"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“King Newt”: Why Not Just Call For Martial Law And Be Done With It?

There has been no shortage of wacky ideas from the Republican candidates, but Newt Gingrich’s attacks on the judiciary are truly far out on the lunatic fringe of right-wing politics.

At first he confined himself to merely railing against the independence of the judiciary, without which due process simply cannot exist. Recently, he’s started talking about arresting judges who issue rulings he doesn’t like. Intimidating judges used to be a criminal offense. Now it’s a campaign plank and a Sunday morning sound bite.

On the CBS News program “Face the Nation” yesterday, Mr. Gingrich said Congress should compel judges to testify about any decision that annoys the majority party on Capitol Hill. He said he would send U.S. Marshals to arrest them if they did not willingly come to testify. (Marshals, for what it’s worth, are charged with protecting federal judges, who get hundreds of death threats a year.) Mr. Gingrich is not the first politician to say shockingly inappropriate things about federal judges. In 2005, Tom DeLay, who was the Republican House Majority Leader, threatened retribution against the judges who ruled against his wishes in the Terri Schiavo case.

And that same year, John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, attributed episodes of courthouse violence to distress over judges who make “political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public.” This was shortly after a career criminal tried to shoot his way out of an Atlanta trial, killing the judge in the process. And after a deranged man murdered a Chicago judge’s mother and husband because the judge had dismissed his lawsuit.

But Mr. Gingrich takes the attack on the judiciary farther than any other national figure I’ve heard, at least since the Jim Crow days. He’s actually gone so far as to suggest Congress impeach uncooperative judges. Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general who served under George W. Bush, called Mr. Gingrich proposals “dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off the wall.”

Dangerous and irresponsible is right, for many reasons—but I’ll just give you two. One is that Mr. Gingrich’s proposal opens the door to Congress firing and hiring judges each time power changes hands between the political parties. Judges have lifetime terms to protect them from exactly this kind of pressure. Second, it would effectively eliminate the role of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of constitutionality.

Mr. Gingrich has referred several times to Thomas Jefferson’s elimination of federal judgeships at the turn of the 19th century. He presents that as an uncontroversial move, when in fact it was part of a highly partisan attempt to rescind his predecessor’s judicial appointments. He’s also fond of saying that the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review, established during Jefferson’s presidency with the seminal case Marbury v. Madison, has been “grossly overstated.”

That statement alone should turnoff primary voters. Marbury v. Madison was a founding decision for a fledgling democracy that had shed its blood to get away from a law that was subject to the will and whim of a political figure—the King of England.


By: Andrew Rosenthal, The New York Times, December 19,2011

December 20, 2011 - Posted by | Democracy, GOP | , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Share your comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: