No Newt to kick around anymore?

That would be quite a disappointment.  As the man deserves a lot of kicking.  I was all set to write a post about his absolutely reprehensible views on the judiciary, when I saw a link to the latest PPP Iowa polling results via FB:

Newt Gingrich’s campaign is rapidly imploding, and Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa.  He’s at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.

Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row.  His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%.  And there’s been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47). Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich’s image as being a strong conservative- now only 36% of voters believe that he has ‘strong principles,’ while 43% think he does not.

Given the lack of any major campaign faux pas, etc., (conservatives don’t mind hearing absolutely reprehensible views on the judiciary) this is some great evidence for the power of negative ads in a primary context.  Apparently the widespread air-war against Newt is really doing it’s job.

Nonetheless, still worthy a minute to discuss Newt’s absurd and offensive comments from the past week:

Newt Gingrich says as president he would ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflict 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 during 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…

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 held that prisoners at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had a right to challenge their detention before a judge.

Short version: Rule of Law?  We don’t need no stinkin’ rule of Law!  Kevin Drum sums up just how ridiculous Newt’s actual position is:

Apparently not. In fact, he wants the judiciary to be independent 99% of the time — which brings to mind all the usual jokes about being a little bit pregnant — and defines the 1% this way:

Another branch would step in, Gingrich said, when a judge or a court makes a decision that is “strikingly at variance with America.”

Even for Newt this is crazy stuff. I’ve heard of strict scrutiny and original intent and reasonable doubt, but I’ve never heard of the “strikingly at variance with America” rule. But not to worry. If you read more about Newt’s views on this, it turns out that “strikingly at variance with America” isn’t nearly as vague as you think it is. What it really means is any court decision dealing with religion in the public square. Newt wants religion front and centerin the public square and he wants it funded and fully endorsed by any level of government that’s so minded. And woe betide the judge who tries to get in the way.

I think the most depressing part about this is that more conservatives are not willing to call Newt out on this.  As the Post story’s sub-headline on the matter said, “even some conservatives object..”  Really should be more than just some.  Either you believe in the rule of law, or you don’t.  As Drum says, it’s like being a little bit pregnant.  You can’t just say we’ll only over-rule one branch of the American Government when we really need to.  In an intellectually honest Political Party that actually cared about core American values, Newt’s statements would be utter anathema.  The fact that they’re not is telling.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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