Commentary Magazine


Contentions

One of the Sillier Statements of Any Modern Political Figure

In his interview with Scott Hennen, Newt Gingrich was asked what he thought about the “good Newt” versus “bad Newt” narrative. Gingrich responded this way: “I think it’s a foolish narrative. I mean, when you are drowning in being outspent 5 to 1 with negative ads, there’s a tendency to want to respond to them. Now I don’t know if that is bad Newt. Does that mean that there is a bad Mitt and a good Mitt? I mean, give me a break.”

But Gingrich went beyond that to say, “But I can tell you is that, if you look at my whole career, and Scott you’ve known me for many years, you look at the 24 books we’ve written, you look at the 7 movies we’ve made, you know, I like ideas, I like being a candidate of ideas and that’s far and away what I prefer to do and I think if people go to Newt.org and look at all the positive things we have there — just our 54-page paper on how to rebalance the judiciary and force the judges back within the Constitution. Just that one paper would frankly justify the campaign because it is the boldest statement of the founding fathers, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers I think that any modern political figure has written in my lifetime.”

Not quite.

The paper itself, “Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution,” makes some useful and interesting points, as my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Ed Whelan points out. But there are also some problematic recommendations. Whelan and Matthew J. Franck lay out (here, here, here and here what they refer to as Gingrich’s “awful proposal to abolish judgeships.” George Will has written that Gingrich’s proposals make him the “first presidential candidate to propose a thorough assault on the rule of law.” Gingrich’s effort to intimidate the courts qualify as, in Will’s words, a “descent into sinister radicalism.” And former Attorney General Michael Mukasey has said that if Gingrich’s plans were put into effect, America would become a “banana republic, in which administrations would become regimes, and each regime would feel it perfectly appropriate to disregard decisions by courts staffed by previous regimes.”

Whelan, Franck, Will, and Mukasey are right, and Gingrich is wrong.

Having read “that one paper” the former speaker refers to, I can say with some degree of confidence that it alone does not “frankly justify the campaign.” And for Gingrich to claim it constitutes “the boldest statement of the founding fathers, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers I think that any modern political figure has written in my lifetime” constitutes one of the sillier statements of any modern political figure in my lifetime.