Though it seems more as just another gaffe for Newt Gingrich, his comments about sending Capitol Police or U.S. Marshals to arrest judges and force them to testify before Congress to explain what he or any other would-be President would deem “radically anti-American” decisions, should draw attention to what’s going on in Hungary right now.
What do these two men share about the judiciary?
In a free and fair election last spring in Hungary, the center-right political party, Fidesz, got 53% of the vote. This translated into 68% of the seats in the parliament under Hungary’s current disproportionate election law. With this supermajority, Fidesz won the power to change the constitution. They have used this power in the most extreme way at every turn, amending the constitution ten times in their first year in office and then enacting a wholly new constitution that will take effect on January 1, 2012.
This constitutional activity has transformed the legal landscape to remove checks on the power of the government and put virtually all power into the hands of the current governing party for the foreseeable future.
Under the new constitutional order, the judiciary has taken the largest hit. The Constitutional Court, which once had the responsibility to review nearly all laws for constitutionality, has been killed off … . SOURCE
These changes under the right-leaning Fidesz government has co-opted the fledging democracy in Hungary in the following ways:
- the government expanded the number of judges on the bench and filled the new positions with their own political allies
- the government restricted the jurisdiction of the court so that it can no longer review any law that has an impact on the budget
- the government changed the rules of access to the court so that it will no longer be easily able to review laws in the abstract for their compliance with the constitution. Moreover, individuals can no longer challenge the constitutionality of laws without first going through a lengthy process in the ordinary courts.
This law also creates a new National Judicial Office where a single authority will be charged “with overseeing the nomination of judges and will also have a say over which cases they oversee in court.” This action pretty much encompass what Gingrich has suggested in his attack on “activist judges”.
In a half-hour phone call with reporters Saturday, Gingrich said that, as president, he would abolish whole courts to be rid of judges whose decisions he feels are out of step with the country.
The former House speaker Sunday showed no sign of letting up on his assault on such judges. During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Gingrich suggested the president could send federal law enforcement authorities to arrest judges who make controversial rulings in order to compel them to justify their decisions before congressional hearings. SOURCE
This sentiment absolutely flies in the face of our own Constitution’s imperative of separation of powers between the 3 branches of government. Based on that premise alone you would expect the Tea Party movement to severely chastise the former House speaker, but they have been eerily silent. Most political observers are aware that comments like this from any of the GOP presidential candidates is aimed at the Party’s base. If these extremes are appealing to that base then it becomes clear that the GOP of their sainted Ronald Reagan has been taken over by a fringe element that is right of Attila the Hun.
For now however there are plenty of denunciations on this by those on both the right and left. Reflecting on Gingrich’s despotic views, Washington and Lee University Law Professor, Timothy Stoltzfus Jost asked the obvious question most people have on their mind in one fashion or another. “Just exactly what ‘activist judges’ is Gingrich gunning for? Hasn’t anyone told him that judicial activism today is on the right – judges that are elevating the rights of corporations over those of individuals and declaring laws unconstitutional when those laws interfere with their vision of libertarian public policy.” Why, Jost asks, would anyone on the political right want to tamper with “the one branch of government that they actually control – to the detriment of all of the rest of us.”
It may seem unfathomable to many that such a radical shift in power could so easily happen in America. Just because it has obviously occurred in a former Soviet communist satellite country like Hungary with only about two decades of democratic reforms under their belt doesn’t mean that such a breakdown in our centuries old founding principles would implode so easily here.
But for anything to occur of any dramatic nature it only takes the planting of a seed by a few and nurtured over time while public discontent is focused on perceived enemies of “American exceptionalism”. With the rapid rate of communication though social networks, efforts to curtail minority voting that tends to favor Democrats and control of the major arteries of media by conservatives, it is not that far-fetched to see this country – absorbed with their material consuming obsessions – to easily fall prey to the egomaniacal whimsies of people like Gingrich whose views in the past have reflected a man beset by a lust for power.
“It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.” – Newt Gingrich
“… it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. …voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” – Hermann Wilhelm Göring, Hitler’s Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe