Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


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.

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Elizabeth Warren vs. Scott Brown: It's On

| Thu Aug. 18, 2011 12:42 PM EDT
Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren has launched an exploratory committee to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

Speculation has been mounting for a while now, but on Thursday Elizabeth Warren appears to have made it official: She intends to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in 2012. The Harvard professor and architect of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has launched a website for her exploratory committee, the likely prelude to a full-scale campaign.

Warren rose to national prominence when President Obama tapped her to run the Congressional Oversight Panel monitoring the TARP bailout in 2009. When the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill created a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—an idea that Warren first developed—she was considered the obvious choice to head the agency. Obama tasked Warren with implementing the new agency, but she quickly became a right-wing target and Obama ultimately nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray for the post.

Brown, who pulled off a stunning upset of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2010 to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, is one of the Democrats' biggest 2012 targets. And Warren, with her reputation as an anti-Wall Street crusader, has been floated as a dream candidate since the day Brown was sworn in. As Glen Johnson noted, Warren has already staffed up in advance of a run, and picked up the support of a third-party fundraising outfit based out of Washington.

So can she win? Well, she'll first have to navigate a crowded Democratic primary which includes Newton mayor Setti Warren (no relation), City Year founder Alan Khazei, and (possibly) Rep. Michael Capuano. Brown, for his part, remains quite popular in Massachusetts, although with Obama on the ballot and an opponent who's willing to shake hands outside Fenway Park, that could change.

Earlier this week, Brown previewed his likely line of attack against Warren, noting in a fundraising email this week that "They are so obsessed with winning this seat back that Washington elitists are trying to push aside local Democrat candidates in favor of Professor Warren from Oklahoma." (Warren has lived in Massachusetts for two decades.)

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Rep. Allen West to Muslim Group: "NUTS!"

| Thu Aug. 18, 2011 10:47 AM EDT

The Miami New-Times says that this letter, from Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) to the Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations "might be the dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery," which is serious charge in a legislative body that also includes Joe Barton:

 Courtesy of CAIRCourtesy of CAIR

The full context here is that West has been locked in a war of words with CAIR, a group he believes is aiding and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood's efforts to destroy America as we know it. West has asserted that Islam is a "totalitarian theocratic political ideology" and, when confronted by a CAIR spokesman at a town hall meeting this spring, said "Don't try to blow sunshine up my butt." When it was revealed that the gunman in the Norway massacre was an avid fan—like West—of some of America's leading Islamophobes, CAIR wrote to the Congressman to ask him to dissociate himself from folks like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

The one-word reply from West, an Army veteran, was a reference to this incident, immortalized in Band of Brothers:

Rick Perry's Overhyped Immigration "Soft Spot"

| Thu Aug. 18, 2011 6:00 AM EDT
Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

One of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's biggest alleged weaknesses in the Republican presidential primary is his less-than-draconian record on immigration. Although Perry has talked a lot about cracking down on undocumented immigrants, he has done little to change Texas' status as a "sanctuary state" and, indeed, he's explicitly rejected the idea of implementing Arizona-style immigration reform. The reason for this is pretty simple: Texas' economic "miracle" is built on on a continued influx of people, as well as a preponderance of low-wage jobs, especially in the housing sector.

That's pragmatic, but today's conservative base isn't looking for pragmatism. So will any of Perry's rivals for the nomination take the bait and attack Perry from the right? Well, here's Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) today in South Carolina:

Bachmann said lax enforcement of immigration laws was a threat to the nation's security. She agreed with a town hall questioner at a Greenville stop that US troops should be redeployed from South Korea to south Texas.

"How do you solve it? You build a barrier, a fence, a wall—whatever you want to call it. You build it," Bachmann said. "As president of the United States, every mile, every yard, every foot, every inch will be covered on that southern border."

The "problem is not our laws on immigration," Bachmann said. "The problem has been in our unwillingness to enforce the laws that are on the books." South Carolina legislators this year passed one of the nation's toughest illegal immigration laws. It goes into effect in December.

What, no alligators? The conservative group Americans for Legal Immigration, for one, concluded that "Michele Bachmann is the first presidential contender of the 2012 race to make border security and illegal immigration a top issue for her campaign."

But without telling anti-immigration groups how to do their job, this doesn't seem quite right. For one, Bachmann hasn't made this a top issue for her campaign; her comments came because she was specifically asked a question about enforcement of immigration laws. Herman Cain, meanwhile, has already made the exact same point, calling for a Great Wall of China-style barrier to be constructed along the southern border. And take a look at this guy:

Hey, that's Rick Perry!

The larger issue here is that every GOP presidential candidate is going to say more or less the exact same thing when it comes to immigration: Secure the border first, and then talk about reform. Enforce the existing laws. Get tough with employers. Etc. Perry's defense of his nonaction in Texas is that it's Washington's fault—which is also his argument about everything else. There are policy differences on immigration between Perry and other members of his party, but I imagine Perry's response will just be to run for B-roll footage of him standing by the border in a big brown jacket. It hasn't failed him yet.

Republicans Divided on Impeaching President Obama

| Wed Aug. 17, 2011 11:13 AM EDT
Impeach President Obama? Some Republicans think it's their only choice.

Yesterday's fringe is the new mainstream, so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that prominent Republicans are stepping up calls for President Obama to be impeached. Over what? They're not entirely sure, but the details can come later. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) raised eyebrows last week when told a constituent it "needs to happen," because "it would tie things up" (he has since backtracked). Sometime presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested back in February that the President could be impeached for his decision not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.

And now, via Politico, here's GOP presidential candidate and tea party favorite Herman Cain, musing that impeaching Obama would be a "great thing to do":

[I]t would be a great thing to do but because the Senate is controlled by Democrats we would never be able to get the Senate first to take up that action, because they simply don’t care what the American public thinks. They would protect him and they wouldn’t even bring it up," Cain said, citing the administration's position on the Defense of Marriage Act as an impeachable offense.

Still, not everyone on the right is banging the impeachment drum. Here's former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is touting the momentum of his fourth-place finish in the Ames straw poll (third among candidates who are still running!), talking about impeachment in the context of Rick Perry's rhetorical, um, flair:

[T]o me the rhetoric that Rick Perry used was sort of the rhetoric I would expect from a John Conyers, talking about President Bush and saying he should be impeached. We don't do that. We don't impeach people, we don't charge people with treason because we disagree with them on public policy. You might say that they're wrong, you might say lots of things about how misguided they are, but you don't up the ante to that type of rhetoric.

Rick Santorum did vote to impeach someone once before, so maybe this jab is just part of his new effort to criticize everything Perry and Michele Bachmann do or say. But if there is a movement to impeach the president, there's still a lot more work to be done. When I asked Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)—who recently stated that the Libyan intervention was a false flag operation to allow the implementation of Obamacare—about Burgess' comments last week, he declined to comment. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), perhaps the president's biggest critic in Congress, told me he didn't think impeachment just for impeachment's sake made much sense, and that there was nothing, at least at the moment, that would necessitate such proceedings.

That isn't to say that things won't pick up again should President Obama win reelection. But for now, Republicans looking to throw the president out of the Oval Office have a much simpler path: the ballot box.

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