Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

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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After Bachmann, Who's America's Next Top Wacky Right-Winger?

The Minnesota tea party firebrand announced Wednesday that she won't seek another term in Congress. Who will take up her fight?

| Wed May 29, 2013 5:46 PM EDT

Facing a mounting investigation into her presidential campaign's alleged campaign finance improprieties, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced Wednesday morning that she won't seek reelection in 2014. Here's a quick guide to the people jockeying for Bachmann's place as the far right's biggest star in Congress.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas)

Is he crazy? Once caught with 30 mg of Valium in his underwear. Lived in a Fort Worth park for a year with a homeless man he compared to Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Warned that sex ed classes were teaching kids the virtues of bestiality. Started an AR-15 sweepstakes for his constituents. Actual campaign bumper sticker: "If babies had guns they wouldn't be aborted."
Put it in granite: "The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out."
Do people care? Stockman has had no discernible impact on public policy and Democrats have written off his seat—he won his last race by 44 points.
 

Joe Miller, Alaska Senate candidate

Is he crazy? Hired private security guards who handcuffed a reporter during failed 2010 Senate run. Argued that unemployment benefits, Social Security, and Medicare are unconstitutional. Wrote a column for birther site WorldNetDaily alleging that President Obama should be impeached for secretly giving away American islands to Russia.
Put it in granite: "Obama's State Department is giving away seven strategic, resource-laden Alaskan islands to the Russians. Yes, to the Putin regime in the Kremlin."
Do people care? Only if he wins.
 

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.)

Is he crazy? Compared the Affordable Care Act to the "war of Yankee aggression." Pointed out alarming similarities between Obama and Hitler. Worries that the federal government will force people to eat fruits and vegetables. Believes Southerners will die of hyperthermia if clean energy laws are passed.
Put it in granite: "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell."
Do people care? An outspoken critic of science, Broun's position on the House Science Committee has alarmed such high-profile scientists as Bill Nye.
 

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah)

Is he crazy? World-record holder for fastest flight around the world. Described as a "certified nutcase" by a former Utah Republican politician and "Glenn Beck on steroids" by a former Utah Democratic politician. Wrote end-times novels that have been endorsed by Glenn Beck. Expressed concern that protecting species from extinction, while noble, "harm[s] people" too much.
Put it in granite: "My true worldview is just the opposite of [the] apocalyptic. Look, I know we're going to have challenges and, who knows, maybe there will be a zombie apocalypse or something like that."
Do people care? Stewart hails from a safely Republican district, but Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed concerns about his fringe views. He's also skeptical about climate change and chairs a House subcommittee on the issue.
 

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

Is he crazy? Opposed gun control by comparing gay marriage to bestiality. Supported Alaska oil drilling so that caribou would have more sex. Cosponsored a birther bill. Wanted Congress to investigate the threat of Shariah law in America. Sounded alarm about terrorists who "are now being trained to come in and act like Hispanic[s]." Sounded alarm about terrorists who are babies.
Put it in granite: "The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus."
Do people care? Gohmert represents an overwhelmingly conservative district and is better known for his outrageous statements than his impact on public policy.
 

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.)

Is she crazy? Compared Obama to "Louis XIV, the Sun King." Said Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act "simply to control our lives." Supported defunding the Justice Department to stop Attorney General Eric Holder's lawsuit against an Arizona immigration bill that allows racial profiling. Insinuated that terrorists were behind the proposal to build an Islamic community center in Manhattan a few blocks from ground zero.
Put it in granite: "The terrorists haven't won, and we should tell them in plain English, 'No, there will never be a mosque at ground zero.'"
Do people care? After Republicans won control of North Carolina's state Legislature in 2010 and redrew congressional district lines in the state, Ellmers moved from a competitive district to a safe seat. She's only serving her second term in the House but is already considering a Senate bid against Democrat Kay Hagan.
 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Is he crazy? Believes George Soros masterminded a plot to ban golf and force Americans into "hobbit homes." Said that "Shariah law is an enormous problem" in the United States. Thinks states have the constitutional right to disregard federal law. Bragged that he helped nullify a gay divorce. Thinks Harvard Law School has been overrun by communists.
Put it in granite: "I think President Obama is the most radical president we've ever seen."
Do people care? Called the "next great conservative hope" by the National Review, Cruz may have presidential aspirations. But his Senate obstructionism has annoyed more compromise-minded Republican colleagues, including John McCain, whom Cruz said he doesn't trust.

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Flashback: Virginia Gov. Candidate Cuccinelli Investigated "Sextravaganza"

Cuccinelli has been trying to distance himself from his archly social conservative running mate, but he's not so different.

| Tue May 28, 2013 1:19 PM EDT

Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli (R) believes the Constitution gives states the right to ban gay people from having sex.

Controversial Virginia Republican lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson, as I reported last week, began his career as a social conservative crusader as an anti-anti-AIDS activist in Boston, where he fought against public health initiatives that promoted condom use and sterilized needles. And Jackson's extreme views on such issues as LGBT rights ("If we need a gay rights bill, then we need an adulterers' rights bill, we need a cohabitators' rights bill, a pedophiles' rights bill, and a sadomasochists' rights bill") and Islam (he's against it) have launched a flurry of stories on the potential impact of Jackson's extremism on Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican running for governor. Cuccinelli has tried to distance himself from Jackson, but he has a problem: his own past as a social conservative activist is not that different from Jackson's.

In 2005, for example, Cuccinelli, then a state senator, sent a volunteer to investigate a mostly-female planning meeting for an event to be held at George Mason University by "Pro-Choice Patriots," a student group, and dubbed the "Sextravaganza." This gathering was designed to promote healthy sexual activity—dispensing information on date rape, AIDS, and contraception. But Cuccinelli condemned the plan to hold such an event at a public school, warning that "Sextravaganza" would promote "every type of sexual promiscuity you can imagine."

"This whole thing is really just designed to push sex and sexual libertine behavior as far, fast and furiously as possible," he told the Washington Post at the time, adding, "Do we need to establish some statewide standards here? It's pathetic we even need to have this discussion, but apparently we do."

Cuccinelli, like Jackson, was a fierce fighter for what they called traditional family values. In 2004, the Washington Times reported that Cuccinelli was leading the fight against, in his words, "homosexuals and AIDS [education]." He was doing so by pushing a resolution asking Congress to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman:

"[The resolution would] enshrine in the Constitution effectively what is Virginia law today, and that is that marriage is between one man and one woman and that there are no analogous relationships under law," said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Fairfax County Republican and the bill’s sponsor.

Mr. Cuccinelli and others worry recent protests on the topic are part of an overall strategy by homosexuals, who he thinks plan to "dismantle sodomy laws" and "get education about homosexuals and AIDS in public schools." On Friday in a 79-18 vote, the House passed a bill that affirms the state’s ban on homosexual "marriage." It is expected to pass the Senate.

Cuccinelli may find it tough to separate himself from Jackson, given that the two were both fierce leaders in the culture war fights of the 1990s and 2000s.

Progressive Dems Spar Over Who Will Succeed Markey

Reps. Peter DeFazio and Raul Grijalva aren't wasting any time in the race for the top Democratic spot on the Natural Resources Committee.

| Fri May 24, 2013 9:42 AM EDT

If Rep. Ed Markey wins the special election to become Massachusetts' junior US senator next month, it'll have at least one unintended consequence: A potentially ugly fight between two progressive Democrats for Markey's seat as the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. After Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio launched his candidacy by getting 20 prominent congressmen—including Georgia Rep. John Lewis and two former chairs of the committee—to sign onto a letter on his behalf, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is pushing back, winning the endorsement, on Thursday, of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The battle-lines are familiar, if not not entirely related to the actual responsibilities of the Natural Resources Committee: immigration reform and the Keystone XL pipeline. "DeFazio actually has a very anti-Democratic record on immigration," argues Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana. As proof, his office is sending around a fact-sheet highlighting a vote DeFazio cast in 2012 that would have authorized the Keystone XL pipeline as part of a larger transportation package—in contrast to DeFazio's otherwise outspoken criticism of the project. Sarvana is also touting support DeFazio received from the anti-reform outfit Numbers USA. (The group does not endorse candidates but has praised DeFazio's backing of universal electronic citizenship checks as a condition of employment.)

In a statement provided to Mother Jones, DeFazio, who is still considered the front-runner for the job, dismissed the Keystone vote as a procedural oddity: "I just helped lead the fight in two committees and on the floor against the Keystone Pipeline. In 2012, I voted for a transportation bill designed to bypass Tea Party obstructionist and get a much needed transportation bill to conference. As a conferee, I had assurances from Senator Barbara Boxer the Keystone provision would be stripped out of the final bill."

Markey's job isn't open just yet—the special election isn't until June and recent polls have shown a tight race. But the Democrat has never trailed, and his possible successors aren't waiting around for clarity.

Here's the CHC letter backing Grijalva:

 

Virginia Lt. Gov. Candidate E.W. Jackson: Gays Are "Ikky"

"Yuk!"

| Thu May 23, 2013 1:18 PM EDT

"Yuk!"

That's an actual tweet from the Rev. E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia.

Jackson, a social-conservative activist with no record of electoral success, was nominated on the first ballot at the state GOP's convention on Saturday and almost immediately triggered an acute case of heartburn among the party's establishment due to his far-right views on gay rights and abortion. (Among other things, he favors the reinstatement of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and said the Democratic party's platform was in line with the Antichrist.) Jackson is, as Daily Kos Elections' David Nir puts it, "an oppo researcher's mescaline-fueled fantasy bender riding on pegasus-back."

And we're only starting to scratch the surface. A quick survey of Jackson's now dormant Twitter feed, @ewjsr (he now tweets at @Jackson4VA) shows that he is been remarkably consistent in his attacks on the gays, Muslims, and communists he believes are destroying the country from within.

"The 'homosexual religion' is the most virulent anti-Christian bigotry & hatred I've ever seen," he tweeted in October of 2009. "They have threatened me, but not vice versa."

That was around the same time he concluded that "[t]he homosexual movement is a cancer attacking vital organs of faith, family & military - repositories of traditional values." After President Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights group, Jackson groveled that the organization wanted to "homosexualize the country." After Family Research Council president Tony Perkins was disinvited from an event at Andrews Air Force Base, Jackson called the Obama administration "the Gestapo." When Rush Limbaugh invited Elton John to perform at his wedding, Jackson called it "utterly disappointing." He referred to Democrats as "Demoncrats."

Elsewhere, Jackson describes President Obama as the "first homosexual President," and endorses an argument by Frank Gaffney that Obama is also the "First Muslim President."

Jackson, a Harvard Law School graduate and former student at Harvard Divinity School, recognized the contradiction in these statements, and openly struggled with it: "It will be interesting to see how Obama reconciles Islamicizing America with homosexualizing America," he tweeted. "Babylon v Sodom & Gomorrah." (The Baylonians weren't Muslim, but that's hardly the point.) Jackson considered it "tragic" that American foreign policy was, in his view, now "pro-Islam."

He was also bothered by the presence of practicing Muslims in the administration:

Jackson's fear of Muslims was such that after an Air France flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and a gunman opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, in 2009, he immediately alleged—citing absolutely nothing—that both events had been acts of Islamic terrorism. (The Holocaust Museum gunman was a white supremacist, and the Air France crash was ruled an accident). Responding to a report that Obama was hoping to use his space agency as a way of reaching out to to the Muslim world, he was indignant: "Obama's new mission for Nasa, not to explore space, but expand Islam! Huh?"

Given the last few days, this last tweet seems somewhat fitting. It's from 2010, and it's a stirring defense of another conservative activist whose unlikely nomination cost Republicans a once winnable race:

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