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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Paul Revere's Ride, Reimagined by Sarah Palin

| Fri Jun. 3, 2011 11:41 AM EDT

On Thursday, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin passed through Boston as part of her totally-not-a-presidential-campaign-test-run, family-vacation (yeah, right) East Coast bus tour. Because the purported mission of the trip is to help Americans "appreciate the significance of our nation's historic sites, patriotic events and diverse cultures," the former half-term Alaska governor did what most tour groups do when they come to the city: she checked out the Freedom Trail, which winds past historic landmarks like the Old North Church and Paul Revere's house. As she explained on her blog, "There's so much history here.  It's amazing how much of our nation's history can be found in just two and a half miles on the Freedom Trail." There certainly is a lot of history to be found on the Freedom Trail, but Palin appears to have lost most of it.

Here's how she described Paul Revere's famous ride:

…he who warned the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringin' those bells and, um, makin' sure as he's ridin' his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we're gonna be secure and we were gonna be free. And we we're gonna be armed.

This is actually the opposite of everything Paul Revere did. He wasn't sending any messages to the British soldiers who were about to move on the patriots' weapons stockpiles and arrest key leaders. According to history, Revere was warning the Minutemen that the Brits were coming so these militia members could prepare. He did not ring any bells. He instructed a friend to put either one or two lights in the tower of the Old North Church ("one if by land, two if by sea"). He did not fire any warning shots. His ride at the time was no act of symbolism; it was a stealth operation in support of a local resistance movement whose goals at that point remained largely undefined.

Palin's Revere narrative is the latest in an emerging, alternative history of the American Revolution as researched by Republican presidential candidates. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) floated her own contrarian theory last month when she told a crowd in New Hampshire that "It's your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world, you are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard." That mistake—Lexington and Concord are in Massachusetts—would seem a lot more accidental if she hadn't made it twice—in prepared remarks. (In a related incident, she suggested that the Founding Fathers tried to abolish slavery.) Herman Cain, the former pizza titan who's currently polling in second in Iowa, recently told Americans to "reread" the Constitution: "When you get to the part about 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' don't stop there, keep reading." But if you're trying to read the Constitution and you come across the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,' you should really stop, because you will have been reading the Declaration of Independence.

We don't mean to nitpick—we just think that if you launch a major publicity tour on the subject of great moments in American history, it might make sense to brush up on the details first. We can only imagine how Palin might try to spin this: "Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. If the story doesn't sound like what you read on Wikipedia, you know who to blame: the elite liberal media."

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Wait, is Paul Ryan Running for President Now?

| Fri Jun. 3, 2011 10:38 AM EDT

Is Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Wis.) running for President? Like Matt Yglesias, I think that's the clear takeaway from his address to the conservative Alexander Hamilton Society last night. Via the Weekly Standard

Ryan squarely rejected the position of increased isolationism. "Today, some in this country relish the idea of America's retreat from our role in the world," Ryan said. "They say that it's about time for other nations to take over, that we should turn inward, that we should reduce ourselves to membership on a long list of mediocre has-beens."

He continued, "Instead of heeding these calls to surrender, we must renew our commitment to the idea that America is the greatest force for human freedom the world has ever seen."

There's nothing new there substance-wise; what's notable is that it's Ryan who's saying it. He's the chairman of the House budget committee, and that's more or less all he talks about. His views on foreign policy are about as relevant as his views on the planking craze.

That is, unless he's got something bigger on his mind. Although he's previously denied any interest in entering the race, those denials are beginning to take a less definitive tone. Asked last night by Fox News' Neil Cavuto whether he'd consider running, Ryan offered a non-answer: "I want to see how this field develops." This morning, meanwhile, he addressed Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Conference, where he shared the bill with GOP presidential contenders Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain—not the kind of place you'd expect to find a congressman with a (carefully crafted) reputation as an affable budget wonk.

It's no secret that Republicans are unhappy with their current field of candidates. Hence the constant pining for Chris Christie, or Mitch Daniels, or Jeb Bush, or Rick Perry (that Rick Perry). And in that sense, the Wisconsin congressman seems like a natural choice. Ryan's budget, which would phase out Medicare, has quickly become the centerpiece of the GOP's domestic agenda. Who better to lead the party into the 2012 election than Ryan himself?

Unhappy With Candidates, GOPers Turn to...Unpopular Governor?

| Thu Jun. 2, 2011 10:48 AM EDT

It's a matter of public record that, at least at this point in the campaign, Republican primary voters really don't like their 2012 options. Hence the constant pining for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (not running), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (not running)—even former Supreme Allied Commander and two-term President Dwight D. Eisenhower (deceased). Now, the new hope for discontented GOPers is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a brash former US Attorney who's become a minor deity on the right on account of his contentious exchanges with (usually) public school teachers. Christie has said he's not running, but continues to hold the kind of meetings you'd hold if you were actually thinking of running. On Tuesday, he met with a delegation of influential Iowa Republicans in Princeton. Per the Des Moines Register:

It's too early to say the Iowa GOP mission to draft in-your-face New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to run for president was unsuccessful, two team members said Wednesday.

Although Christie didn't promise to enter the race during the dinner with the seven Iowa Republicans on Tuesday night, he never flatly declared he wouldn't, said Gary Kirke, a business entrepreneur and an organizer of the recruitment trip.

Consider this: Christie had 13 of his people at the table, all trusted advisers, said Michael Richards, a West Des Moines Republican who also went on the 9½-hour trip.

Of course, as my colleague Andy Kroll has noted, Iowa Republicans are pretty much the only folks who actually seem to like Chris Christie, whose approval ratings in New Jersey have plummeted in the last 12 months. Hey, there's always Rick Perry.

Bachmann in 2006: "We are in the Last Days"

| Wed Jun. 1, 2011 1:16 PM EDT

I have a story up today on how Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's millenial theology shapes her political positions (on Israel, monetary policy, and education, most notably). The likely GOP presidential contender, who cut her teeth in politics as a grassroots Christian activist, has been a frequent guest on "Understanding the Times," a radio program devoted to interpreting current events through the lens of End Times prophecy. Bachmann's no novice when it comes to faith; when she raises the spectre of "One World currency" in an interview with a host who believes the arrival of the Antichrist is being expedited by President Obama's policies, she understands full well the connotation of her words.

Now, via the folks at Dump Bachmann, comes an even clearer explication of Bachmann's views...from Bachmann herself. Here she is in 2006 stating that "we are in the Last Days" (picks up at the 1:20):

The idea that we are living in the "Last Days" is not, at least theologically speaking, particularly radical. Last Days is not meant to be taken literally (i.e. "Thursday"), but rather as an indefinite period, and means that we're in the last "dispensation" before the Rapture. But when taken in conjunction with her associations and Left Behind rhetoric, the picture becomes a lot clearer.

It's also worth noting the context: Bachmann's "Last Days" remark came in a prayer for You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, a heavy-metal ministry that travels to public schools to encourage students to find Christ (on the taxpayers' tab). It's also anti-gay. Very, very anti-gay. As I explained last month, its founder, Bradlee Deen, has suggested that gays caused the Holocaust, and called for gays to be thrown in jail. Until 2009, he was also a member of the Embassy of Heaven, a sovereign citizen organization that's classified as an "anti-government" group by the Department of Justice. (Bachmann has raised money for YCRBYCHI.)

Pat Robertson: Muslims are the New Nazis

| Wed Jun. 1, 2011 9:04 AM EDT

Televangelist Pat Robertson isn't the powerful political force he once was, but as the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, he's still an influential voice on the Christian Right. Yesterday, on his television show, The 700 Club, Robertson delivered a warning to a weary nation: Muslims are the new Nazis:

Robertson: I was thinking, you know, if you oppose Muslims, what is said? Well, you're a bigot, right? Terrible bigotry. I wonder what were people who opposed the Nazis. Were they bigots?  

Co-host: Well, in that day I think they were looked down upon and frowned upon.

Robertson: Why can't we speak out against an institution that is intent on dominating us and imposing Sharia law and making us all part of a universal caliphate? That's the goal of some of these people. Why is that bigoted? Why is it bigoted to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and to say we don't want to live under Nazi Germany?

Not to nitpick here, but people who opposed the Nazis were not "looked down upon and frowned upon" as bigots. This was a few decades ago, so it's understandably a little obscure, but the United States actually went to war with Nazi Germany. There was a movie about it and everything. 

As you'd probably guess, this is hardly the first time Robertson has compared a large and diverse group of people to Nazis:


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