ward off the Canaanite invasion in the Book of Judges. Like Bachmann's teavangelicals, the Men of Issachar were reclaiming their godly inheritance after the Israelites had lost their way. It's also one of the only instances in the Bible in which men are led into battle by a woman—Deborah.

But now, with her presidential campaign on the ropes, the Minnesota congresswoman seems to have picked a new Biblical alter ego; we're not sure she really thought this one through. Via MinnPost, this is what she told the conservative activists at RightOnline last week in June:

I want to call to mind in remembrance a hero of mine. And he's from ancient Israel. And from history we know, in the recorded annals of time, that this was someone considered more inconsequential, but to me he had an inspiring, powerful story.

His name was Jonathan. And it was in ancient Israel. His father was king. He was the first king of ancient Israel and his name was King Saul.

And there was another battle that Israel faced. And that battle was with a group of people called the Philistines. And the Philistines had a position of power. And they were up on a cliff during the time of this battle.

Then, as the story goes, Jonathan and a comrade scaled the cliff and defeated the entire Philistine army by themselves.

If the story ended there, that would be a fantastic metaphor for what Bachmann would like to accomplish as a candidate. The story of Jonathan does not end there, however. Given his lineage and heroics in battle, Jonathan was considered the front-runner to become the next head of state. But another, more charismatic (literally) rural farm boy came along and won over the base by killing a coyote with a Rueger killing a giant with a slingshot. Jonathan and Saul died tragically in battle on top of Mount Gilboa; David became king.

Goliath's severed head can only watch.: Wikimedia CommonsGoliath's severed head can only watch. Wikimedia CommonsBut there's another twist: Jonathan's mostly famous because of his very close personal relationship with David, with some scholars going so far as to suggest that they might have been lovers. Jonathan and David have been cited by gay rights activists as proof that gay rights are biblically enshrined, as well as by Oscar Wilde—at his trial for homosexuality. The Book of Samuel describes the relationship thusly: "The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." Their friendship led to a falling out between Saul and his son, after Jonathan pleads with the king to stop trying to kill David.

So were they actually lovers? It's hardly the mainstream view, but it's a theory that's out there: Dartmouth religion professor Susan Ackerman wrote a book about it. Here's how she synthesizes the "Jonathan and David were gay" (or at least bisexual) argument, seizing on the pair's falling out with Jonathan's father:

[A]s Schroer and Staubli particularly argue, the language Saul uses in his diatribe is extremely sexually charged, so much so that we may be meant to interpret it also in sexual terms; that is, to understand this charged language is used in Saul's insults because Saul perceives his son's misdeeds to be sexual as well as political. According, then, to Schroer and Staubli, Jonathan has not only engaged in "the political scandal of a royal son betraying father and kingdom for the sake of a stranger, but also the effrontery of homosexual love."

Bachmann, for her part, has described homosexuality as "personal bondage" and a "dysfunction" and alleged that gay marriage is an "earthquake issue" that could shake American society to its core. Given the way her campaign gone since Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race, though, perhaps Bachmann should have just gone with Job.

Front page image: Wikimedia; Davie Hinshaw/Charlotte Observer/Zuma

Thu Aug. 13, 2015 6:00 AM EDT
Wed Aug. 12, 2015 10:46 AM EDT
Thu Jul. 2, 2015 11:31 AM EDT
Fri Jun. 12, 2015 11:59 AM EDT
Wed May. 27, 2015 1:00 PM EDT
Wed Feb. 11, 2015 11:46 AM EST