Gingrich: Arrest judges that make unpopular decisions

In an attempt to fire up conservatives as his poll numbers fall, Newt Gingrich told reporters this past weekend he would ignore decisions he disagreed with, notes the Los Angeles Times:

Newt Gingrich says as president he would ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflicted with his powers as commander in chief, and he would press for impeaching judges or even abolishing certain courts if he disagreed with their rulings.

“I’m fed up with elitist judges” who seek to impose their “radically un-American” views, Gingrich said Saturday in a conference call with reporters.

In recent weeks, the Republican presidential contender has been telling conservative audiences he is determined to expose the myth of “judicial supremacy” and restrain judges to a more limited role in American government. “The courts have become grotesquely dictatorial and far too powerful,” he said in Thursday’s Iowa debate.

As a historian, Gingrich said he knows President Thomas Jefferson abolished some judgeships, and President Abraham Lincoln made clear he did not accept the Dred Scott decision denying that former slaves could be citizens.

Relying on those precedents, Gingrich said that if he were in the White House, he would not feel compelled to always follow the Supreme Court’s decisions on constitutional questions. As an example, he cited the court’s 5-4 decision in 2008 that prisoners held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had a right to challenge their detention before a judge.

“That was clearly an overreach by the court,” Gingrich said Saturday. The president as commander in chief has the power to control prisoners during wartime, making the court’s decision “null and void,” he said.

By the way, the Lincoln reference Gingrich gave is historically inaccurate. Lincoln didn’t disagree with the Dred Scott decision, but that’s irrelevent given that he wasn’t president when it was handed down (handed down in 1857, Lincoln didn’t become president until 1861).

This is obviously a two-way street, and it caught up to Gingrich, who was asked if it would be alright if President Obama ignored a Supreme Court ruling finding ObamaCare to be unconstitutional:

[T]he former House speaker demurred when asked whether President Obama could ignore a high court ruling next year if it declared unconstitutional the new healthcare law and its mandate that all Americans have health insurance by 2014. Gingrich said presidents can ignore court rulings only in “extraordinary” situations.

This is a dangerous position is Gingrich knows it. But perhaps the most dangerous, and troubling aspect of Gingrich’s views on the judiciary is that he is willing to literally detain judges that issue unpopular decisions and force them to explain their opinion.

This is pandering, but it’s still very dangerous. The judiciary, like the executive and legislative branches, are independent bodies, but yet they are kept in check by each other. What Gingrich is suggesting would be incredibly harmful to our constitutional republic because judges would want to avoid potential persecution from an administration and just go along with whatever agenda they want. This is much worse than FDR’s court-packing scheme, which was also a threat to judicial independence.

Imagine the outrage that would come, and rightfully so, if President Obama had much such a suggestion. This is just another example of why Gingrich simply cannot be allowed anywhere near the White House.

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