21 January 2012

The really scary story about Newt Gingrich the media did NOT discuss

I quit watching the evening news shows on ABC/CBS/NBC around the time after Charles Gibson retired and the morning shows (even worse in terms of serious news vs. entertainment) waaaaay earlier. I get my news now from the PBS Newshour, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and various Internet sites as well. Now Newt Gingrich is being confronted with a claim from his 2nd ex wife that he asked for an open marriage after he was caught cheating with his mistress turned current wife. On Thursday night's CNN debate, moderator John King opened the debate giving Gingrich and opportunity to respond. Gingrich went off on an angry attack on the media for bringing up this story:
Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine. My two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.
Astonishingly, Gingrich never took accountability for his own bad behavior. (So much for the party of personal responsibility...or as the has-been candidate, fellow Georgian, and creepy man Herman Cain put it..."blame yourself!") Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus took Gingrich to task in her column "Newt Gingrich blames media for a mess he created".

We get the idea that Gingrich is a moral hypocrite for stumping for family values despite his history of marital infidelity. But there's this scarier part of Gingrich, what he would do as president. The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported on Wednesday, "Newt Gingrich: I would ignore supreme court as president":
Newt Gingrich has pledged that on his first day as president he will set up a constitutional showdown by ordering the military to defy a supreme court ruling extending some legal rights to foreign terrorism suspects and captured enemy combatants in US custody.

The Republican contender told a forum of anti-abortion activists ahead of South Carolina's primary election that as president he would ignore supreme court rulings he regards as legally flawed. He implied that would also extend to the 1973 decision, Roe vs Wade, legalising abortion.

"If the court makes a fundamentally wrong decision, the president can in fact ignore it," said Gingrich to cheers.


Gingrich said the first confrontation would be over its historic ruling, known as the Boumediene decision, that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantánamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in US courts.

And this isn't the first time Gingrich has suggested such a view towards Sup. Ct. cases, see "Newt Gingrich says he'd defy Supreme Court rulings he opposed" (LA Times, 12/17/11).

The Seriously, America? tumblr commented: "Andrew Jackson took this approach—so it’s been tried. It resulted in the Trail of Tears." (That case Pres. Jackson ignored would be Worcester v. Georgia...and I recently learned that Worcester is pronounced "wusster" not "war-ces-ter") Also, Gingrich seems to be swimming into Nixonian territory, as the disgraced Richard Nixon famously said in the 1977 David Frost interview: "...when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

More likely in the media you'll hear about Gingrich's personal life or horse race type issues than how candidates would approach different areas of government. Searching for media coverage of Gingrich's supreme court views, I found that CNN's Situation Room afternoon news show on Dec. 19 devoted a whole interview with legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about Gingrich's December statement (search "activist judge" in this transcript and you'll get there). On Dec. 27, host Wolf Blitzer interviewed Gingrich and included a question about Gingrich's view on activist judges:

BLITZER: ...On justices of the Supreme Court, lower courts, you've made some very controversial comments that if you disagree adamantly with some of their decisions, you wouldn't hesitate to subpoena these guys, these judges, bring them forward, and not -- and basically ignore their decisions.

I asked Jeffrey Toobin, our Senior Legal Analyst, he's an authority on the US Supreme Court, as you probably know. I asked him whether or not you have a basis from which to speak on this issue, and I'll play the clip --


BLITZER: -- of what he said.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The courts have the last word. You don't like it, you can change the constitution, you can have new justices on the Supreme Court, you can even impeach a federal judge.

But you cannot haul them in and beat them up in front of a Congressional committee. You cannot use the police to intimidate judges. That is something that is fundamentally against American constitutional history.


GINGRICH: Well, he's wrong --

BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin.

GINGRICH: Look, Jeffrey's wrong on two counts. First of all, the courts are not the last word. The courts are one of three last words. The constitution's designed around a balance of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. There is on superior branch. Hamilton --

BLITZER: But until new legislation is passed --


BLITZER: -- the rule of the -- the decision of the Supreme Court stands.

GINGRICH: Only in the case of the law. Not in -- only in the case. Lincoln says in his 1861 inaugural address the Dred Scott case extending slavery over the whole country is not the law of the land. And he says, furthermore, you would eliminate our freedom if nine people could decide it.

Jefferson, when asked if the Supreme Court was supreme over the president and the Congress said that is absurd. That would be an oligarchy.

Jeffrey ought to look at the 54-page paper at Newt.org where, as a historian, we lay out the historic case. Alexander Hamilton says the courts would never pick a fight with the legislature and the executive because, in fact, they would lose the fight. Now, that implies something about relative strength.

Lastly, he has made my case. He said judges can be impeached. The first step towards impeachment is hearing testimony. The question I was asked was, could Congress compel testimony? By definition in an impeachment case, they can compel testimony.
Other broadcast media coverage of Gingrich criticizing activist judges (from a Lexisnexis search):
  • (an aside) Reuters did a critical article about Gingrich's comments about arresting judges: "Gingrich's nods to history don't impress scholars"
  • NBC's Mike Viqureira commented at the end of a generic report about the Saturday 12/17 developments of primary campaigns: "[Gingrich] has more controversial comments tonight about what he calls liberal activist judges, today telling reporters on a conference call that some judges should be subpoenaed to testify before Congress to explain their rulings, sometimes for whole courts to be abolished in some circumstances, even suggesting that presidents can ignore judicial rulings that they don't like." That was it. (NBC Nightly News, 12/17/11, see 1:45 mark of the linked video)
  • The next Sunday morning, CBS's Bob Schieffer asked Gingrich about his comments, and Gingrich reaffirmed his position. (Face the Nation, 12/18/11)
  • The following Monday, Gingrich did more judicial-bashing at a speech in Iowa, and NPR did a full story (All Things Considered, 12/19/11)
  • Also, MSNBC's Ed Schultz interviewed Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley from a critical angle about Gingrich's comments (The Ed Show, 12/19/11)
  • MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell interviewed former Minnesota Republican chair and Michele Bachmann chief of staff Ron Carey (The Last Word, 12/19/11)
  • Otherwise, LexisNexis produces no results from ABC, CBS, and NBC reporting on Gingrich's comments on 12/19 or anytime later.. I watched the PBS Newshour that day and heard nothing there either. Lexis also showed modest coverage by the cable networks. This topic drew much discussion on the Democratic Underground forum.
  • The conclusion: the media just forgets like a Republican elephant and wants sensationalism, not substance.

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