Green Room

Newt Gingrich’s assault on the courts: “zany” or brilliant?

posted at 12:03 pm on December 18, 2011 by

That’s the question Matt Lewis has posed about Newt’s current favorite target:

Never one to be accused of timidity, Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich is turning up the volume of his ongoing assault on “activist judges” so high that even conservatives say he is going too far.

In a half-hour phone call with reporters Saturday, Gingrich said that, as president, he would abolish whole courts to be rid of judges whose decisions he feels are out of step with the country.

***

The former House speaker has been emboldened by his reception on the campaign trial, where conservative voters have cheered his view that judges who have ruled in favor of gay marriage or against prayer in school are “activists” who should be thrown out. In particular, Gingrich has criticized the US. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, on the West Coast, as well as U.S. District Judge Fred Biery of Texas, who ruled this year that a public school district in Texas could not, among other things, use the words “prayer,” “amen,” “invocation” or “benediction” during a graduation ceremony.

[Update: Via Allahpundit, Gingrich adds that Congress has the power to dispatch the Capitol Police or US Marshals to apprehend a federal judge who renders a decision lawmakers broadly oppose.]

While “zany” and “brilliant” are perhaps too stark as adjectives here, there are certainly measures of silly and clever at work here. The proposal is silly not only because of the constitutional concerns raised even by conservatives, but also because the proposal would be impractical, even with a friendlier Congress than a President Gingrich would be likely to have. It is classic Newt, spitballing “outside the box,” with little regard to the political realities. John Gizzi (White House Correspondent & Political Editor for Human Events) points out the plan resembles that of that of fictional Confederate Pres. Jake Featherston abolishing the Supreme Court in The Victorious Opposition, noting that Harry Turtledove, who wrote Victorious Opposition and created a series about the Confederate States of America existing beside the USA from 1865-1944, is a Newt favorite. Odds that the left would eventually seize on this similarity, even if coincidental, to paint Gingrich as a crypto-Confederate and discredit federalism further approach 100%.

On the clever side of the ledger, if Newt is truly serious in these attacks — and Newt’s commitment to various ideas can be as fleeting as his commitment to, well, you know — perhaps he expects them to fail, while pushing the courts in a more conservative direction. This was the perceived result of FDR’s court-packing plan. But Newt’s current focus on the issue has an element of the opportunistic. He appears to be fading in the polls, and may be sliding to third in Iowa. Attacking judicial activism is usually a solid way to appeal to conservatives, particulalrly the social conservatives Newt would like to unite if he is to win in Iowa. It’s also a subtle way of reminding them he poured $150,000 into the successful 2010 campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges after the state’s high court struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage.

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Good thing we don’t elect people based on polls.

HopeHeFails on December 18, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Every conservative talking head seizes every opportunity to jump all over Newt instead of saying, “Hey, Newt’s doing pretty well. He’s kind of a long shot, but it sure is interesting. Glad to have him in the debates.”

Instead:
Zaney
Fading
Bombastic
Overreach
Wrong
Diabolical
Insane
Not a leader
Can’t win
Shouldn’t win
Peers won’t endorse him
yada yada yada

HopeHeFails on December 18, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Congress has been remiss in not dealing withe scofflaw judges, which means just about all of them. It is the duty of the House to impeach a judge if they believe he/she was out of line. It is the duty of the Senate to try and convict, if the evidence brought before them by the House prosecutors calls for it.

The courts have been outside the bounds of teh constitution for most of the last century. That Congress has not dealt with the problem is a shame to them. I have to ask, “What did the House do when Gingrich was Speaker about the out of control courts?” The answer is quite simple – not a thing.

Gingrich is just raving hoping to gain some traction.

Quartermaster on December 18, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Gingrich has a problem with timing as to
his public statements.

Poor timing can make accurate statements
appear foolish, insights appear like outrageous
gaffs and affirmations of stone cold facts
appear as ludicrous…timing is important to
get a point across and taken seriously and
Gingrich has a problem with this.

Lourdes on December 18, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Great move.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door-in-the-face_technique

This is what the NeoComs have been doing to conservatives and traditional values for decades.
Time to do the same imo.

Mimzey on December 18, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Congress has been remiss in not dealing withe scofflaw judges…

Quartermaster on December 18, 2011 at 1:41 PM

This is quite true. If that was Gingrich’s point, ‘he didn’t make it and instead sounded too much like a guy
encouraging a dictatorship as our next form of
government.

**I** realize that Gingrich is NOT encouraging
a dictatorship, but he didn’t make that clear to the inevitable Left who are hovering ready to strike
at just about everything he does say.

Lourdes on December 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Maybe he is just saying this to get the judges to start thinking about what could happen, no matter who is Prez….

Vodkanockers on December 18, 2011 at 2:15 PM

the inevitable Left who are hovering ready to strike
at just about everything he does say.

Lourdes on December 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Good. Its time someone called the dance to them. When they’re in the middle of rallying and raving about that, give them something else to split off and holler about.

Mimzey on December 18, 2011 at 2:21 PM

unconstitutional is the word you are looking for…

lexhamfox on December 18, 2011 at 3:08 PM

unconstitutional is the word you are looking for…

lexhamfox on December 18, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Thank you! You beat me to the punch.

gryphon202 on December 18, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Neither zany or brilliant. More along the lines of stupid in my opinion.

ButterflyDragon on December 18, 2011 at 3:14 PM

Zany: I think it is a mixture of both. He is talking about using a constitutional power congress has in a new way that may not fit within the constitution in order to bring another branch of government into being within the constitution.

Brilliant: He is thinking and putting ideas out there, some good some bad, but they can be kicked around and worked on and either accepted or discarded. He is also responding to the wants of the electorate, an electorate which is seeing the Federal Judiciary trampling their Creator given rights every year, month and almost seemingly day of their their lives.

I suggest that Newt instead work with the Constitution, and propose an amendment that will allow the states to give all Federal Judges that they are under jurisdiction of a vote of confidence on a regular basis. Judges that abuse the people’s rights will have those people petition their state government for their grievances, and states can then vote no confidence on those judges which take from State’s Rights or Individual Rights.

astonerii on December 18, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Neither zany or brilliant. More along the lines of stupid in my opinion.

ButterflyDragon on December 18, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I really like his idea of “community boards”///

JPeterman on December 18, 2011 at 4:47 PM

I suggest that Newt instead work with the Constitution, and propose an amendment that will allow the states to give all Federal Judges that they are under jurisdiction of a vote of confidence on a regular basis. Judges that abuse the people’s rights will have those people petition their state government for their grievances, and states can then vote no confidence on those judges which take from State’s Rights or Individual Rights.

astonerii on December 18, 2011 at 3:32 PM

How about we fix the actual problem? The legislature. The “intent” of a law should be plain to see.

Lazy legislation is what leads to activist judges.

ButterflyDragon on December 18, 2011 at 5:06 PM

The argument is being confused in the press. Gingrich has repeatedly argued against the concept of judicial supremacy. Idiots and con men have twisted that to be an argument against judicial review.
Judicial supremacy has the courts deliberately ignoring the Constitution in the name of “fairness” or “diversity” (hello….Wisconsin?). Judicial supremacy has the courts interpreting treaties and making them law (they are not). The idea that this can be done without even having to explain their decision under questioning is anathema to a system of co-equal branches.

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on December 18, 2011 at 6:59 PM

How about we fix the actual problem? The legislature. The “intent” of a law should be plain to see.

Lazy legislation is what leads to activist judges.

ButterflyDragon on December 18, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Does that fix the Supreme Court’s Abortion rulings?
Does that fix the Supreme Court’s anti Christianity rulings?
Does that fix the Supreme Court’s Anti-constitutional arguments that the government can run Medicare and Social Security?
No, it does not. We need to make the Supreme Court and the inferior courts follow the Rules of the Nation.
My proposed amendment would very likely get that done. When the Supreme Court over steps the bounds of the Constitution, the states can decide to retire those justices which voted for the overstepping.

The entire United States of America has gotten extremely lazy since around 1945. Instead of amending the constitution, we just ask the Supreme’s to change the meanings of words.

astonerii on December 18, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Congress just hasn’t been remiss in dealing with some judges, but with the executive branch and all the rulings by EOs, czars and regulatory agencies. The cocktail circuit must be very enticing along with the golf courses in the area.

Kissmygrits on December 18, 2011 at 7:46 PM

Nothing unconstitutional about Gingrich’s proposal to abolish courts. The Congress created the courts and many times in the past it increased or decreased their size and number. The Supreme Court for example doesn’t need to have precisely nine judges, and it did not always have that number.

joe_doufu on December 19, 2011 at 1:51 AM

joe_doufu

You’ve got it.

The ignorance of the Constitution and history on the part the pundits and commenters re: this issue has been glaring.

Congress can set the jurisdiction of the court. Courts can be abolished as Tom Jefferson showed. Jackass judges can be impeached.

The timidity shown by ‘conservative’ pundits on this issue has illustrated perfectly why we find ourselves in the current quandry. You transfer this timidity to the question of publicly calling for Boehner’s political head when he sold us out some months ago, when it comes to attacking Obama personally in the coming election and when it comes to dealing with any other of a number of issues head-on, and everything becomes clear.

avgjo on December 19, 2011 at 5:34 PM

The entire United States of America has gotten extremely lazy since around 1945. Instead of amending the constitution, we just ask the Supreme’s to change the meanings of words.

astonerii on December 18, 2011 at 7:09 PM

0_0 That’s…all too true…

It really is, isn’t it? Amendments take a hell of a lot of hard work, and leave trod-on toes in the process. Far easier to just have a few unelected fogies say “let it be so.”

MelonCollie on December 19, 2011 at 11:29 PM