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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The Tea Party's Trojan Horse

| Fri Feb. 19, 2010 11:45 AM EST

On Wednesday, a slew of prominent conservatives, including Grover Norquist and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, unveiled the Mount Vernon Statement, a declaration of principlesof conservatives, by conservatives, for conservativesmeant to guide the movement forward. The Mount Vernon Statement wasn't actually signed at Mount Vernon, and it's not much of a statement, either: The text could have just as easily been churned out by some sort of "automatic conservative manifesto generator"which, given the slew of conservative manifestos with a 2010 release date, would probably save everyone some time. But while the statement won't show up in the National Archives any time soon, liberals would be foolish to ignore it.

Here's why: By embracing the Tea Party's Founding Fathers meme, it offers a roadmap for how social conservatives plan on piggybacking off of the Tea Party's success to re-engerize their own base. The structure and message of the Tea Party movement is remarkably similar to that offered for decades by the religious right; they share the same heroes, the same literature (The 5000 Year Leap, for instance), and reverence for the same Founding documents; if it weren't for the tri-cornered hats, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the two groups apart. Those similarities aren't lost on social conservative leaders. As Sarah Posner has argued at Religion Dispatches, there are already plenty of indiciations that activists of the Religious Right and Tea Partiers, to the extent that they're actually distinct from each other, have been increasingly linking arms. (Ralph Reed has been pretty obviously trying to do just that with his new Faith and Freedom Coalition.)

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Should We Really Elect School Boards?

| Wed Feb. 17, 2010 1:32 PM EST

By now pretty much everyone has read Russell Shorto's New York Times Magazine cover story on the Texas state board of education. The whole controversy is kind of fascinating, but one aspect of the Texas textbook wars that can't be overstated is the skill with which conservative activists, in Texas and elsewhere, have exploited the democratic processmost notably by packing school boardsto advance their cultural agenda. Shorto digs up a pretty telling quote from Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition: "I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members."

That's probably right. After all, if you have a thousand school-board members, there's a pretty good chance that no one will even notice; it's a stealth revolution. With that in mind, I think Sara Mead nails it at Eduwonk:

Although it varies by state, Americans tend to elect a whole bunch of public officials, including a lot of officials in relatively obscure roles....that aren’t well understood by the public. Most voters, who have limited time and energy to devote to these issues, can’t possibly follow the performance and positions of all these officials. Having more of them be appointed by mayors, governors, and other public officials who are better known to voters may actually increase accountability.

America's Greatest Threat: Flashcards

| Fri Feb. 12, 2010 9:50 PM EST

Yesterday, Pomona College senior Nicholas George, backed by the ACLU, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that TSA and FBI agents stomped all over his First and Fourth Amendment rights by detaining him for five hours after they discovered a set of Arabic flashcards and political science books in his backpack. The complaint is worth reading in full (here's the pdf version), but this section in particular is worth highlighting:

TSA Supervisor: You know who did 9/11?
George: Osama bin Laden.
TSA Supervisor: Do you know what language he spoke?
George: Arabic.

Then, according to the complaint, the TSA supervisor held up George's flashcards and asked, "Do you see why these cards are suspicious?"

Uh, no. Another choice nugget: "During their questioning, for example, the FBI agents repeatedly asked Mr. George why he had chosen to study physics at a liberal arts college such as Pomona." (I wonder if his answer was anything like this?).

Another Truther in Texas

| Fri Feb. 12, 2010 9:28 PM EST

Yesterday I blogged about the political implosion of Debra Medina, the Tea Partier whose Texas gubernatorial campaign came to a crashing halt when she was outed as a 9/11 truther by Glenn Beck (even he has his limits, apparently). Maybe there's something in the water in Texas, because a few hours ago, hair-care baron Farouk Shami, one of two major Democratic candidates, joined Medina in lala-land. Here's what he told a Dallas TV station when asked whether he believed 9/11 was an inside job:

“I'm not sure. I am not going to really judge or answer about something I'm not really sure about. But the rumors are there that there was a conspiracy. True or not? It's hard to believe, you know, what happened. It's really hard to comprehend what happened. Maybe. I'm not sure.

Does this make the Truther conspiracy bi-partisan? For more Texas Tea Party blogging, check out Kevin's take on Debra Medina.

Glenn Beck Outs Truther Candidate

| Thu Feb. 11, 2010 4:01 PM EST

Texas gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, a state-sovereignty advocate, may have expected her interview today on Glenn Beck's radio program to be a big break. Instead she put on a show that at the very least should make Sarah Palin feel a better about her disastrous Katie Couric interview. Medina plodded along for a few minutes—perhaps a little too eagerly—until Beck asked whether she was was a 9/11 Truther. And that's when Medina's campaign blew up like a frozen can of Cola:

Beck: Do you believe the government was in any way involved with the bringing down of the World Trade Centers on 9/11?

Medina: I don't have all the evidence there, Glenn. So I am not in a place, I am not out there publicly questioning that. I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There are some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I've not taken a position on that.

Finally, Beck cut her off, saying, "Debra, you've answered the question." Then he ended the interview and poured on the mockery:

"I.... [makes crashing sound] while I don't endorse anyone, I think I can write her off the list! [Laughs.] Let me take another look at Kay Bailey Hutchison if I have to! [More laughter.] Rick [Perry], I think you and I could French kiss right now!.... WOW! WOW! The fastest way back to 4%! [Yet more laughter.] Phoo! Ho-ly Cow!"

You can listen to the interview here.

Medina almost immediately put out a statement asserting that "Muslim Terrorists" were responsible for 9/11, but it might be too late for her. An un-dorsement from Beck isn't likely to bolster her fundraising or win over undecidedstwo things she sorely needed to do to have a chance on March 2. As Texas Monthly's Eileen Smith spun it, "If you can make Glenn Beck look like a perfectly rational human being, you need serious help."

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