Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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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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Ashley Judd in DC: I'm a Three-Time Rape Survivor

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 7:21 PM EST
Possible Kentucky Senate candidate Ashley Judd.

In her first appearance in Washington, DC since hinting at running for Senate in January, Ashley Judd opened up about the sexual abuse she was subjected to when she was younger.

Judd, who is considering a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) next fall as a Democrat, did not take questions from the press—although she did allude to reporters briefly as the "people here who don't give a rat's you-know-what about violence"—spoke for more than a hour on Friday at George Washington University on virtually anything but electoral politics. (Topics ranged from child prostitution, to female empowerment, to reproductive health care, to corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to her Kentucky roots.)

But her most candid remarks may have come when she was asked if she had any advice for women who have been sexually assaulted:

I've been aware of gender violence all my life, being a survivor of gender violence. Yet I was astonished when I went to graduate school and started to do a deeper dive on gender violence here in America how prevalent rape and attempted rape is, particularly amongst young people. Am I correct that it's one in three college* students, college women? So that's a lot. That's a third of us in this room. And I think part of what's important, in addition to how we shape the narrative, is that we all have the courage to talk about it, because we're as sick as our secrets and the shame keeps us in isolation. And when we find that shared experience, we gather our strength and our hope. So for example, I'm a three-time survivor of rape, and about that I have no shame, because it was never my shame to begin with—it was the perpetrator's shame. And only when I was a grown empowered adult and had healthy boundaries and had the opportunity to do helpful work on that trauma was I able to say, okay, that perpetrator was shameless, and put their shame on me. Now I gave that shame back, and it's my job to break my isolation and talk with other girls and other women.

At that point, she acknowledged the audience reaction. "I see some people crying," Judd said. "And that's good."

At that, Judd returned to talking about her work, mostly overseas, working with kids who had been sexually abused. "Because I am that kid," she said. "I was that kid. And there are least a third of the people in this room who would tell that same story if they had the opportunity."

Later in the Q&A, a self-identified rape survivor thanked Judd for her answer. "I am glad that you spoke openly today, because I felt so alone," she said. "I know it is one in four because by my senior year in college I could count."

Judd first discussed her childhood trauma in her 2011 memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet. "An old man everyone knew beckoned me into a dark, empty corner of the business and offered me a quarter for the pinball machine at the pizza place if I'd sit on his lap," she wrote. "He opened his arms, I climbed up, and I was shocked when he suddenly cinched his arms around me, squeezing me and smothering my mouth with his, jabbing his tongue deep into my mouth."

Although the discussion of rape elicited the greatest emotional reaction from the audience, the bigger takeaway from Judd's talk—at least according to my Twitter feed—was Judd's frequent lapses into Hollywoodese. She referenced her friendship with Bono more than once, and at one point joked about spending winters in Scotland (where her husband is from).

*Estimates vary, but it's somewhere between 20 and 25 percent.

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The Budding Rand Paul–Bob McDonnell Flame War

| Thu Feb. 28, 2013 12:46 PM EST
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.).

On Saturday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signed into law a sweeping transportation funding bill that lowers the state gas tax, raises the sales tax, and ultimately aims to bring in $1 billion a year in new funding. It was, as Politico's Alex Burns wrote, just the kind of signature accomplishment McDonnell had been looking for as he prepares to leave office next January.

But for allies of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, McDonnell's possible 2016 presidential rival, the transportation bill is something else entirely: disqualifying. Here's a fundraising email blasted out on Monday by the Campaign for Liberty, the organization chaired by former Rep. Ron Paul (Rand's father) and actively supported by the senator:

As the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Bob "Tax Hike" McDonnell's sellout has ramifications for EVERY man, woman and child in America.

It's no secret Bob McDonnell has ambitions to run for President.

Needless to say, after this massive tax hike on Virginia citizens - and cave in on ObamaCare - a dog catcher with a record like this is the last thing we need, let alone a President.

And here's a piece Campaign for Liberty president John Tate published at Business Insider on Wednesday:

Business Insider

The good news for McDonnell, anyway, is that he's finally being associated with something other than transvaginal ultrasounds.

Why Does the Capitol Still Whitewash White Supremacists?

| Wed Feb. 27, 2013 2:49 PM EST
Former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens and civil rights icon Rosa Parks are both represented in Statuary Hall.

On Wednesday, congressional leaders unveiled a new statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks at the Capitol's Statuary Hall. Parks is the first African American woman to be represented in the room, which is a fairly understandable consequence of the fact that, for most of the nation's history, only white dudes were allowed to participate in politics. Notwithstanding the near-total sausage fest, Parks is in some good company—Helen Keller is there; so is Dwight D. Eisenhower.

She's also in some really bad company. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, is there. So is Alexander Stephens, the man Davis tapped as second-in-command of the Confederacy. Here's how the office of the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees Statuary Hall (and every other statue-related corridor of the Capitol), describes Stephens' life's work:

Always in frail health, Stephens was nonetheless a dedicated statesman, an effective leader, and a powerful orator, always seeking moderation and peace. Abraham Lincoln, serving in Congress with Stephens, admired and befriended him; John Quincy Adams wrote a poem in his honor. Although opposed to secession and differing with Jefferson Davis over states rights and nullification, Stephens served as the Confederacy's vice president.

Stephens was so adamantly anti-secession that he only agreed to support the principle when he was asked politely.

He was also, the bio noted, "a powerful orator."

No kidding. Stephens is most famous for a speech he delivered in Savannah, Georgia, in 1861, shortly after agreeing to help the Southern states wage an armed conflict in defense of keeping black people enslaved in perpetuity. It was called the "Cornerstone Speech," on account of its simple premise—that the single foundational principle behind the Confederacy was the belief that not all men are created equal:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity.

Alexander Stephens was a terrible person who aided and abetted an armed rebellion in the name of white supremacy that left—conservative estimate, here—600,000 people dead. That he was, as the bio helpfully notes, "orphaned and penniless at age 15" simply demeans the good name of destitute teenage orphans. All of which raises the question of why there's still a statue of him in Statuary Hall—and why his official bio whitewashes his singular legacy.

It's no small irony that Parks joins Stephens as one of six Statuary Hall honorees who are sitting down. Maybe he could've given up his seat.

Ashley Judd Is Not the Next Todd Akin

| Tue Feb. 26, 2013 11:26 AM EST
Possible Kentucky Senate candidate Ashley Judd with Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu

Actress and public health activist Ashley Judd is seriously considering running for Senate as a Democrat next year against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader. On Tuesday, the Daily Caller's Alex Pappas waded through Judd's essays and speeches to make the case that she just might be the Democratic Todd Akin—someone whose "comments are so outrageous and extreme that people can't bring themselves to vote for her."

This is a sentiment that is shared by, among others, Ashley Judd. "I am asked a lot if I will someday run for office, often enough, in fact, that if I had a nickel for each time I've been asked, I could fund a campaign," she said in a 2006 speech at the University of Kentucky. "But a speech like this, such an unguarded chunk of my truth is very likely to completely disqualify me."

The subject of that particular speech, and one she's returned to quite often since, was feminism—what she considered to be the animating ideal behind her political life. "I'd like to propose that the society in which we live is, in fact, extremist and radical," she said. "It is so skewed, massively out of balance; the result of one sex ruling and objectifying another for at least the last millennia." The world's religions were filled with "stunning misogyny," Christianity included.

Among other incriminating quotes Pappas flags, Judd compared mountaintop-removal coal mining to the Rwandan genocide. (She added, "Naturally, I accept that I set myself up for ridicule for using such strong terms, or perhaps outrage from human victims of slaughter, but I do believe in the profound interconnectedness of all life, and, I agree with Einstein's assertion that 'you cannot pick a flower that you do not disturb a star.'")

I've spent only a few days in Kentucky, so I'll accept the premise that most of the state's eligible voters don't spend much time quoting Gloria Steinem and railing against the patriarchy. I'll also accept Pappas'—and Judd's—premise that she is substantially more liberal than the median Kentucky voter, given that the median Kentucky voter recently voted for Rand Paul. It's not clear whether she's running; it's certainly not clear that she'd be a favorite to win.

But the Akin comparison seems to miss the whole point of Todd Akin—and Ashley Judd, too. The Missouri Senate candidate's demise hinged almost entirely on his flip suggestion that some kinds of rape (i.e. non-"legitimate" rape) really weren't so bad, as well as a basic ignorance of science; Judd's most incriminating statements stem in no small part from the fact that, yes, actually, women have been held down for a while and still face serious obstacles today. (Case in point: Todd Akin.) In Kentucky, that might be a losing proposition, but there's nothing "bizarre" about feminism.

"It is my pleasure to make you slightly uncomfortable," Judd told her audience at UK, halfway through her feminist manifesto. For Judd, that's a feature, not a bug.

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