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.

Get my RSS |

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.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

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.

10 People You Didn't Realize Were Friends of Hamas

| Wed Feb. 20, 2013 6:17 PM EST

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is an honorary director of the Atlantic Council.

Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro created a bit of a stir last week when he alleged that Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee to be the next secretary of defense, may have ties to an organization called "Friends of Hamas."

On Wednesday, after reporters at mainstream publications could find no evidence of any such organization even existing, Shapiro* Breitbart News doubled down: "The mainstream media have ignored the fact that at least one prominent supporter of Hamas has donated money to an organization associated with former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)—namely, the Atlantic Council, which receives support from the Hariri family of Lebanon, whose most prominent member, former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, publicly backs Hamas."

Okay.

The Atlantic Council is, like many such vaguely named D.C. institutions, a repository for pretty much anyone who has ever held a high-ranking foreign policy position in the federal government. If Shapiro is correct, Hagel should be the least of our worries; every administration since the 1960s has been corrupted by Hamas:

Condoleezza Rice: Bush's second secretary of state—and Atlantic Council honorary director—hid her connections to Hamas by refusing to negotiate with it.

William Webster: The only man to ever helm the CIA and the FBI, Webster served under Presidents Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush and is an honorary director at the Atlantic Council.

Robert Gates: Gates, an honorary director, was George W. Bush's last Secretary of Defense (and President Obama's first).

James A. Baker, III: An honorary director of the Atlantic Council, Baker served as a chief of staff for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Michael Hayden: Another honorary director, Hayden was a CIA director under George W. Bush.

James Woolsey: President Bill Clinton's CIA director is a member of the Atlantic Council's board of directors. You may have seen him at Big Journalism's sister Breitbart publication, Big Peace.

William H. Taft, IV: "Get on the raft with Taft" was the campaign slogan of this Council director's great-grandfather. You know who else used rafts?

George P. Shultz: Reagan's secretary of state for seven years is an Atlantic Council honorary director.

Henry A. Kissinger: President Richard Nixon's Secretary of State sits on the Atlantic Council board of directors, when he's not busy mentoring Sarah Palin on foreign policy and blaming Hamas for obstructing the peace process.

Rupert Murdoch: Murdoch was the winner of the Atlantic Council's 2008 "Atlantic Council Leadership Award," and is CEO of some small, locally-sourced media co-op you probably haven't heard of. He previously expressed his support for Hamas by accusing the "Jewish-owned press" of being "consistently anti-Israel."

Fortunately, opponents of Hagel have settled on an alternative who could presumably be confirmed without much of a fight: former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy. Even former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who sees the threat of terrorism around every corner, supports Flournoy.

The catch: Flournoy sits on the Atlantic Council's board of directors, too.

*This post originally attributed the article to Shapiro.

Wed Feb. 11, 2015 11:46 AM EST
Tue Nov. 4, 2014 10:02 PM EST
Mon Jul. 21, 2014 3:33 PM EDT