I have previously questioned the historical and legal views of Newt Gingrich. However, we may agree on one recent historical claim: that Andrew Jackson tended to address enemies by killing them. As shown in the video below, Gingrich embraced this approach as a campaign pledge — eclipsing prior campaign pledges in the primary to bomb countries or torture detainees.
Gingrich thrilled the crowd by proclaiming that Jackson “had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.”
Putting aside a tendency to shoot enemies in duels, Jackson was infamous for his treatment of Native Americans. This included the disgraceful treatment of the Cherokee nation where they were forced to walk from lands east of the Mississippi River to present-day Oklahoma. The “Trail of Tears” led to the death of thousands of men, women, and children — an act that bears striking resemblance to acts of alleged genocide. Jackson was unwilling to live by a ruling of the Supreme Court in 1832 in favor of the Cherokee (Worcester v. Georgia). Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was sovereign, making the removal laws invalid. Jackson nevertheless pushed the tribe from its land through federal agents — the very type of disregard for Supreme Court authority that Gingrich previously embraced. For Native Americans, this is akin to citing the man behind the Bataan Death March as a model for leadership. Jackson also imposed military rule — and authoritarian measures — before the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson was a remarkable man in many respects but he is also responsible for outrageous acts, particularly against Native American tribes.
Gingrich avoided the specific question raised over his willingness to violate international law and national borders to kill enemies. However, he proudly associated himself with the right of presidents to kill people who they deem to be enemies of the United States — a position not too far removed from the policy of President Obama. While Obama insists that he will only kill U.S. citizens and others based on his view that they are terrorists, his Administration has carried out a broader use of drone attacks than any prior president. Moreover, both Gingrich and Obama base their policies on the same unlimited notions of presidential power.
With presidential candidates pledging to kill enemies, torture detainees, and bomb countries, our political system appears to be de-evolving into a type of paleolithic politics.