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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It's Okay to Not Feel Bad For Mitt Romney

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 1:25 PM EST

After ending his six-year campaign for president, the Washington Post reports that Mitt Romney doesn't quite know what to do with himself:

Gone are the minute-by-minute schedules and the swarm of Secret Service agents. There’s no aide to make his peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. Romney hangs around the house, sometimes alone, pecking away at his iPad and e-mailing his CEO buddies who have been swooping in and out of La Jolla to visit.

...

One longtime counselor contrasted Romney with former vice president Al Gore, whose weight gain and beard became a symbol of grievance over his 2000 loss. "You won't see heavyset, haggard Mitt," he said. Friends say a snapshot-gone-viral showing a disheveled Romney pumping gas is just how he looks without a suit on his frame or gel in his hair.

Ben Smith suggests that Mitt's malaise makes him (finally) somewhat likable. Jamelle Bouie finds it hard to feel bad for someone whose campaign was so dripping with disdain. I think we're overstating the desperation of Romney's situation. Contrast Romney's cushy retirement to his ocean-front La Jolla mansion with Theodore Roosevelt—who after his 1912 loss to Woodrow Wilson* literally got lost in the wilderness and nearly died:

Theodore Roosevelt had carried the lethal dose of morphine with him for years. He had taken it to the American West, to the African savanna and, finally, down the River of Doubt—a twisting tributary deep in the Amazon rain forest. The glass vial was small enough to tuck into a leather satchel or slip into his luggage, nearly invisible beside his books, his socks and his eight extra pairs of eyeglasses. Easily overlooked, it was perhaps the most private possession of one of the world's most public men.

In December 1913, Roosevelt, then 55, and a small group of men embarked on a journey to explore and map Brazil's River of Doubt. Almost from the start, the expedition went disastrously wrong. Just three months later, as Roosevelt lay on a rusting cot inside his expedition's last remaining tent listening to the roar of the river, he clutched the vial that he had carried for so long. Shivering violently, his body wracked with fever, he concluded that the time had come to take his own life.

In the span of a few days, Roosevelt, once America's youngest President and among its most vigorous, had become a feverish, at times delirious, invalid. He was suffering from malaria and had developed a potentially deadly bacterial infection after slicing his leg on a boulder. In the sweltering rain forest, the cut had quickly become infected, causing his leg to redden and swell and sending his temperature soaring to 105°F. At the same time, the expedition had reached a set of seemingly impassable rapids. Roosevelt's Brazilian co-commander, Colonel Cândido Rondon, had announced that they would have to abandon their canoes and strike out into the jungle--every man for himself. "To all of us," one of them wrote, "his report was practically a sentence of death." For Roosevelt, who could barely sit up, much less fight his way through the rain forest, the plan was simply an impossibility.

So really, things could be much worse.

Update: I should note that Roosevelt did actually make it out of the Amazon alive, but never fully recovered and died five years later.

*Correction: It was Wilson, not Taft.

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Rick Santorum Gets Exclusive Deal With Birther Site

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 11:16 AM EST

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has landed on his feet after a second-place finish in the GOP primary: He's taken a job as a columnist for the birther bible WorldNetDaily:

Rick Santorum – the former U.S. senator who ignited grass-roots conservatives as a Republican candidate for president this year – today joins WND as an exclusive columnist. His commentaries will be featured each Monday.

His first column? Sounding the alarm about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, which he contends "crushes U.S. sovereignty."

WND is best known for journalistic masterpieces such as "Bill Ayers admits (again) he wrote Obama bio," and "Obama didn't write his own love letters," and "The birth certificate debate – it's not over," and "Obama's ring: 'There is no god but Allah'," and "Claim: Obama hid 'gay life' to become president," and finally, "Kenyan insiders say Obama was part of takeover strategy." One year ago, he was surging in Iowa; now he's sharing space with Chuck Norris.

Meanwhile, Politico's Ken Vogel reports that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is quietly reaching out to donors in advance of a potential presidential run in 2016—something that seems wholly incompatible with becoming a columnist for a birther site.

Erick Erickson Mulling Whether to Be Next Todd Akin (UPDATE: He Won't)

| Fri Nov. 30, 2012 7:08 AM EST
RedState founder Erick Erickson.

Update: On Friday morning Erickson announced that he had decided not to challenge Chambliss. As he explained"Were I to run for the Senate, it would be a terribly nasty campaign. It’d actually be really awesome, but it’d be really nasty. I have a seven year old, a soon to be four year old, and a wife who does not like being anywhere near a stage. I’m not putting my family through that when the best outcome would mean a sizable pay cut in pay and being away from my kids and wife all the time huddled in a pit vipers often surrounded by too many who viewed me as a useful instrument to their own advancement." But, he added, Chambliss shouldn't rest easy: "We will find someone to catapult into the arena."

Erick Erickson has the itch. After years of backing conservative primary challenges to moderate GOPers, the RedState founder and CNN contributor is mulling a primary challenge of his own. He's thinking of taking on Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the Georgia Republican who last weekend took the occasion of the fiscal cliff debate to publicly criticize anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. "Saxby Chambliss is waffling around like a dog off its leash for the first time," Erickson wrote in a post for RedState on Tuesday, before speculating that "[a] conservative from metro-Atlanta could put Saxby Chambliss in peril and we should work to make that happen." By then, he was telling his radio show listeners that he just might be the man for the job: "I've been very adamant, I wasn't going to do it, but after a few conversations today with a few heavy hitters in Washington, D.C. and some here in Georgia, I should at least consider it."

From his perch at RedState, Erickson has scored a few big wins in his plan to make the Republican Party walk and talk a bit more like Erick Erickson. He beat the drum early on Marco Rubio, back when then-Gov. Charlie Crist was the toast of the Republican establishment. He backed Ted Cruz for Senate when the former Texas solicitor general was flailing in the polls.

But he's chosen jesters as often as he's picked kings—and it's cost the Republican party dearly. He endorsed Sharron Angle in Nevada. He was among the first prominent conservatives to back Richard Mourdock's campaign against Sen. Richard Lugar. He backed Christine O'Donnell in her primary against former Rep. Mike Castle.

The only way Republicans could possibly stand any chance of losing a Senate seat in Georgia in 2014 is if they they nominated someone with a history of degrading comments about women and inflammatory views on abortion. That is, someone like Erick Erickson.

To recap, Erickson:

  • Expressed his surprise that "feminazis" had complained about then-Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow's pro-life Super Bowl ad in 2010. As he put it: "That's what being too ugly to get a date does for your brain." That was followed by this tweet: "Turned on Twitter today and there was a barrage of angry feminists upset with me telling them to get in the kitchen and learn to cook."
  • Once called Michelle Obama a "Marxist Harpy Wife."
  • Referred to the first night of the Democrat National Convention as the "Vagina Monologues."
  • Dismissed bullying of a presumed gay classmate as: "Mitt Romney cut a hippy's hair at his preparatory high school."
  • Argued that civil war may be unavoidable if Roe v. Wade is not overturned. As Erickson put it: "[O]nce before, our nation was forced to repudiate the Supreme Court with mass bloodshed. We remain steadfast in our belief that this will not be necessary again, but only if those committed to justice do not waiver or compromise, and send a clear and unmistakable signal to their elected officials of what must be necessary to earn our support."
  • Called for more Willie Horton ads, citing the invisible scourge of the New Black Panthers: "The Democrats are giving a pass to radicals who advocate killing white kids in the name of racial justice and who try to block voters from the polls. The Democrats will scream racism. Let them. Republicans are not going to pick up significant black support anyway."
  • Contemplated shooting bureaucrats:

At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?

At some point soon, it will happen. It’ll be over an innocuous issue. But the rage is building. It’s not a partisan issue. There is bipartisan angst at out of control government made worse by dumb bans like this and unintended consequences like AIG’s bonus problems.

If the GOP plays its cards right, it will have a winning issue in 2010. But it is going to have to get back to "leave me the hell alone" style federalism where the national government recedes and the people themselves will have to fight to take their states back from special interests out of touch with body politic as a whole.

Were I in Washington State, I'd be cleaning my gun right about now waiting to protect my property from the coming riots or the government apparatchiks coming to enforce nonsensical legislation.

  • Contemplated shooting bureaucrats again:

I'm not filling out this form. I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I dare them to. Pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They're not going on my property. They can't do that. They don't have the legal right, and yet they're trying."

On the plus side for Georgia Republicans, at least Herman Cain's not running.

NH Produces Weirdest Political Story of 2012, All Time

| Thu Nov. 29, 2012 10:58 AM EST
New Hampshire state Rep.-elect Tim O'Flaherty (D)

Democrats won big on election night in New Hampshire. They held onto the governor's office, took back two seats in Congress, and won control of the state house of representatives. But for progressives, the victories went even deeper than that: At least four seats in the legislature went to activists with the Occupy Wall Street satellite, Occupy New Hampshire. Granite State progressive blogger Bill Tucker catches the group touting its success on Facebook: "We aren't going to reveal names, they can if they want. But we have 4 or 5 people who were very involved Occupiers, and another handful who were part of the network—either already Reps or newly elected. We got juice—or maybe just a little pulp."

How did this happen? It's largely a consequence of the state's uniquely enormous legislature. At 400 members (for 1.3 million people) it's the third-largest legislative body in the English-speaking world, and you only need about a thousand votes to win a seat.

With the election wins, New Hampshire becomes the first state where Occupiers have secured an actual foothold in the political arena. But they're not the only group of ideological activists who are winning elections in the Granite State; they're following the trail already blazed by members of the Free State Project, the movement to repopulate New Hampshire with libertarians and slowly turn the state into a small-government (or no-government) paradise. As I reported in a piece for the magazine last summer, the movement has finally begun to make inroads in the state legislature, winning seats—while often keeping their affiliation under wraps—and then getting to work deregulating margarine and de-funding high-speed rail. As conservatives struggled statewide this November, the libertarians held their own. Free State Project president Carla Gericke announced:

Over the past eight years, FSP participants who have become state representatives went from zero to 1, to four, to 12-14 in 2010, to eleven this cycle. We only have 1,100 movers on the ground. With only 5% of our goal movers in NH, political FSP participants held onto the status quo while Republicans got trounced. Baby steps, people. It ain't called a "project" for nothing!

Take, for example, the case of newly elected Rep. Tim O'Flaherty, a self-described "anarchist" who ran as a Democrat and edged out Republican challenger Dan Garthwaite in a Manchester district. As it happens, both O'Flaherty and Garthwaite are supporters of the Free State Project. They're also roommates. The two rivals live at "Porc Manor," a Manchester home that's become a flophouse of sorts for Free States. (Supporters called themselves "porcupines" because they bristle only when provoked.) A 2009 landlord manual for Porc Manor offers tip for renting to Free Staters, noting that, for instance, "A lot of porcupines will frown on deposits, mostly because they feel their status as acknowledged defenders of property rights makes them immune to the reasons landlords require deposits."

Their living arrangement served as fuel for perhaps the most unusual storyline in any election this year, or maybe ever. As the Manchester Union-Leader's Mark Hayward explained:

In one of the more bizarre moments in the campaign, O'Flaherty wrote to Comedy Central's election Internet site to say he and Garthwaite are lovers, and the election would decide certain role-playing aspects of their relationship. (We're talking dominance and jackboots here.)

But O'Flaherty, who is gay, said he doesn't know Garthwaite well, and he made the comments to undermine his opponent with his Republican base.

No really, this actually happened. Here's what O'Flaherty told Comedy Central's Dan Poppy in an email:

Things were hot and heavy when Dan and I first met and we found ourselves living in the same boarding house. We have had some heated political arguments but I haven't been able to persuade Dan to turn from his Statist beliefs. Lately we've been looking for ways to keep things interesting in the bedroom and we've been exploring some roleplaying. Dan likes to play the cop/thug, forcing me to lick his jackboot.

I've become concerned recently that our roleplaying was counter-revolutionary and contrary to my anarchist principles. Violent revolt was a looming prospect but Dan (the consummate Statist and devout believer in the Democratic Faith) suggested we put the matter to a vote. We agreed we would both run for State Representative but on opposite sides of the ticket, the winner gets to choose his role to play in the bedroom.

Now voters in Manchester's Ward 5 will decide the outcome. If Dan beats me in the election his Statist domination will continue unchecked. If voters should choose me they will quite literally be saying "Fu*% the State(ist)." Please tell your readers to spew their vitriol on my Facebook page.

In his interview with the Union-Leader, O'Flaherty also floated an unusual hypothesis for his primary victory over former state Rep. Richard Komi: "He said Komi may have suffered from name problems; his name is similar to Joseph Kony, the Ugandan guerilla leader whose capture was encouraged by the Kony 2012 effort, a viral Internet video."

On November 8th, when the vote count in Manchester's Ward 5 was made official, O'Flaherty hopped on Facebook with a simple but deliberate message for his supporters: "Victory is mine!" He added, "It was the best $2 i've ever spent!"

And with that, New Hampshire may have finally outdone itself.

Idaho Lawmaker Promotes Bold New Plan to Elect Romney

| Wed Nov. 28, 2012 7:03 AM EST

Idaho state Sen. Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R) has found a daring plan to reverse the results of the November election and turn the keys to the Oval Office over to Mitt Romney: Boycott the Electoral College. Last Monday, Nuxoll, a Republican, blasted out a link on her Twitter feed to a new proposal from Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, explaining that if 17 Romney states rejected the Electoral College, they could throw the outcome of the election to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. As Phillips put it, referring to episodes in which Democratic lawmakers crossed state lines to avoid controversial votes, "Democrats have actually set this precedent of refusing to participate to deny Republicans a quorum. They did this in Wisconsin and in Texas. Why can't we do this with the Electoral College?"

So is this possible? Has the key to a Romney presidency been hiding in plain sight all along? 

No.

Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review burst conservatives' bubble, and snagged the quotes of the year:

Constitutional scholar David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the plan is not "totally constitutional," as touted in the article, but is instead "a radical, revolutionary proposal that has no basis in federal law or the architecture of the Constitution."

Adler called it "really a strange and bizarre fantasy."

Nuxoll said, "Well, I guess that's one lawyer."

Annnnnd scene.

Mon Jul. 21, 2014 3:33 PM EDT
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