Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


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.

Get my RSS |

John McCain's Weird Allegation About "Foreign Money"

| Fri Jun. 15, 2012 11:38 AM PDT
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appeared on PBS's Newshour on Thursday and confirmed what we'd hinted at last week: When it comes to campaign finance reform, Mac is back. McCain unloaded on the Supreme Court decisions that opened the floodgates of outside spending, calling Citizens United "the most misguided, naïve, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st Century." But his comments on GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson have received the most media attention:

Senator and Romney presidential campaign surrogate John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is indirectly injecting millions of dollar in Chinese "foreign money" into Mitt Romney's presidential election effort.

"Much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau, which says that obviously, maybe in a roundabout way foreign money is coming into an American political campaign," McCain said in an interview on PBS's News Hour.

Really, though? Inserting foreign money into an election is illegal. This was a big deal in the 1990s when foreign nationals were caught funneling money to benefit Democrats. But McCain is talking about something different. His argument is that Adelson is injecting foreign money into the campaign by...duping Chinese tourists into playing his slot machines. How, exactly, would one go about cracking down on this kind of thing? Would it apply to people who sell fake Rolexes to tourists in Battery Park too? With Adelson reportedly considering spending a "limitless" amount of money electing Romney, there's plenty to worry about, but McCain's barking up the wrong tree on this one. The true issue is not the source of Adelson's wealth—assuming his money is all legit—but the fact that one multi-billionaire can dump tens of millions of dollars, if not more, into the race and possibly tip the scales. This is not about China. This is a made-in-the-USA problem.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

John McCain Doesn't Know What He's Tweeting About

| Thu Jun. 14, 2012 8:20 AM PDT

John McCain was on fire on Wednesday. The Senate was set to vote on the Farm Bill, so the Arizona Republican senator decided to tweet out a list of the 10 worst projects being funded the bill, under the hash-tag #FarmBillPork. Here's number six:

Mac is back, baby!

Some of the projects McCain pokes fun at do seem pretty wasteful. As Politico's David Rodgers reports, Nebraska's two senators wouldn't offer any explanation for why they included a 31-word passage designed to help the popcorn industry. The Farm Bill is notorious for being larded with counterproductive, often wasteful measures. But feral pig eradication isn't a pet project—it's a response to a serious problem with very real economic and environmental consequences.

Feral pigs cause about $400 million in property damage each year in Texas along. The national figure is much higher. Mississippi State's wild pig information site notes that a "conservative estimate of the cost of wild pig damage to agriculture and the environment in the United States currently stands at $1.5 billion annually." That's like three Solyndras! Feral pigs spread diseases, they're bad for business (especially if you own a farm or a golf course), and they're bad for just about any species that's not a feral pig because they're a non-native invasive species. They're also pretty big polluters.

Skepticism is a healthy thing when it comes to massive appropriations bills. But McCain doesn't seem to have any genuine interest in evaluating the merits of a project before he mocks it; he'd rather play to the lowest common denominator by making a joke about pigs. This isn't the first time he's done this, either.

Mitt Romney: The Devil's Dictionary

| Thu Jun. 14, 2012 3:00 AM PDT
Mitt Romney

(This post has been updated.)

It's tough to cover—or simply follow—a presidential election without growing deeply cynical about the whole process. So rather than fighting it, we're going to just come clean: Politicians often don't mean what they say, or, more charitably, they say what they mean but they mean something completely different than what you think.

Mitt Romney is no exception—which is why we're unveiling Mitt Romney's Devil's Dictionary, a new running feature to help you better understand what Mitt Romney means when he says (for example), "Our president doesn't have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do." Unlike the original Ambrose Bierce offering, we can't promise that it will be clever, witty, or darkly humorous, but it is, nonetheless, a dictionary. And it will, at least, be updated. Here's a start:

Apologize v. 1. Something one should never do, even in effort to minimize the diplomatic fallout from freak accidents like accidentally burning the Koran in a country you've occupied for 10 years. 2. To admit weakness. 3. Something Mitt Romney does not do. E.g. "I do not apologize."

Congratulations int. 1. A salutation, generally employed to fill awkward pauses. E.g. "That's a nice lava lamp. Congratulations!"

Donut n. 1. A chocolate goodie. 2. Something political reporters talk about to fill dead air. E.g. "Can you see that one of those, um, chocolate goodies finds its way to our ride."

Exceptionalism n. 1. Something Barack Obama does not believe in, notwithstanding his repeated insistence that America holds a unique place in the world and that his own personal narrative could not have been happened anywhere else. E.g. "Our president doesn't have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do."

French Canadian n. 1. A term used to describe anyone Romney meets. Usually not French Canadian. E.g. "Are you French Canadian?"

Lemonade n. 1. Lemon. 2. Wet. 3. Good. E.g. "Governor Romney how was the lemonade?" "Lemon, wet, good."

Mandate n. 1. A penalty. E.g. "Massachusetts' mandate was a...a penalty." 2. A tax. E.g. "Well, the Supreme Court has the final word, and their final word is that Obamacare is a tax, so it's a tax."

Obamacare n. 1. A health care reform law that attempts to guarantee universal coverage through an individual mandate. Not to be confused with Romneycare (n.), which is a health care reform law that attempts to guarantee universal coverage through an individual mandate.

Out of Touch: n. 1. A charge leveled against one's opponent, often uttered while speaking at a fundraiser held inside a mansion. E.g. "At a $2,500-per-person fundraiser at Isleworth Country Club in suburban Orlando, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney berated President Barack Obama for being out of touch with middle-income Americans."

People n. 1. A corporation. E.g. "Corporations are people, my friends!"

Pie n. 1. Something Mitt Romney loves. E.g. "I love rhubarb pie. I love coconut-cream and banana-cream pie. I loved good apple pie, cherry pie, blueberry pie. I just like pies." See also: scouting, water.

Pizza n. 1. An American dish comprised of a doughy crust, tomato sauce, and cheese, in which the cheese has been scraped off.

Retire v. 1. To remain active. 2.) To maintain a part-time role at a company while retaining full ownership, signing off on key documents, and taking a six-figure salary. e.g. "Mr. Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake Organizing Committee."

Scouting n. 1. Something Mitt Romney loves. E.g. "I love the scouting program. I love the principles of scouting!" See also: water, pie.

Small government n. 1. A governing philosophy in which the federal government expands its regulation of marriage and women's bodies and increases funding for overseas military expeditions.

Sport n. 1. Sports. E.g. "I, figured he had to be in sport, but he wasn't in sport."

Tree n. 1. A tall leafy plant native to Michigan. Should be approximately 24 feet tall and deciduous. E.g. "The trees are the right height." 2. Mitt Romney. E.g. "What kind of tree is that? It's a Mitt Romney tree!"

Unemployed n. Running for president. E.g. "I should tell you my story: I'm also unemployed."

Varmints n. 1. The most dangerous game. E.g. "I've always been, if you will, a rodent and rabbit hunter, small varmints if you will."

Venn diagram n. 1. A chart featuring two circles, in which the overlapping portion represents the difference between the two.

Water n. 1. Something Mitt Romney loves. E.g. "I love the Great Lakes. You know, we've been to Massachusetts. I love the ocean, too. I do love the ocean." See also: scouting, pie.

Why int. 1. Gee. 2. Golly. 3. Gosh. E.g. "If I won California, why, we'd win in a landslide"

Mitt Romney and "Sport," a Continuing Saga

| Tue Jun. 12, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

Mitt Romney was speaking to a Texas audience about job creation last week when the subject turned to sport. "I met a guy yesterday, seven feet tall," he said on Wednesday at Southwest Office Systems in Fort Worth. "Yeah, handsome, great big guy, seven feet tall! Name is Rick Miller—Portland, Oregon. And he started a business. Of course you know it was in basketball. But it wasn't in basketball! I mean, I, figured he had to be in sport, but he wasn't in sport."

This is funny, because who talks like that? Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney talks like that. I've just started reading the candidate's 2004 book, Turnaround, and it turns out that his vaguely 19th-century aristocratic quirk of referring to sports in the singular is a longstanding habit. A quick Google Books scan reveals 33 results for "sport," almost all of them instances where one would normally write "sports" instead.

On page 197: "In addition to my disappointment over their effort to get more American kids into sport, I chafed at the dollars going to the USOC as part of our joint marketing agreement." On page 276: "He explained that in Norway, it was against national law to serve alcohol in sport venues. The logic was that they did not wish youth to associate alcohol with sport." On page 6: "I could think of a dozen individuals with more relevant sport management experience." Page 71: "Don had a long history in sport." Page 157: "We were seeking approval for seven new sport events including women's bobsled and men's and women's skeleton." Page 34, quoting himself: "'The Olympics is about sport, not business,' I said." It even continues on to his more recent 2010 volume, No Apology, where he writes, "Ted Williams famously said that the hardest thing to do in sport is hit a baseball…" Tally-ho good sir, wot wot!

There seem to be a few likely explanations for why Romney says "sport." He has a number of other anachronistic rhetorical tics—starting sentences with "why" when not asking a question, for instance. As this chart demonstrates, the use of "sport" went out of fashion in the United States in the mid-20th century:

Sport v. sports in American English, 1800–2000 Google BooksSport v. sports in American English, 1800–2000 Google BooksRomney's most intense, er, sports experience centered on his involvement in the Olympic games, in which sports are often referred to as "sport." And he spent his missionary years in France, where the singular "sport" is much more common. (No one is suggesting that there's anything wrong with adopting cultural speech practices from the godless, socialist French.)

Sport v. sports in French. Google BooksSport v. sports in French, 1800–2000 Google BooksAnyway, all of this is totally inconsequential. You might just say it's all fun and game. But now you know.

Why Gaffes Don't Matter But We Talk About Them Anyway

| Mon Jun. 11, 2012 8:32 AM PDT
President Barack Obama at a campaign event in Des Moines.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says President Obama's statement that "the private sector is doing fine" is going to be a big deal over the next six months. Why? Because political pundits are going to talk about how big of a deal it is:

First, while it is true that midday cable television viewership is low, that rationale completely disregards the media world in which we live, where even the smallest comment can be amplified into a national headline in minutes. Is there anyone paying even passing attention to politics who hasn't seen the Obama clip five times at this point—which, by the way, is less than 96 hours after he said it? Answer: no.

Wait, really? We'll have to wait for Pew's next report on how little people pay attention to current affairs to see just how wrong that statement is, but the short of it is that it's very wrong. I'm paid to pay attention to politics and I think I've seen the clip maybe once. The press conference in question was on a Friday afternoon. How are people supposed to have seen this clip if not on a cable news program? (No one watches cable news.) Cillizza notes that the Romney campaign has distributed a web video featuring the Obama quote, but that's a lot different than a television ad capable of reaching people who don't opt-in to watching it. And how do we know this will have any more of an impact than any of the dozens of other web videos released by the Romney campaign?

It's very possible that this quote will enter Romney's campaign lexicon going forward, but the idea that we should talk about it because we'll be talking about it is pretty circular. The role of a political reporter isn't to predict the future; it's to cut through the balogna. In this case, Obama tripped on his line, but his factual point stands.

Tue Apr. 15, 2014 1:54 PM PDT
Fri Mar. 28, 2014 4:41 AM PDT
Thu Jan. 30, 2014 4:00 AM PST
Tue Jan. 28, 2014 12:35 PM PST
Fri Jan. 24, 2014 9:27 AM PST
Thu Jan. 16, 2014 9:27 AM PST
Thu Dec. 12, 2013 4:00 AM PST