Newt Gingrich confirmed the tendency of the United States toward Palengentic Corporatist Ultranationalistic Populism by bluntly stating that he would arrest US Judges that gave rulings sympathetic to a secularist ideal or which encroached upon the discretionary powers of the US President acting as Commander-In-Chief.
Newt said he would take action against
“steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a non-religious country.”
and, of course, that he was defending “traditional American values.”
Says the blog Digital Journal
Michael Mukasey [an Attorney-General under GW Bush] said to Fox News that Gingrich’s proposals were “dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off-the-wall, and would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle”.
Now, Newt is not stating that he would immediately imprison Judges with whom he disagrees. He just wants to haul them before a Commission Of Inquiry to explain their
treachery thinking i.e. he just wants to intimidate the judges, not imprison them…yet.
Crocodile Tears For Checks And Balances
Newt’s assertive proposal for the defence of the US government against unconstitutional judical activism is spelt out in his election year manifesto “Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution”
This document presents as the call of a concerned citizen for the US Constitution to be interpereted according to the precepts of ‘Originalism’ and for proper constitutional observation of the limits of power of each of the governmental branches of the US (Congress, President, Judiciary).
However, Gingrich’s call for the proper seperation of powers is a mere smokescreen for his desire to see an effectively unlimited presidency as insofar as this concerns Presidential discretionary powers when acting as Commander-In-Chief.
Gingrich concentrates his attention and warnings on what he sees as the creeping aggregation of perogative by the Courts and for them to be put under proper restraint through Congress and the President using their Constitutional rights to question, discipline and/or dismiss activist Judges and Courts.
Gingrich does not, however, caution against the President over-reaching his Constitutional privileges or sound any warning that the Presidency is undermining the proper seperation of powers via the over use of Presidential Executive Orders. In fact, Gingrich is seeking to strengthen the Predidents ability to act unilaterally by recommending that Courts and Judges be disciplined or struck down for ruling on limitations to Presidential power.
Gingrich, while not a Tea Partyer himself, is opportunistically attempting to leverage the powerful ‘Constitutionalist’ sentiment (see also here) generated by the Tea Party movement in order to expand the unilateral perogatives of the Presidency.
Gingrich’s immediate aim is to entrench in the Presidency the unilateral right to declare war whenever the President so decides. This is why he especially wishes to cordon off the President’s role of Commander-In-Chief from question or review by the Courts, whom he properly recognises as the most likely source of constraint on the President.
In this, Gingrich appears to share common ground with and exceed John McCain who, during the last US Federal Election, when asked what US Policy should be toward Iran simply sang ‘Bomb, Bomb, Bomb / Bomb Bomb Iran’ to the tune of the famous 60’s pop tune ‘Barbara Ann’.
Gingrich’s document “Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution” presents well as a case for Originalism and provides good examples of judicial activism which would warrant Congressional inquiry.
The most topical is the astounding (though legally consistent) assertion by Judge Biery, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas someone that he would order the arrest of any school official who permitted a person to lead a group of persons of mixed or non-belief in prayer during a high school graduation speech or merely say the words “amen” or “prayer” during the ceremony.
These students, and all other persons scheduled to speak during the graduation ceremony, shall be instructed not to present a prayer, to wit, they shall be instructed that they may not ask audience
members to “stand,” “join in prayer,” or “bow their heads,” they may not end their remarks with “amen” or “in [a deity’s name] we pray,” and they shall not otherwise deliver a message that would commonly be understood to be a prayer, nor use the word “prayer” unless it is used in the student’s expression of the student’s personal belief, as opposed to encouraging others who may not believe in the concept of prayer to join in and believe the same concept.
this injunctive order shall be effective immediately and shall be enforced by incarceration or other sanctions for contempt of Court if not obeyed by District official and their agents.
Gingrich adduces his document with many supporting statements from the US Founding Fathers (e.g Madison, Hamilton), supplies fair examples of where he feels that the US Supreme Court has exceeded the Constitution and makes a reasoned argument against judicial activism as he sees it. I found it an enjoyable and stimulating read.
But Gingrich is deceiving the electorate. He is not at all concerned with Constitutional balance between the arms of government, merely with aggrandaising the office of President by giving it irrevocable powers when acting as Commander-In-Chief.
Furthermore, Gingrich uses the rulings of Judge Biery above to generate outrage to distract attention from his agenda to aggrandaise the Presidency. In short, his entire conduct in this matter is as a calculated power grab under the dishonest pretence to be a defender of Constitutional balance.
While expressing outrage at judicial activism and subversion of the Constitution, Gingrich ignores Presidential activism and subversion of the kind openly acknowledged by aides to President Clinton
Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kinda cool.”
Paul Begala, former Clinton advisor, The New York Times, July 5, 1998
“We’ve switched the rules of the game. We’re not trying to do anything legislatively.”
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, The Washington Times, June 14, 1999
As the website ThisNation.com describes in its article, ‘What Is An Executive Order’ ‘Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to take effect but they have the same legal weight as laws passed by Congress’ and also notes that the US involvement in the 1999 Balkans war against Serbia under Clinton was authorised by Executive Order.
This attempt by Gingrich to concentrate more unilateral power in the office of President, to legitimize such concentration, protect it from criticism and to limit the most effective brake on that power shows Gingrich as possessing active Fascist impulses. This is unfortunately too well in line with the general and growing Fascist orientation of the Tea Party and Republican Party in general.
The Palingenic content of his statement lies in the call to defend ‘Traditional American Values’. As my linked article above explains, Fascist movements are Palengenic meaning they seek a rebirth from some corrupted or dead state and Reactionary in that they respond to a supposed existential threat of some kind. Gingrich has here identified the Judiciary as that existential threat to traditional values.
Gingrich’s assertion of traditional American Biblical values in conjuction with the call for unlimited war-making powers in the Presidency is a clear validation of the prediction that when Fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. The conjuction of the two aspects is, in my view, significant.
The particularly nasty part about Gingrich’s comments are that he deceptively asserts a desire to balance the powers of government while actually attempting to minimize one (the courts) and aggrandaise another (the Presidency). His manifesto nowhere mentions the dangers of an unlimited Presidency. Only the courts are criticized.
By seeking to constrain the courts, Gingrich is attempting to remove constraints on single-person Presidential power which is law by decree, a hallmark of Fascism.
I will re-state: Should the USA suffer a major economic depression or lose control of Middle East Oil, it will quickly descend into Fascism. This danger will be present until significant political actors, such as Gingrich, no longer feel comfortable in voicing proto-Fascist proposals, a precondition for which is that the Tea Party Movement will have ceased to exist.