Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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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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Herman Cain's Muslim Problem

| Wed May 25, 2011 10:33 AM EDT

On Tuesday, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain dropped by Glenn Beck's radio program to argue that his previous promise to not appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet had been "misconstrued." As he put it: "I did not say that I would not have them in my cabinet. If you look at my career, I have hired good people regardless of race, religion, sex gender, orientation, and this kind of thing."

Cain's position now is that only radical Muslims would be prohibited from serving in his administration. That sounds reasonable. Except he told Laura Ingraham in April that he's never met a Muslim who didn't fit his definition of a radical—and in the same interview, alleged that Rep. Keith Ellison (D–Minn.), who's Muslim, has pledged his loyalty to Allah, not the Constitution. But even if Cain's original statement, and subsequent defenses of it, were misconstrued, he still hasn't adequately explained the rest of what he told Think Progress back in April.

When asked for examples of the "creeping attempt...to gradually ease" Islamic sharia law into the American judicial system he explained:

One judge did it up in New Jersey, and ruled in a case. Then last week we heard about a judge down in was it Texas? It might have been Texas where a judge said there was a dispute in a mosque and he was gonna consider 'eclesiastical' law in his deliberations, because of a dispute that was going on inside a mosque. This is the United States of America. Just because it's going on inside a mosque doesnt mean you execute the laws based on what's going on in the [mosque]."

Cain is right: This is the United States of America. But everything else here is inaccurate. In the civil case in question—which was in Florida, not Texas—the judge (a Republican) ruled that he was going to use "ecclesiastical" law because both parties had agreed, per their mutually agreed-upon contract, to settle their dispute through ecclesiastical Islamic law, in the form of a Muslim arbitrator. That's totally normal; Christians and Jews also take advantage of independent arbitrators to settle disputes. If the government were to ban the use of such forums, it would mark a dramatic encroachment on the First Amendment's freedom of religion—I'm fairly certain that Herman Cain doesn't want to run for President on the platform of restricting Christians' free exercise rights. The actual trial, the judge noted, would be conducted according to Florida civil law; he was simply assessing whether the arbitration process had been handled properly.

Anyone can make a gaffe, which is how Cain is spinning his "no Muslims" comment. But the more serious problem isn't that Cain misspoke; it's that he has taken an extreme, unconstitutional position based on a conspiracy theory that could have been debunked in 30 seconds.

Is Rudy Giuliani Really Gonna Run for President?

| Tue May 24, 2011 9:41 AM EDT

The GOP presidential field looks like it's starting to gel, but, via Byron York, Rep. Peter King (R–N.Y.) says we might see one more familiar face:

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose presidential campaign fizzled in 2008, is leaning toward another race for the White House, according to a close associate. New York Republican Rep. Peter King, who has known Giuliani for more than 40 years, says the former mayor "is very close to saying he's going to run."

"If he were to make the decision today, he would run," says King.

Giuliani wouldn't be the most perplexing name floated for the GOP presidential nomination. That honor belongs to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), who you'll probably have to Wikipedia, or perhaps King himself, who told supporters he would consider running if he thought it would be good for the Nassau County Republican Party.

But I'd be pretty skeptical of the latest Rudy rumor (there have been rumblings for a while), for the very simple reason that there doesn't seem to be any conceivable way Giuliani, thrice-married and previously supportive of abortion and gay rights, would win the Republican nomination. If anything, his odds in 2012 might be even worse than his chances in 2008, when he flopped fantastically. Since then, he's launched a second career consulting for South American police forces and lobbied for an Iranian dissident group that's considered a terrorist group by the State Department (which at least one law professor has suggested would count as material support for terrorism). Meanwhile, his signature issue—his handling of 9/11—almost certainly lost any vestigal relevance when Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan last month. Oh, and then there's this guy.

Kind of an uphill struggle, in other words.

Focus on the Family Head: "We've Probably Lost" on Gay Marriage

| Mon May 23, 2011 9:08 AM EDT

Last week, a Gallup poll showed that a majority of Americans support gay marriage. It was the third such survey this spring, and if you add in the number of Americans who support civil unions, public support for same-sex relationships has become the dominant position. Anti-gay marriage activists, though, aren't going down quietly; in Minnesota, a bill to put an anti-gay marriage referendum on the 2012 ballot recently passed the House, and conservatives in Iowa (with an assist from Newt Gingrich) successfully ousted three state supreme court judges who had ruled the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. But this is a far cry from the days of, oh, 2004, when a flurry of anti-gay marriage propositions at the state level helped propel President George W. Bush to a second term.

So how far has the pendulum swung? Even Jim Daly, president of the right-wing group Focus on the Family, seems to be waving the white flag. Here's what he told the evangelical World magazine in its June issue:

We're winning the younger generation on abortion, at least in theory. What about same-sex marriage? We're losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don't know if that's going to change with a little more age—demographers would say probably not. We've probably lost that. I don't want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.

Daly has taken a more conciliatory approach to to traditional hot-button issues than his predecessor at Focus, James Dobson, so perhaps it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to see him speak so candidly. (For more on the shift to a kinder, gentler, skinny jeans-ier Focus on the Family, check out Stephanie Mencimer's piece on the group's hipster makeover.) But it can't help the anti-gay religious right to have such a prominent social conservative say that the crusade against gay marriage has essentially been lost and that it's time to accept that reality and move on.

This isn't a permanent cease-fire; Daly merely thinks that Christians need to get their own marriages in order before lecturing from the moral high ground: "What if the Christian divorce rate goes from 40 percent to 10 percent or 5 percent, and the world's goes from 50 percent to 80 percent? Now we're back to the early centuries. They're looking at us and thinking, 'We want more of what they've got.'" As he puts it, "we should start with how to get dads reconnected to the family and committed to their marriages."

Come to think of it, isn't that what an organization called "Focus on the Family" should have been doing all along?

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