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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South Carolina's New GOP Senator Less Crazy Than the Old One

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 1:44 PM EST
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced she will appoint Rep. Tim Scott (R) to fill the seat soon-to-be vacated by Sen. Jim DeMint, who is leaving the world's most deliberative body to take over the Heritage Foundation. The good folks at Right Wing Watch say this is just more of the same, blasting out a press release claiming Scott is "DeMint's Double." As Right Wing Watch notes, Scott opposes gay marriage. Scott opposes Obamacare. Scott's campaign website features its very own "Prayer Team," led by "Prayer Team Warriors."

No, really, the Prayer Team was a thing. Here's their most recent set of instructions:

  • Please pray for discernment to the Holy Spirit and for heavenly wisdom.
  • Please pray that the Lord would protect Tim, his family and staff members – for good health and safe travels.
  • Please pray for our nation and all our leaders and citizens -that we would heed the call of 2 Chronicles 7:14 and humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways.
  • Praise God in all things and thank Him for all He is doing.

Tim Scott is a pretty conservative guy, as you'd expect from a Republican congressman from South Carolina, and he will be a pretty conservative senator. But it takes a special kind of crazy to truly replace DeMint, and Scott has given little indication that he's got it. Scott has issued no warnings about the evils posed by single women and gay men teaching in public schools. He's made no attempts to ban people on the Internet from talking about abortion. He hasn't tried to put a hold on the National Women's History Museum. And for Democrats, that's what makes Scott so dangerous. He's beloved by his colleagues but has an inoffensive demeanor; Jim DeMint is the guy who literally eats lunch by himself.

Meanwhile, I'll just note that Jamelle Bouie saw Scott's promotion coming back in March.

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Poll: Conservatives Have Forgotten About Hillary's Cat Assassination

| Thu Dec. 13, 2012 11:53 AM EST
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On Wednesday, Public Policy Polling continued its tradition of releasing somewhat incongruous survey results we didn't know we wanted but clicked on anyway. The latest: Per Tom Jensen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is so popular right now that if she ran for president, she'd put Kentucky in play:

If Hillary Clinton was the Democratic candidate for President in 2016, she could win Kentucky. Against one of its home state Senators, Rand Paul. Despite the fact that the Republican nominee has won the state by at least 15 points in each of the last four Presidential elections. That, maybe more than any other data point that's come out in the last month, shows what a formidable candidate she would be and how important it is for Democrats that she run.

Clinton has a 48/42 favorability rating with Kentucky voters. By comparison Barack Obama's approval rating is 38/59. Clinton would lead Rand Paul 47-42 and Marco Rubio 48-40 in hypothetical match ups. That's because Clinton gets 73-74% of the Democratic vote in those match ups, similar to the 72-73% of the Republican vote that Paul and Rubio get. The reason Democrats lose time after time in Kentucky despite having a large registration advantage is that a very large number of Democrats don't vote Democratic for President, but Clinton would win over a lot of the party faithful who have declined to support Obama, Kerry, and Gore.

It'd make sense that Clinton, the former first lady of Arkansas, would outperform President Obama and a senator from Boston in the heart of Appalachia. It also makes sense that a secretary of state, removed from the day-to-day grind of the fiscal cliff feuds and contraception fights, would be more appealing to the general population than a senator who's in the middle of both of those things.

But the poll is useless for another reason: Conservatives will probably learn to hate Hillary Clinton again. It wasn't so long ago that the conservative fever swamps were filled with wild accusations of her lesbian past and her murder of Vince Foster—a theory parroted by, among others, Rush Limbaugh. The actual film at the heart of the Citizens United decision, a 2008 attack-umentary Hillary: The Movie, trumpeted the (false) claim that Hillary Clinton had killed a cat. As my colleague Stephanie Mencimer reported at the time:

An alleged victim of the former president's sexual advances, Kathleen Willey, appears in the film a decade after her moment on the national stage. Willey shows extensive signs of plastic surgery and paranoia and reprises some of the material from her recent book, Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton. In a taut-lipped interview, she suggests that after her name surfaced in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton, the Clintons arranged to have her kitty assassinated. Willey, who attended last night's screening, says she got an anonymous phone call taunting her about her missing cat and later discovered a cat skull on her porch. She says a private investigator tipped her off that the White House was having her investigated.

The idea of Hillary Clinton as a much-loved bipartisan figure is a relatively recent invention—and a fleeting one at that.

Bachmann Says Obama Seeks to "Lift up Islamists"

| Wed Dec. 12, 2012 1:41 PM EST
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) flamed out of the GOP presidential race and barely held onto her House seat in November, polling 15 points behind Mitt Romney in the state's most conservative congressional district. This is where a typical member of Congress might reflect for a moment, tone down the rhetoric, and focus on nuts-and-bolts legislative issues to win back her constituents. Michele Bachmann is not typical.

Last weekend, she made a guest appearance on Understanding the Times, a radio show devoted to End Times prophecy whose host, Jan Markell, believes that Harry Potter is a "gateway to the occult" and that President Obama is poised to declare himself "One World President." (Bachmann has been a frequent guest on the show and even wrote an endorsement for Markell's Biblical prophecy conference, at which a keynote speaker warned that a two-state solution would give rise to the antichrist.)

Here's a recent newsletter from Markell's ministry:

Note from Jan: Prophecy teacher Jack Kelley writes about a man who may be waiting in the wings: The Antichrist. The world longs for a leader. The world thought they had it in Barack Obama in 2008. Now they wonder again. As we see evil arise in a shocking manner in these "days of Noah," be encouraged that it is leading to a day when there will be a shout and the sound of a trumpet. And in the twinkling of an eye, we will leave this throbbing planet. I can almost hear the hoof beats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Look over a ridge and you will see them on the way.

Here's another:

We're in the fast lane to the end of the age now. We have a Buddhist, a Muslim, and a Hindu in Congress so we're one nation under many gods. We're heading even more into rampant acceptance of same-sex marriage, abortion, and legalized recreational marijuana. Evil is called good and good is called evil. Do you have any doubt that we are officially in the "days of Noah?"

The subject of Bachmann's interview on Tuesday? Creeping Shariah. Via Right Wing Watch, Bachmann alleged that President Obama and Secretary of State of Hillary Clinton want to "lift up Islamists" and have done the Muslim Brotherhood's bidding. According to Bachmann, the Obama administration supports censorship of speech that's critical of Islam, something that will bring the world one step closer to Islamist domination:

Once you take away people’s ability to be able to speak, this is not a small right, this is everything, it is game over because then all of the power and authority has been given over to the Islamist. The Islamist is the only one who gets to dictate what we can say and what we can do, and what we can print and what we not print, and who can assembly and how they can assemble, because at that point Sharia Islamic law in effect becomes the law of the land because the Islamist gets to have the authority, not anyone who opposes Islam. This is a very, very important issue.

Bachmann is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Obama Data Guru: I'm Not a Sorcerer, I'm You

| Thu Dec. 6, 2012 10:54 AM EST
OFA data director Ethan Roeder.

Now that the campaign is finally over the non-disclosure agreements are starting to lapse, Obama campaign veterans are starting to come forward to tell their stories of what worked and what didn't. (Sometimes in these very pages.) Today, it's Ethan Roeder's turn. In a New York Times op-ed, the campaign's data director says he's nothing like what you've heard:

I've grown accustomed to reading inaccurate accounts of my day job. I'm in political data.

If I'm not spying on private citizens through the security cam in the parking garage, I’m probably sifting through their garbage for discarded pages from their diaries or deploying billions of spambots to crack into their e-mail. Reading what others muse about my profession is the opposite of my middle-school experience: people with only superficial information about me make a bunch of assumptions to fill in what’s missing and decide that I’m an all-knowing super-genius.

Sadly for me, this is a bunch of malarkey. You may chafe at how much the online world knows about you, but campaigns don’t know anything more about your online behavior than any retailer, news outlet or savvy blogger.

Roeder's right that OFA wasn't digging through confidential records or sifting through dumpsters. But that's also not an allegation I've heard anyone make. Nor is it really the case that the campaign was working with the same set of information that's available to a news outlet or savvy blogger. Detailed donor histories aren't publicly available. Nor are party files, which included notes on caucusing and volunteering and issue preference. And even the savviest of bloggers don't purchase bulk consumer databases. The campaigns are doing more or less what big retailers are doing, but in the eyes of privacy watchdogs, that's kind of the point: As I put it in a piece for the magazine back in September, "In practice, the Obama team isn't doing anything private companies haven't already been doing for a few years. But the scope of its operation represents a major shift for politics—voters expect to be able to obsessively analyze information about the candidates, not the other way around."

There's a lot more in the Times op-ed, and Roeder does a good job of explaining the campaign's real breakthrough—figuring out what to do with all of this data to maximize every interaction it had with voters, donors, and volunteers. Go read his whole piece

Texas Secessionists Have a Political Action Committee Now

| Wed Dec. 5, 2012 1:53 PM EST

Membership in the pro-secession Texas Nationalist Movement has increased 400 percent since President Barack Obama won re-election on November 5—or so the TMN claims. Last week, the group has announced on its website that it's taking the next step: forming a political action committee:

The Texas Nationalist Movement on Tuesday filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission appointing a treasurer for the Texas Nationalist Movement Political Action Committee (TNM-PAC), signaling the organization's most significant venture into the legislative process in pursuit of Texas independence.

TNM president Daniel Miller said the TNM-PAC was formed "for the purpose of supporting and endorsing candidates at all levels that are in-line with the mission, vision and values of the Texas Nationalist Movement."

The Texas Nationalist Movement's foray into the world of campaign finance is its biggest step yet in an effort to enter—and eventually become—the political mainstream. It's also peaceful, which is a noted break from another modern-day Texas secession movement, the Republic of Texas, which was helmed by an eccentric named Richard McLaren who launched an armed invasion and occupation of his neighbor's house in Far West Texas in the 1990s.

TNM-PAC doesn't mention any specific candidates it plans to support, but from the site it's possible to speculate. Perennial candidate Larry Kilgore, who recently changed his middle name to "SECEDE" (yes, allcaps), received 250,000 votes in the 2008 GOP Senate primary and is planning on running for governor in two years. (Among his other issues: instituting the death penalty as a punishment for adultery) The group also touts on its site a November lecture on secession by Wes Riddle, a blogger and historic theater owner who lost a 2010 U.S. House primary despite picking up an endorsement from retiring Rep. Ron Paul.

One candidate TNM-PAC probably won't be supporting: Governor-for-life and occasional secessionist-sympathizer Rick Perry, whose office told the Dallas Morning-News last month that he "believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it."

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