Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Although Tuesday's GOP presidential debate was billed as foreign policy and national security debate, the candidates spent much of the night discussing domestic issues like the Super-Committee and immigration. And that led to one of the night's biggest whoppers—albeit one Republican candidates have a tendency to repeat over and over: The suggestion, from Phil Truluck of the Heritage Foundation, that the southern border has become more and more violent Texas Governor Rick Perry claimed that, under President Obama's watch, the southern border has become more and more violent.

As it happens, the Austin American-Statesman examined the numbers in-depth last month, and reported that in Texas, border violence has actually gone down:

[A] closer look at crime numbers in border counties since 2006 — the year Mexican violence began to spike in earnest — does not reveal evidence of out-of-control chaos. An American-Statesman analysis of all 14 counties that share a border with Mexico and two dozen border cities shows that violent crime along the Texas side of the Rio Grande fell 3.3 percent between 2006 and 2010.

During the same period, the combined number of murders in the 14 counties fell 33 percent, to 73 in 2010 from 97 in 2006.

Further, most counties and cities situated directly across from the worst of the Mexican violence also saw their crime rates decrease, even as thousands were slaughtered on the Mexican side.

Read the whole story.

Update: As a commenter points out, I rushed to put this up without double-checking the transript: Truluck brought up the figure, not Perry. Mea culpa. Perry didn't really answer the question or address the point, although he has made much the same point with regularity—most notably at a debate in September.

Cain and Santorum Call for Airport Profiling

Herman Cain.

Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate in the Belly of the Beast (Washington, DC) began with a lengthy discussion on the Patriot Act and civil liberties. Newt Gingrich announced his whole-hearted support for the controversial law; Ron Paul, his total opposition. When it came to airport security, it was more of the same. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told host Wolf Blitzer he belived the TSA should profile Muslim passengers. Herman Cain suggested that racial profiling might be overly simplistic (this from the creator of 9-9-9), but called for "targeted identification" at airports. As he put it, "the terrorists have one objective that some people don't get, to kill all of us… we should use every means possible to kill them first or identify them first."

The problem is that it's not entirely clear what a terrorist looks like, and judging by Santorum and Cain's answers, it's not clear that they've thought too much about it.

To be sure, TSA screeners should be on the lookout for the guy in the security line with a banana clip yelling "Death to America!" But generally speaking, terrorists don't look like that. Say you wanted to screen for Muslims, as Santorum suggests—how would you know who is a Muslim and who isn't? It's not on your passport, at least not yet. TSA screeners could look at the names and take a guess—but terrorists span the ethnic spectrum and have lots of different-sounding names.  The name "Richard Reid" wouldn't set off many alarm bells. Jose Pimentel, who was arrested in New York City on Sunday on terror charges, was Dominican, and had a Hispanic surname. Are Latinos suspect? Dominicans specifically? What about African-Americans? British nationals? The four Georgia men who plotted to spread ricin inside the Beltway were old white dudes upset about the plastic bag tax. Is Walter Matthau the new face of terror?

Israel has it easy when it comes to profiling. It has one major international airport and it profiles Arabs and doesn't think twice about it. But that's an impossible model to replicate.

The Collected Poems of Willard Mitt Romney

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney reads an original composition to an unsuspecting Nevada retiree.

It has been said that Mitt Romney is awkward.

It is just a vicious rumor, of course; there is nothing to it. But the tag has stuck. Blame the Daily Show; blame the former Massachusetts governor's GOP rivals; blame deadpan press reports like this one. Viewed in that light, Romney's ordinary encounters take on an altogether different complexion. "Andrew is a great name; a lot of good Andrews out there," he told a supporter in New Hampshire on Sunday. "Ian—that's kind of a British name," he told a man named Ian in October. They're fairly ordinary statements (and both true), except Romney is considered awkward, and so those exchanges are, consequently, very awkward.

But there's another way of looking at the wit and mannerisms of the occasional GOP frontrunner: underappreciated poet.

Consider this passage, from a November speech in Troy, Michigan:

I love the lakes.

I love the Great Lakes.

You know, we’ve been to Massachusetts—I love the ocean, too.

I do love the ocean.

Mitt Romney/FlickrMitt Romney/Flickr

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