I increasingly disagree with much of what George Will has to say as he seems to sliding increasingly into the Kool-Aid drinkers' camp. But from time to time he still gets it right as in a column in the Washington Post that excoriates Newt Gingrich's attacks on the judiciary. The irony in Gingrich's attacks are that the federal judiciary which seems the main target of his wrath is typically pretty competent given the approval process and FBI background checks that federal judges go through (two former law partners are on the bench so I saw the process close at hand). Now state court judges, that's a different matter. Judges are either elected as in many states or appointed as here in Virginia. Sadly, in Virginia, politics plays a larger role in judicial selection than competency. Hence why there are a number of circuit court judges who, in my opinion, have no business being on the bench. They're incompetent and made it through the selection by kissing the right asses. But back to Will's column. Gingrich's attacks on the judiciary threaten the controls on the legislative and executive branches of government. Something that is critical with a number of legislatures only more than willing to trample on the rights of minorities as they pander to the Christianist/Tea Party crowd. Here are some column highlights:
When discussing his amazingness, Newt Gingrich sometimes exaggerates somewhat, as when, discussing Bosnia and Washington, D.C., street violence, he said, “People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jan. 16, 1994]. What primarily stands between us and misrule, however, is the Constitution, buttressed by an independent judiciary.
But Gingrich’s hunger for distinction has surely been slaked by his full-throated attack on such a judiciary. He is the first presidential candidate to propose a thorough assault on the rule of law. That is the meaning of his vow to break courts to the saddle of politicians, particularly to members of Congress, who rarely even read the laws they pass.
So, Gingrich . . . . warns that calling the Supreme Court supreme amounts to embracing “oligarchy.”
Judicial deference to majorities can, however, be a dereliction of the judicial duty to oppose actions irreconcilable with constitutional limits on what majorities may do. Gingrich’s campaign against courts repudiates contemporary conservatism’s core commitment to limited government.
Gingrich radiates impatience with impediments to allowing majorities to sweep aside judicial determinations displeasing to those majorities. He does not, however, trust democratic political processes to produce, over time, presidents who will nominate, and Senate majorities that will confirm, judges whose views he approves.
To teach courts the virtue of modesty, President Gingrich would attempt to abolish some courts and impeach judges whose decisions annoy him — decisions he says he might ignore while urging Congress to do likewise. He favors compelling judges to appear before Congress to justify decisions “out of sync” with majorities, and he would sic police or marshals on judges who resist congressional coercion. Never mind that judges always explain themselves in written opinions, concurrences and dissents.
Gingrich’s unsurprising descent into sinister radicalism — intimidation of courts — is redundant evidence that he is not merely the least conservative candidate, he is thoroughly anti-conservative. He disdains the central conservative virtue, prudence, and exemplifies progressivism’s defining attribute — impatience with impediments to the political branches’ wielding of untrammeled power. He exalts the will of the majority of the moment, at least as he, tribune of the vox populi, interprets it.
Atop the Republican ticket, Gingrich would guarantee Barack Obama’s reelection, would probably doom Republicans’ hopes of capturing the Senate and might cost them control of the House. If so, Gingrich would at last have achieved something — wreckage, but something — proportional to his swollen sense of himself.