Newt Gingrich throws the book at federal judges
"I’ll take Checks and Balances for a thousand, Alex."
This branch of government trumps all the others.
"Alex, what is, 'Any branch I’m in charge of?' "
Gingrich has been saying on various news venues, that when a judge is "aggressively anti-American, aggressively anti-free speech and aggressively anti-religious -- that judge ought to not be on the bench." He’s advocating presidents ignore Supreme Court rulings if they think they interfere with their authority, arguing for Congress to subpoena judges to explain their rulings, and if need be, enlist federal marshals to force them to show up. If judges were acting "radically anti-American," he’d shut them down.
Whose idea of radical? Of un-American? Was Brown v. Board of Education radical and un-American because many Americans then thought otherwise?
On CBS' "Face the Nation," he’s invoked the "two out of three" playground rule -- if two branches of government don’t like it, the third branch had better suck it up.
The Constitution is a document that famously protects minority rights -- unless, as Gingrich would have it, that minority is the federal courts acting constitutionally to protect minority rights, against the tyranny of voters or a congressional majority.
If you think confirmation hearings are a spectacle now, wait until the senators and members of Congress of the majority party of the moment can summon federal judges via subpoena to account for themselves: the Republicans want the C-SPAN cameras going while hammering the justices to justify Roe v. Wade, the Democrats are ready for their closeups about Bush v. Gore and Citizens United.
That is the kind of spectacle for reality shows and banana republics, not for a constitutional democracy.
On Fox, Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, two George W. Bush attorneys general -- even two Bush attorneys general, some of you might be thinking -- deplored this as unsettling, and perhaps a "dishonest" use of Congress’ subpoena power, to use Mukasey’s word.
So what are the conclusions we have to choose from about Gingrich’s flaming federal judges?
Option one-- Does he know better and is cynically pandering to the anti-judiciary crowd, chumming for votes among the grandchildren of the people who drove around with "Impeach Earl Warren" bumper stickers on their Oldsmobiles?
Option two-- Has he in fact quaffed the "activist judges" Flavor-Aid? [I know Kool-Aid has become the trope, but it was Flavor-Aid that was served up as the mass-suicide cocktail at Jonestown; a reporter friend who covered the event brought back an empty Flavor-Aid packet with him.]
Option three -- Has Gingrich gone "imperial presidency" on us, after spending a little too much time in the Speaker’s chair and believing he can propose and dispose of the Constitution as he pleases?
Here’s your chance to vote. Maybe your last chance. Because if Gingrich keeps this up, you won’t be getting a chance to vote on him in any other venue -- like a ballot.
-- Patt Morrison
Photo: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign stop at Global Security Services in Davenport, Iowa, on Dec. 19. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press