Newt Gingrich vs. “The Republican Establishment”

Less then ten days ago, Newt Gingirich offered another zinger in the pre-holiday debate among Republican candidates for the presidency. He noted the need to do something to constrain the excesses of arrogant activist judges and he presented a concrete strategy for doing so. He said, “If judges are so radically anti-american that they thought One Nation Under God was wrong, then they shouldn’t be on the court.” In this he was referring to a specific recent court ruling that many Republicans agree was nerdy and over-reaching. Newt has proposed various measures for enforcement of judicial responsibility in relation to the other two branches of government. In certain cases, judges should be compelled to explain their rulings before Congress or risk impeachment.

Newt has been pummeled with criticism from the so-called “Republican Establishment,” a possibly self-marginalizing cadre of naysayers who now must prove that Newt is unelectable by doing everything in their power to make sure that he isn’t elected. Charles Krauthammer appears to be one such critic. From his comfortable perch as a Fox News regular, he has denounced Newt’s proposal and has suggested that Newt probably couldn’t win the election next November.

So far, no one I can think of has effectively countered Newt’s actual argument supporting the viability of his idea. During the recent debate, Newt, who is a historian, noted, for example, that in 1802, Thomas Jefferson abolished 18 of 35 judges. Megyn Kelly, a panelist asking questions of the candidates parried, saying, “Something that was highly criticized.” And Newt replied, “Not by anybody in power in 1802,” and then extended the history lesson by pointing out that Lincoln repudiated the Dred Scott decision in his first inaugural address of 1861.

On Sunday, Bob Schieffer, on “Face the Nation,” invited Newt to explain his position. For Newt’s answer, click here.

I would like to hear a fuller explanation of Newt’s notion, and a more complete response to it. Mitt Romney won’t debate Newt before Iowa. So here’s an idea for Newt to consider: Challenge Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Karl Rove, Michael Mukasey—or any other of the conservative advocates mocking your proposal—to a debate or public discussion about the issue of judicial activism, the need for constraints, and your plan for putting restraints in place. Clearly, you’re a man of bold new ideas. As far as I know, a direct challenge to debate some TV talking head wielding disproportionate influence among the electorate, or a former Republican Attorney General, like Mukasey, is unprecedented. Maybe it’s time.

For Newt’s detailed position on reigning in activist judges, click here.

I invite comments, and I especially welcome answers to any of these questions:

1. Is there a problem in the United States with “activist judges”?

2. What are the strengths of Newt’s plan for addressing this problem?

3. What are the weaknesses of Newt’s plan for addressing this problem?

4. Would you like to see a public debate or conversation between Newt Gingrich and members of the Republican establishment who object to his plan?

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

5 Responses to Newt Gingrich vs. “The Republican Establishment”

  1. cam says:

    1. Is there a problem in the United States with “activist judges”?
    Yes, though I don’t believe the word “activist” clearly describes their focus/intent, or the direction they’re going with their decisions. “Activist” sounds more benign than the results their decisions produce. I believe the decisions these judges render are more than just honest “differences of opinion” regards applying Constitutional principles, but likely fall short of being “evil decisions”.

    2. What are the strengths of Newt’s plan for addressing this problem?
    It’s a sound idea taken simply from the standpoint of being sound constitutionally.

    3. What are the weaknesses of Newt’s plan for addressing this problem?
    I don’t know if his leadership skills are up to the challenge. He has to do a lot of convincing in the face of overwhelming opposition.

    Theodore Roosevelt had issues with supreme court judges but his ideas were not well accepted by a lot of other leaders at the time. I can’t demonstrate this, but I believe that Roosevelt had a problem because the judges then did not support his progressive programs as he thought they should. Newt’s direction is that the judges don’t adhere to the constitution as they should.

    4. Would you like to see a public debate or conversation between Newt Gingrich and members of the Republican establishment who object to his plan?
    Yes, a conversation would be valuable. Often, the “debates” we see today seem a bit contrived and don’t yield much substance.

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  2. It’s very interesting!

    In regards to question 4, I think I would like to see a mediated discussion. It would have to be the right mediator with a good strategy for the discussion. Honestly I like the freedoms that come with a discussion that sometimes debates do not allow to happen.

    It might only seem obvious to religious or conservative minded people that we have a problem with “activist judges”, ergo Gingrich’s electoral hurdle which is maybe why you suggested that he take on this topic with the skeptics.

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  3. Howard says:

    Correction on previous.
    Should read: Cities have given up after being SUED in court—–

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  4. Daniel Geivett says:

    This would be great! The Republican media establishment does not want Speaker Gingrich to become the nominee. There was another despised candidate a few years ago who captured the voting public’s imagination. His name was Reagan. I would not underestimate Mr. Gingrich in this election cycle.

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  5. Howard says:

    That’s a debate I’d love to hear.
    You may recall Judicial rulings allowing illegal day-workers, sometimes over 70, to OCCUPY the area in front of my business. Cities have given up after years of being sued in court for trying to correct this disgrace. This is just one example of a system gone bonkers!

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