Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

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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Tampa 2012: The Birthers Cometh (With Video)

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 8:29 AM EDT

David Lipinoga, a Republican town committeeman from Amherst, New York, isn't a delegate at the Republic National Convention. He's here to sell stuff—specifically, an Angry Birds-style Android game called "Angry Patriots and Pinheads" that's designed to educate users on the radicalism of President Obama. Here, you can even watch a demo. But, as I found out when I talked to him on Monday outside the press filing center in Tampa, he's also got some...interesting thoughts about President Obama's real name, Social Security number, and place of birth:

One more example why Mitt Romney's birther joke in Michigan last Friday was almost certainly not a gaffe; plenty of conservatives still believe this stuff and Romney wants their votes.

Music by Mike Smirnoff.

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

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 4:15 AM EDT

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."

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

| Thu Aug. 23, 2012 12:42 PM EDT

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.

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