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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"The Best Thing About the Platform Is That Nobody Cares About the Platform"

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 1:15 AM PDT

Former GOP presidential candidate and full-time Mitt Romney troll Fred Karger.Former GOP presidential candidate and full-time Mitt Romney critic Fred KargerIf you don't count Fred Karger, there was only one gay Republican candidate at the happy hour for gay Republican candidates on Monday at Oystercatchers, an upscale seafood joint in Tampa overlooking the St. Petersburg causeway. Nor, for that matter, in a city that's swimming with Republican political heavyweights, were there any Republican political heavyweights in attendance. That's not much of a surprise for a party whose draft platform sought to deny rights to gay families and tacitly endorsed the persecution of gays in Uganda and other African nations.

But Michael Carr, an internet marketer who's running for a state Senate seat in the Denver suburbs, isn't particularly bothered by the GOP's anti-gay platform. "The best thing about the platform is that nobody cares about the platform," Carr says. A member of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's LGBT steering committee (Huntsman was the only GOP candidate with an LGBT steering committee), Carr is the guest of honor at the event, hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans. He's convinced the best is yet to come—Republicans might even nominate a pro-gay marriage presidential candidate as early as 2016.

"Politicians are looking at the data," Carr says. "We might have someone who's on the national stage 'evolve.'" Everyone I talk to at Oystercatchers uses that word, "evolve," a nod to President Obama's own shift on gay rights.

But Carr is being diplomatic. David Valkema ("It means 'falcon' in Dutch"), a Romney delegate from Indiana, is less so. His beef isn't with the homophobic leaders of the Republican party, with whom he agrees with on almost everything else. It's with gay liberals.

"I'm sick and tired of being a Jew for Hitler," he says. "I'm like, 'Where's your tolerance? You accept everyone else under the sun except for us.'" Although a recent poll showed that 44 percent of Republicans in Wisconsin—a comparatively progressive state—say they'd never vote for an openly gay candidate, Valkema thinks Republicans are quietly shifting behind the scenes. Case in point: This summer he helped convince the Indiana GOP to scrap any mention of marriage from the its platform. It wasn't an endorsement of marriage equality, but it wasn't a chest-beating condemnation either.

Last week, for the first time ever, Log Cabin Republicans were invited to participate in the drafting of the RNC platform—a symbolic gesture that didn't leave much of a dent in the final product. But with gay candidates like Carr and Massachusetts congressional candidate Richard Tisei on the ballot this far, they sense a shift.

As Casey Pick, an organizer of the event puts it, "Now, the debate on LGBT equality is completely out of the closet."

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Watch: Romney Proposes Gutting or Privatizing FEMA, Leaving Disaster Relief to States

| Thu Aug. 23, 2012 9:42 AM PDT

Update, October 29, 12:29 a.m. EST: With Hurricane Sandy set to make landfall in the Mid-Atlantic, Mitt Romney's policies for federal emergency management seem as relevant as ever. And the candidate's budget, as described below, isn't the only indication Romney would slash funding: As the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim noted, the presidential candidate suggested during a GOP primary debate that he would diminish the agency's role and leave responsibility for helping imperiled Americans to the states:

When Republicans gather in Tampa next week for their national convention, they may have some unwelcome company. No, not Ron Paul's army of supporters—Tropical Storm Isaac, which is currently winding its way through the Caribbean, is expected to pick up hurricane status and slam into South and Central Florida—directly into Tampa, according to at least one model. What that means for the convention is unclear, but since a direct hit would likely flood most of the city, organizers, city and state officials, and relevant federal agencies are planning accordingly. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has downplayed the threat to the city, but is reportedly preparing to mobilize to assist in the disaster response in South Florida, should that become necessary.

But under a Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan administration, FEMA's ability to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters could be severely inhibited. In a 2012 report on Rep. Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" roadmap (which Romney has said is similar to his own), the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that, due to the severe cuts to nonentitlement, nondefense spending, the costs for things like emergency management would have to be passed on to the states—which, with just a few exceptions, are currently in an even tighter financial bind than Washington.

"FEMA also helps states and local governments repair or replace public facilities and infrastructure, which often is not insured," the CBPP report explained. "This form of discretionary federal aid would be subject to cuts under the Ryan budget. If it were scaled back substantially, states and localities would need to bear a larger share of the costs of disaster response and recovery, or attempt to make do with less during difficult times."

The Ryan budget makes no mention of FEMA or the Department of Homeland Security of which it's a part. In fact it makes no mention of any specific cuts to non-entitlement programs. We can't say for sure, in other words, the extent to which disaster funding would be scaled back. But the overall math suggests that it would be drastic. The Ryan budget proposes reducing total non-entitlement spending from 12 percent of GDP to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2050. As my colleague Kevin Drum put it:

Defense spending alone amounts to 4% of GDP, and it's vanishingly unlikely that this will ever fall much below 2-3% of GDP. This means that all domestic spending will decline from about 8% of GDP to 1-2% of GDP by 2050. That's prisons, border control, education, the FBI, courts, embassies, the IRS, FEMA, housing, student loans, roads, unemployment insurance, etc. etc. It's everything. Whacked by about 80% or so.

Romney's own proposed budget (which like Ryan's fails to identify specific cuts) would create much the same bind. Between 2013 and 2022, Romney would cut between $2 to $5 trillion more than Ryan from programs other than Social Security or defense. As the CBPP noted, "Romney's cuts would shrink non-defense discretionary spending…to between 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent of GDP." That's on top of the scheduled cuts agreed to in last year's budget deal.

Just as Ryan's proposed Medicare expenditure would fail to keep up with rising medical costs, the GOP ticket's likely cuts to disaster management and weather forecasting budgets would come at a time in which, fueled by climate change, natural disasters are becoming increasingly more potent and expensive. There were 14 billion-dollar disasters in the United States in 2011—the most on record. For the GOP in Tampa, Hurricane Isaac isn't just a nuisance; it's the elephant in the room.

Rep. Steve King: Minority Students "Feel Sorry for Themselves"

| Wed Aug. 22, 2012 5:00 AM PDT
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) came this close to following in his Missouri colleague Todd Akin's footsteps on Tuesday, when he told a local news reporter that he didn't know any women who had become pregnant from statutory rape or incest. (King's spokesman clarified that the congressman meant that he didn't personally know women who had gotten pregnant from rape, but understood, contra Akin, that it is biologically possible.)

But that doesn't mean he's off the hook. Facing his toughest-ever re-election fight against Democrat Christie Vilsack, King has only doubled down on the nativist rhetoric that's been his bread-and-butter in Washington. On Tuesday, trackers from the super-PAC run by the progressive phone service provider CREDO grabbed footage of King at a town hall meeting in Le Mars lamenting that minority students are falling for a communist victimization narrative promoted by student organizations. 

King, who recently sponsored a bill to make English the national language, launched into an extended rant on the perils of multiculturalism—which was only reinforced by a visit to Iowa State University, where he says he encountered 59 different student groups rooted in the idea. Merlin's pants! As he put it, "It started with Asians and it ended with Zeitgeist. So from A to Z. And most of them were victims groups, victimology, people that feel sorry for themselves. And they're out there recruiting our young people to be part of the group that feels sorry for themselves." 

Watch:

 

Obscure Italian communist*: check. Karl Marx: check. Saul Alinsky: check check check. King has for years faced only token opposition in his rural western Iowa district, but in 2012 he faces a Democrat with serious upset hopes in Vilsack, the wife of the former governor-turned-Agriculture-secretary. King, who has previously flirted with birtherism and lamented America's emphasis on diversity, is banking that come November, his nativist ravings will be an asset, not an albatross.

*Update: By obscure I just mean that Antonio Gramsci is not as well known among conservatives as Marx and Alinsky, who need no introduction.

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