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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Michele Bachmann's Last Dance in Iowa

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

When Michele Bachmann was riding high, her campaign had a certain Hollywood feel. Hundreds of supporters packed into a steamy, smelly revival tent in Ames to hear her and country superstar Randy Travis before the Iowa Straw Poll. She kept a county fundraiser in Waterloo waiting until the lights at the Electric Park Ballroom hall had been set to her preference, and everything was just so, before bounding onto the stage—to Elvis, her favorite. The Bachmann campaign played up her celebrity appeal, the idea that you weren't showing up to see just another presidential candidate. At her campaign kickoff event in Iowa, I met a family who had driven five hours from St. Cloud, Minnesota, in matching t-shirts emblazoned with "Michele Bachmann, Super Hero" on the front. Has anyone ever bedazzled anything for Rick Santorum?

Things are different now, in the final days before the Iowa caucuses. The media gaggle that once traipsed after Bachmann has thinned out. She no longer ends speeches by inviting supporters to stick around for souvenirs (although she still signs them) and apple pie. And instead of Elvis, Bachmann's jingle of choice is now Train's "Hey Soul Sister," a song the Village Voice once described as a "warm washcloth of facepalmy puns and cutey-poo pukulele." In the parking lot of Legends American Grill in Marshalltown, the 98th and penultimate stop on her weeklong tour of Iowa's 99 counties, Bachmann bounces out of her bus, pukulele on the speakers, doles out a few hugs and handshakes, and spends about 30 seconds cutting the rug with a 9-year-old boy in a blue Marshalltown Bobcats t-shirt. "I'll dance with you anytime," she says, high-fiving. "Do you know that song? Do ya?" He nods yes. They pose for a photo, Bachmann crouching at the boy's side, and she makes him a promise: "I'm gonna dance with you again sometime, okay?" The iPhone cameras pop out, reporters scramble for the kid's name, all seems well in Bachmann world.

Your Daily Newt: A Bay of Pigs for Bosnia

This is a painting of Newt Gingrich.

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 put his foot squarely in his mouth last March when he condemned the enactment of a no-fly-zone in Libya just two weeks after calling for a no-fly-zone in Libya. It was an obvious reversal—but not without precedent.

In November 1994, Gingrich balked at a $5 billion aid package for Bosnia, calling the conflict in Yugoslavia "a European problem" that should be resolved by America's European allies. Just one month later, though, he'd had a change of heart. That December, Gingrich called for the complete removal of European peacekeepers, to be followed by a stepped-up American air presence leading up to a Bay of Pigs-style exile invasion (again with American air support). The idea, as reported by the New York Times' Elaine Sciolino, was as follows:

After the peacekeepers withdrew, "You would say to the Serbs, 'We insist on a general cease-fire and we are telling you right now we reserve the right to hit every target in every part of the country simultaneously if you don't stand down,'" he said. "We're not going to play games. We're going to take out your command and control. We're going to take out all of your inventory. We're going to take anything that moves on your roads. We're going to take down every bridge in your part of the country. We're going to break you, and we're going to do it in three days."

Meanwhile, the United States would mount a covert operation to airlift part of the Bosnian Government Army to a friendly country such as Egypt, Israel or Morocco for training and arming by the Americans.

And Mr. Gingrich would do that even though, as he told the town meeting, "I don't think the Bosnians are any angels either."

"If they were winning, they'd be about as brutal as the Serbs."

Gingrich's reasoning was simple. Although he now considers the UN to be a "corrupt, inept, bureaucratic machine" that infringes on American sovereignty, Gingrich felt that the Serbs had disrepected the international body and needed to be taught a lesson. It was a dramatic reversal—one that made the conservative foreign policy establishment more than a little uneasy.

But at least Gingrich had an exit strategy. As he told Sciolino, "If they can't win, we should surrender."

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

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.

Is this "a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich"? Perhaps not. But this lede, from Karen Tumulty and Nancy Gibbs at Time, is worth making an exception for:

Newt Gingrich had a favorite game when he was growing up in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. His pal Dennis Yantz would pretend to beat him up and leave him crumpled on the curb. "When a car would pull up to see what was wrong," Yantz recalls, "Newt would jump up and scream 'SURPRISE!' We would do this over and over again." For some reason, Yantz says, Newt always wanted to be the one who played dead.

And that, in a nutshell, is the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

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.

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

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