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 Idaho GOP Gubernatorial Debate Was Total Chaos

| Thu May 15, 2014 11:38 AM EDT
What is even going on here?

Idaho Republican Gov. Butch Otter (no relation) is facing a primary challenge this year from Russ Fulcher, a conservative state senator. Idaho is a really conservative place and Otter has angered his party's base by supporting the Common Core math and English standards, so the incumbent isn't taking any chances. When it came time for Otter and Fulcher to debate, the governor insisted on opening up the floor. He argued that all candidates should be allowed on stage, which sounds nice and democratic in theory, but in practice meant that Fulcher had to split time with two people who will never be governor—also-rans Harley Brown and Walt Bayes.

Even before Wednesday's debate started, Idaho Public Television announced that it would broadcast the event on a 30-second delay in anticipation of rampant cussin'. Brown—who wore his customary leather vest and leather hat, has the presidential seal tattooed on his shoulder, two cigars in his right breast pocket, and is missing several prominent teeth—used his closing argument to wave a signed certificate from a "Masai prophet" that confirmed that he would one day be president of the United States. Brown revealed that he supports gay marriage because as a cab driver in Boise he discovered that gay people "love each other more than I love my motorcycle." His closing argument was blunt: "You have your choice, folks: A cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker, or a normal guy. Take your pick… We're leaving it up to you."

Bayes, who has a beard that extends halfway down his ribcage and resembles a 19th-century gold prospector, also wanted to talk about Biblical prophecy, but mostly just abortion. His credentials for governor are that he once went to jail for homeschooling his 16 children, five of whom went on to become rodeo cowboys. "Everybody, thanks everybody, okay?," he said during his closing statements.

Most of all, he wanted to thank Gov. Otter: "Butch, I want to thank you for making it possible for me to be here tonight. He kind of insisted that me and this other un-normal person could be here tonight."

This exactly the kind of circus the United States tried to break away from:

 

Correction: This post misstated the components of the Common Core State Standards.

Ted Cruz Is Attacking Obama for Relocating a Shrubbery

| Fri May 9, 2014 11:30 AM EDT

On Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz released "The Legal Limit Report No. 4," a comprehensive report on the Obama administration's "persistent power of lawlessness" and abuses of power. "In the more than two centuries of our nation's history," Cruz wrote—outlining a period in which American citizens were rounded up and put in camps, deprived of habeas corpus, and routinely denied basic rights on the basis of race—"there is simply no precedent for the White House wantonly ignoring federal law and asking others to do the same."

Given those stakes, much of what's on Cruz's list is pretty trivial. Not only are many of the abuses several dozen bureaucratic rungs beneath the president's purview, but there's no real explanation of how they might be remotely classified as lawless abuses. Here are the eight silliest items on the list:

  1. "Spent $205,075 in "stimulus" funds to relocate a shrub that sells for $16." An American Recovery and Reinvestment Project in San Francisco spent big bucks to remove a patch of Arctostaphylos franciscana that was blocking a construction project in the Presidio. On the other hand, Arctostaphylos franciscana is an endangered species and the specimen in San Francisco was the very last remaining plant in the wild. Besides, people have gone to much greater lengths in pursuit of shrubberies:
  2. "Spent $7 million per household in 'stimulus funds' to connect a few Montana households to the Internet." Wow that is expensive. But fully enabled by the law.
  3. "Cancelled all White House tours after sequestration—purportedly saving $18,000 per week—even though President Obama had spent more than $1 million in tax money to golf with Tiger Woods one weekend a few weeks before." Cruz is right that some things are more expensive than other things, but the Woods golf outing occurred before sequestration was even in effect.
  4. "Actively, aided in George Zimmerman protests." Right-wingers alleged that a "little-known" Department of Justice office was helping to organize protests after the shooting of Trayvon Martin. That was false. The Community Relations Service, a program created by the Civil Rights Act, set up shop in Sanford, Fla. to ensure that the protests, which had been happening for weeks, remained peaceful.
  5. "Former 'safe schools czar' has written about his past drug abuse and advocated promoting homosexuality in schools." Although conservatives like Sean Hannity accused him (without basis) of supporting the North American Man Boy Love Association, in reality, Kevin Jenning, head of the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, "advocated promoting homosexuality" by organizing an anti-bullying program for bus drivers.
  6. "President Obama told NASA administrator to 'find a way to reach out to the Muslim world.'" This listed as an abuse of power, although Cruz, who can recite the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution from memory, doesn't specify which powers are being violated by a call for scientific collaboration.
  7. "Argued for expansive federal powers in the Supreme Court, which has rejected the Administration's arguments unanimously 9 times since January 2012." Pleading your case to the Supreme Court is the exact opposite of a lawless activity. (Ted Cruz himself did it nine times as solicitor general of Texas.)
  8. "Shut down an Amish farm for selling fresh unpasteurized milk across state lines." In 2012, a federal judge ruled that Kinzer, Penn., farmer Daniel Allgyer was acting in deliberate violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Public Health Services Act, by continuing to illegally sell raw milk after a warning from the Food and Drug Administration. Maybe Cruz thinks we should be drinking more raw milk. (We shouldn't be.) But he appears to be arguing for deliberate non-enforcement of the law, putting Cruz at odds with the author of the "Legal Limit Report No. 4," one Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who argued that "when a president can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a president." Ergo, Ted Cruz is a dictator.

Thom Tillis Wins North Carolina Senate Primary

| Tue May 6, 2014 10:03 PM EDT
North Carolina state speaker of the house Thom Tillis.

Bullet: dodged. North Carolina speaker of the house Thom Tillis cruised to victory in Tuesday's North Carolina Republican Senate primary, setting up a general election showdown with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) this fall. Democrats had held on to hopes that Tillis, who was endorsed at the last minute by Mitt Romney, would fall short of the 40-percent threshold needed to win the race outright and head into a runoff with Greg Brannon, a far-out tea party doctor backed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

In another election year, Tillis would have been branded the conservative crusader. As the leader of an unpopular state legislature that shifted hard to the right in 2013, Tillis sparked a protest movement and national outrage over his steep budget cuts to social services and harsh restrictions on abortions. In 2011, he told a crowd he planned to "divide and conquer" people who received government assistance and subject them to drug tests. The state's voter ID law, passed with Tillis' support, is among the nation's strictest. The legislature even banned state scientists from calculating sea level rise—just in case.

But Tillis struggled for months to win over the Republican base. At one point, tea party activists leaked audio of an angry Tillis chewing out conservative activists for having the gall to suggest that he was not wearing his "big boy pants." But while North Carolina conservatives seemed to be clamoring for a better choice, they never settled on an alternative. When Reps. Renee Ellmers and Virginia Foxx decided to sit it out, the best they could come up with was Brannon, an OB-GYN who runs a chain of crisis pregnancy centers in the state and picked up the endorsement, in October, of Paul.

But Brannon was a singularly flawed candidate (even the insurgent-friendly Senate Conservatives Fund sat this one out), which might explain why Paul never came to visit until this Monday. He endorsed the right of a state to nullify federal laws he doesn't agree with and spoke at a rally co-sponsored by a pro-secession organization, the League of the South. He called food stamps "slavery" and pledged to get rid of the Department of Agriculture. He dabbled in 9/11 trutherism. He floated a novel theory that Planned Parenthood is trying to kill newborns. He dismissed public education as a Marxist plot that "does nothing but dehumanize" kids. When a Huffington Post headline featured a "GOP Candidate:" story anytime in the last seven months, there was a fifty-percent chance that candidate was Brannon.

So it's not surprising that he lost and Tillis won. What's surprising is that anyone—especially an aspiring presidential candidate with dreams of making nice with big-time donors—thought fit to elevate Brannon in the first place.

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