Newt Gingrich Channels His Inner Dictator

Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

Newt Gingrich made statements this weekend that leave little doubt he would drag the already overreaching Office of the President over the threshold of dictatorship.  First, let us be clear about what a dictatorship is:  a dictatorship is autocratic rule, control, or leadership; a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique; a government organization or group in which absolute power is so concentrated.  Second, let us be clear that such a concentration of power in a single branch of government is clearly unconstitutional under the Separation of Powers doctrine.

The term “Separation of Powers” is widely attributed to political philosopher of the French Enlightenment, Baron de Montesquieu, but in practice the idea goes back to ancient Greece and the Roman Republic.  The idea is that the power of government is not vested in one place to avoid abuses by creating a system of checks and balances.  Therefore, a tripartite form of government is created where (roughly speaking) a legislative branch holds the power to make laws, a judiciary branch holds the power to interpret laws and administer justice, and an executive branch holds the power to enforce laws and administer public affairs.  In America, the powers of the three branches are determined by the Constitution and precedent such as Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803) (which clarifies the power of judicial review).  Judicial review by an independent judiciary free from political considerations is a power not specifically in the Constitution but considered vital by both Montesquieu and Jefferson.  In the Declaration of Independence, one of Jefferson’s specific charges against King George III was that the judiciary wasn’t independent and “made Judges dependent on his will alone.”  This is part and parcel of why our Founders integrated the concept of judicial independence into the Constitution by granting judges life tenure and providing for salary protection.  Judicial independence removes the fear that judges will be punished by Congress or the Executive for using their Constitutionally granted power in exercising their  best judgment to interpret the law.  An independent judiciary is critically important because it provides for continuity, stability, and guarantees that disputes can be resolved fairly and impartially in our legal system, free from political considerations. A judges who is constantly looking over their shoulder out of fear they can or will  be punished for politically unpopular decisions are less likely to be neutral referees in the cases that come before them and more likely to be political pawns.

That is why it was particularly disturbing what Gingrich said this weekend.  In a phone interview with reporters on Saturday, Gingrich said he “pledged to abolish courts and eliminated activist judges he believed were either outside the mainstream or infringing too deeply on the commander in chief’s authority.”  He then doubled down in his attack on the Separation of Powers doctrine Sunday on the CBS news program “Face the Nation”.  When asked by host Bob Scheiffer, “Let me just ask you this. You talk about enforcing it because one of things you say is if you don’t like what a court has done, the congress should subpoena the judge and bring him before congress and hold a congressional hearing. Some people say that’s unconstitutional but I’ll let that go for a minute. I just want to ask you from a practical standpoint, how would you enforce that? Would you send the Capitol police down to arrest him?”  Gingrich responded, “If you had to or you’d instruct the Justice Department to send a U.S. Marshall. Let’s take the case of Judge Biery. I think he should be asked to explain a position that radical. How could he say he’s going to jail the superintendent over the word benediction and invocation? Because before…because then I would encourage impeachment. But before you move to impeachment, you’d like to know why he said it. Now clearly since the congress has the power…”

In a world where the Executive has been claiming ever unitary, and some would say Imperial, powers since the days of Nixon using “executive privilege” as an excuse to avoid judicial oversight in ordering wiretaps, where Bush and Obama administrations have regularly used “national security” as an excuse to impinge on the powers of both the judiciary and the legislative (in various forms well known and discussed in this forum) as well as the Constitutional rights of citizens, Newt has finally and openly brought politicization and naked intimidation of the judiciary into the far Right’s arsenal in their continued attack on the Constitution.  By saying that he as President would have the power to arrest judges he personally and politically disapproved of, Gingrich is embracing the very sort of dictatorial tyranny that Jefferson was addressing in the list of grievances against King George III that Jefferson incorporated into the Declaration of Independence.  That this assertion clearly violates the Separation of Powers doctrine is without question, although I’m sure some will try to rationalize it away. Gingrich’s statements have drawn criticism from both the left and the right.  As  Michael W. McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University and a former federal appeals judge appointed by Bush, said, “You would think that this would be a time when they would be defending the independence of the judiciary, not attacking it.  You can’t have it both ways. It can’t be that when conservative Republicans object to the courts, they have the right to replace judges, and when liberal Democrats disapprove of the courts, they don’t. And the constitution is pretty clear that neither side can eliminate judges because they disagree with their decisions.”

What do you think?

Source(s): CBS News – Face the Nation 11/18/11, Huffington Post, Washington Post

~Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

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62 thoughts on “Newt Gingrich Channels His Inner Dictator”

  1. The lawyers must be working overtime to remove any vestige of laws within our secular government (as previously defined) that relate in any way to English common law, the Ten Commandments, or found anywhere in the history of humankind. Good luck with that. To become a force for good (secular or otherwise) would seem to mean having a level of attraction for all. Yet it would also seem that it is unlikely to have all with means to be satisfied in all things lawful or in lack thereof at all times. My faith, unrecognizable to some, remains, at least for today 🙂

  2. “you are pretty testy there, I wasnt thinking of you or this blog”

    Ergo your comment is irrelevant and out of place.

    “I live which is close to the large stable of horse’s asses on the east coast.”

    That certainly explains a lot.

    The rest of your post is misplaced opinion.

  3. Gene H:

    you are pretty testy there, I wasnt thinking of you or this blog but where I live which is close to the large stable of horse’s asses on the east coast.

    But big government is a religion to many, the bigger the better. The sacraments are taxation, regulation and money. For that matter so are the sins.

  4. martin,

    Contempt is within the judge’s discretion, martin, but I’m not psychic. Could he jail the principle for violating a court order? Yes he could. Would he? Not a clue. The educated guess is he’d start off with fines and escalate if the disobedience continued. The rest of your opinion is noted, but I answered Steve’s question on the legal grounds present at the case at bar. In detail. If you don’t like the answer either, that falls into the category of your problem.



    The same goes for you too: government is not a religion and learn the meaning of the word “secular”. And who mentioned big government? Why . . . that’d be you! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, big government is a specious argument. Just big enough to do the job is fine, preferable even. However the actual problem is the government isn’t doing their job as defined by the Constitution. Malfunctioning and non-responsive government is the real issue, not its size. I understand you get easily confused by your preoccupation with size, but do try to stay on track.

  5. Gene H/ Steve W – why these spats?
    Steve asked (if I understand from scanning this back-and-forth, and name calling) if you agreed with the declaration of the judge that he would jail the principle over the use of the word “invocation”. I think a proper reply would be “yes” or “no”. Possibly some comment.
    Why has this degenerated into a pitched battle? <= that is my question.

  6. Steve W:

    Around these parts, big government is most definitely a religion. It is all knowing, all caring, all giving and is behind every tree and blade of grass. Just try to fill in a small pond which has cattails and see who pops up.

    Good point on secular humanism as well. People need something to fill the spiritual void if they dont have religion.

  7. Steve,

    I am so glad you aren’t a lawyer. “When avoidance to promote any religion and excessive entanglement in religious matters by secular government to satisfy anyone’s sensitivities becomes an end unto itself, that government itself becomes a religion and is doomed for the dustbin of history.” Utter theocratic gibberish. The job of the law is “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. The job of government is neither forgiveness nor is it the job of government to pimp Christianity or any other religion. That is strictly forbidden not just to protect others from having your religion forced on them by the state, but to keep the state from forcing other’s religions upon you.

    Government is not religion and saying so is a false equivalence – a logical fallacy and a form of lie. Religion is relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity; of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances. Government is the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions and which is usually classified according to the distribution of power within it; the complex of political institutions, laws, and customs through which the function of governing is carried out.

    Our form of government as designed by the Founders and Framers is a secular constitutional democratic representative Federal Presidential republic. If you want a theocracy, feel free to leave. No one will stop you. You have but a couple to choose from, and short of Vatican City and Iran (and to a large extent Saudi Arabia although they are technically a Sharia influenced absolute monarchy rather than a pure theocracy), you are out of luck.

  8. These Republican outrages are occurring at interesting and convenient times. The truth is Cheney got a hold of the DOJ and purged it 3 layers down. The Supremes haven’t been credible at least since they threw the 2000 election. A man who justified torture is on the appellate court. The BAR won’t even take the slightest action against lawyers who broke their code of ethics, not to mention betrayed our Constitution.

    This is just scare tactics for Democrats. That way Democrats won’t notice the farce in chief, the guy who took an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. They guy who lets off those who tortured, ordered torture, justified it “legally”, the guy whose coffers are being filled by financial criminals who have impoverished 1/3 of our nation’s people–that guy-the Democrat. They guy who has blocked justice for torture victims, whose still torturing in Gitmo and other black sites. The guy who is NOW, not in the future, but NOW making a complete mockery of the rule of law.

    The only thing Obama has is the buffoons who run against him with an R behind their name. That’s his only hope. Otherwise, Democrats would notice what Obama was doing was wrong. This way, they are distracted.

  9. Gene H: When avoidance to promote any religion and excessive entanglement in religious matters by secular government to satisfy anyone’s sensitivities becomes an end unto itself, that government itself becomes a religion and is doomed for the dustbin of history. Afterall we moved past ‘Piss Christ.’ You see forgiveness is a gift, not a hammer of law to keep all in line. God Bless.

  10. Steve W.,
    You’re right about the Golden Rule, I was using it because in America it’s the most known formulation of the concept. First historical use of it was Confucius about 600 BCE, then Buddha around 500 BCE. The was of course Rabbi Hillel the Elder around Jesus time, but he was really summing up and older Pharisee tradition. Probably the Hellenist’s used it too and the Muslims. Now you weren’t clear on it, but by using the Matthew quote, weren’t you sort of refuting my point, without evidence?

  11. Mike: “By their fruits you shall know them.” Matthew 7:16; Not a religion, just a statement of fact. The Golden Rule does not belong to Jesus alone but then that would be petty to insist as much.

    “Denial is not a river in Egypt” the late E.J. Johnson, Korean war veteran.

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