Remarks by Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
NEWT GINGRICH: You know, you’re here at a historic moment. I think this is the first time in American history that two Georgians running for president have been back to back talking to an audience. (Laughter, applause.) I was just — I was just comparing notes with Herman offstage. I don’t know if you’ve watched it, but the elite media said several weeks ago this was now a two-person race. And Herman and I have decided that may be right, but they have the wrong two people. (Cheers, laughter, applause.)
And it is kind of interesting that the two guys who have gotten the most money have lost the most votes, and the two guys who had the most ideas have gained the most votes. And that might — I don’t want to be too optimistic, but that might convince the elite media that maybe there is more to politics than fundraising and consultants, and maybe having a heart and a brain actually matters a lot. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, I think we are in a period of enormous challenge. I think that part of that challenge is Barack Obama, but frankly, I think it’s much deeper. We have bureaucracies out of control. We have judges who don’t understand the Constitution. We have teachers who don’t believe in American history. We have an academic class that is in many ways alienated from the American people and an elite media which, frankly, I think, has no understanding of the origins of the United States and the nature of American civilization.
So we have a lot of work to do. Recently I released — and you can see it at newt.org — a contract — 21st century “Contract with America.” And it outlines the scale of change. It outlines both a legislative program, and it outlines a first-day program of very specific executive orders.
Now, let me you give an example. Imagine about 3:30 or 3:45 on inauguration day, the inaugural address is over. We’ve said goodbye to folks. We take about an hour and a half, and we start signing between 50 and 200 specific orders moving the government away from Obama and back towards the American tradition. (Cheers, applause.)
Now I don’t — you can go to newt.org and you’ll see a section — and this is open to you — we will release all the executive orders by October the 1st next year, so it will all be a part of the closing month of the campaign. And if the president says he’s for one of them, we’ll print it out, he can sign it. (Laughter.)
But — but I can — I don’t know what all of them will be, but I can tell you what the first one will be. Around 3:45 or 4:00 on the afternoon of the inauguration, about the time that President Obama gets to Andrews Air Force Base to get on Air Force One to go back to Chicago — (cheers, applauses) — I will sign executive order number one, which will abolish as of that moment every White House czar. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, I wanted to come today to talk about a historic crisis that only indirectly relates to the president. You know, Abraham Lincoln said, if you debate somebody who does not agree that two plus two equals four, you probably can’t win the argument because facts make no difference. And I want to start with that example.
Imagine that by a 5-to-4 vote the Supreme Court decided that two plus two equals five. Under the current theory which the Warren court promulgated in 1958, the only effective recourse would be either, A, to get a future Supreme Court to reverse them, or B, to pass a constitutional amendment declaring that two plus two equals four.
Now I want you to think about the absurdity of this. I mean, do any of you seriously believe that five appointed lawyers decided two plus two equals five, that the rest of us would promptly change our school textbooks, change our accounting systems? I mean, some people may. That could well explain Obama’s budgeting system.
But — (laughter) — but obviously this is absurd. It can’t possibly be true that the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution a very elaborate, complex process of amending the Constitution and said, however, that if the Supreme Court is split 4-to-4 between liberals and conservatives, and Justice Kennedy gets up in the morning, he becomes a one-person Constitutional Convention. If he gets up and he feels conservative that day, it must be a conservative Constitution. If he gets up and he feels liberal that day, it must be a — this is an absurdity foisted on us in 1958 by a historic lie. There is no judicial supremacy. It does not exist in the American Constitution. (Cheers, applause.)
Let me be clear. Judicial supremacy is factually wrong, it is morally wrong, and it is an affront to the American system of self-government. (Cheers, applause.) One of the major reasons that I am running for president of the United States is the 9th Circuit Court decision in 2002 that one nation under God, in the Pledge of Allegiance, was unconstitutional. That decision to me had the same effect that the Dred Scott decision extending slavery to the whole country had on Abraham Lincoln, because I thought, if an American appeals court could be so radically out of touch with America that it could seek to block children from saying one nation under God as part of their description of America, that we had come to a point when we needed a constitutional crisis to reassert the legislative and executive branches’ legitimate prerogatives to teach the judiciary that they cannot be anti-American and expect us to tolerate them radically changing our society by judicial dictate. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, what I’m saying to you is in the best tradition of the American Revolution. Read the Declaration of Independence. A very large number of its specific charges against Great Britain involve dictatorial judges. The fact is, the Founding Fathers deeply distrusted judges and thought that the lawyer class was dangerous and that you could not give them unbridled power or they would undermine and destroy free society. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Correct! Right!
MR. GINGRICH: Now, this is not some marginal position. Thomas Jefferson, asked about judicial supremacy, said that is an absurdity; that would be an oligarchy.
And so I think we are faced at one of the great crossroads of American life. And it’s doubly dangerous because, you see, if judges think that they are unchallengeable, they are inevitably corrupted — corrupted in a moral sense. I don’t mean taking money. But I mean in a sense of arrogance, in a sense of imposing on the rest of us, whether it’s one judge in California deciding he knows more than 8 million Californians about the definition of marriage — (applause) — whether it’s a judge in San Antonio who rules that not only can schoolchildren not say a prayer at their graduation, they cannot use the word “benediction,” they cannot use the word “invocation,” they cannot use the word “God,” they cannot ask the audience to stand, and if they do any of these things, he will lock up their superintendent.
Now, the idea of an American judge becoming a dictator of words is so alien to our traditions and such a violation of our Constitution, as I will explain in a moment, that that particular judge should be removed from office summarily. (Cheers, applause.)
Lord Acton warned in the 19th century that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Notice he dropped the word “tends.” And the courts in the last 53 years have proven that Lord Acton is right because with each passing decade, the judges have become more hostile to the American tradition. They now openly talk about using foreign sources of information because, after all, the American Constitution is so old and so antiquated. A justice who believes that shouldn’t be serving on the American bench. (Cheers, applause.)
We have a very lengthy paper, the work of years of — of — of effort by a number of us, edited by Vince Haley, which we have published this afternoon at newt.org, which outlines step by step how fundamentally profoundly ignorantly anti-American the current judicial model is that is taught in virtually every law school in this country. It is profoundly wrong. And as Steve King has pointed out, one of the major impediments and threats to democracy today is the very behavior of the law schools, which teach a usurpation of power in a way that is utterly unsustainable.
The Founding Fathers designed our Constitution based on Montesquieu’s concept of the balance of power. We’re supposed to have three co-equal branches. There can be no supremacy if there are three co-equal branches, by definition. Otherwise, you’d have a superior branch and two inferior branches.
But it’s worse than that. If you read Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, he says the courts couldn’t possibly take on the legislative and executive branch because they would inevitably lose. And what did he mean by that? This is, I think, one of the most important things we will explore over the next year.
And because this is a more complicated topic than a 30-second answer during a game-show version of a presidential debate — (laughter, cheers, applause) — as the Republican nominee, I will, in my acceptance speech, challenge the president to seven Lincoln-Douglas-style three-hour debates with a timekeeper and no moderator. (Cheers, applause.) One of those debates should be on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the nature of the American judiciary. (Cheers, applause.)
Jefferson is the most clear example of taking on the judiciary. In the Judicial Reform Act of 1802, the Jeffersonians eliminated 18 out of 35 federal judges — didn’t impeach them, just abolished their offices — told them to go home. (Cheers, applause.) Now, I’m not — let me be clear: I am not as bold as Jefferson.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No.
MR. GINGRICH: I think the judge in San Antonio would be an important initial signal, and I think the 9th Circuit Court should be served notice — (cheers, applause) — that it runs the risk of ceasing to exist.
Jackson in — in tackling the Bank of the United States, which he said was a(n) overly centralized form of power — think of it as the earlier Bernanke — was told, well, the Supreme Court has said that it’s constitutional. He said: Fine, that’s their opinion. (Laughter.) And he said: I have a different opinion. I am the president. They’re a court. They get their opinion in court. I get my opinion in the White House.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Right.
MR. GINGRICH: Lincoln spends the — a large section of his first Inaugural Address explaining with the Dred Scott decision may be the law of the case, but cannot be the law of the land, and Lincoln refuses to enforce the Dred Scott decision while he’s president, period.
So people who come in and say, oh, as Nancy Pelosi once said, if the court speaks, it’s as though God has spoken. (Laughter.) Now be fair. Having somebody from her branch of the party recognize God is an important step in the right direction. (Laughter, applause.)
On the issue of God in American public life, a country created because we are endowed by our Creator —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah!
MR. GINGRICH: — the courts have been historically wrong at least since the late 1940s and have gotten worse and worse, more and more anti-religious, more and more secular, and more and more hostile.
And the question of national security — in the last few years, the courts, I think, have become virtually out of touch with reality. The idea that the courts are now going to take on responsibility for defending the United States is a clear and fundamental violation of the Constitution and a fundamental violation of the executive branch’s power, and the Congress should pass a law repudiating every interference of the courts in national security issues and returning them to the Congress and the president, where they rightly belong. (Applause.)
On abortion, the courts are wavering all over the place. They start with a clear and definitively stupid decision over here, and they’ve modified it at least twice since then. They don’t know what they’re doing. The fact is, Robbie George (sp) of Princeton may be right and we should explore very seriously whether we could use the 14th Amendment to define life in a congressional statute and insist that that be in fact the law of the land. And I think it’s something we should look at very, very seriously. (Cheers, applause.)
On marriage, it should be quite clear, on issues like the Defense of Marriage Act, that we should simply say it can’t be appealed, as it simply — you — it’s very clear in the Constitution. The Congress can decide what can be appealed. The Congress can exclude things from going to the court. In the Judicial Reform Act of 1802, they refused to let the Supreme Court hear about it for 14 months, until they’d finished wiping out all the judges. (Laughter, applause.) They said — they said: We want to establish a fact on the ground before you get to hear it. So this is clearly written in the Constitution.
Now I said — I mentioned Jefferson, but there are other steps you could take that — that are far short of wiping out half the judges. One, you can hold hearings. I — I think for the Congress to bring in Judge Berry (sp) from San — San Antonio and say to him, explain to us your rationale —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah. (Applause.)
MR. GINGRICH: — by what right will you dictate speech to the American people? How can you possibly take your court order and the First Amendment and tell us that this is about free speech? Just — judges who knew that when they were radically wrong they’d be hauled in front of Congress would immediately have a sobering effect about how much power they have.
Second — (applause) — presidents can follow the precedent of Lincoln. I would instruct the national security officials in a Gingrich administration to ignore the recent decisions of the Supreme Court on national security matters, and I would interpose the presidency in saying, as the commander in chief, we will not enforce this. And by the way, for our liberal friends, the source of that is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (Applause.)
In 1942 a group of German saboteurs were landed in Florida and Long Island. They were all picked up within two weeks. Roosevelt brought in his attorney general and said: They will be tried in a military court, they will be executed, it should happen within three weeks, and tell the Supreme Court if they issue a writ of habeas corpus, I will not honor, and therefore they should not issue it. I am the commander in chief in wartime. They aren’t. (Applause.)
Congress has the power to limit the appeals, as I mentioned earlier. Congress can cut budgets. Congress can say: All right, in the future, the Ninth Circuit can meet, but it will have no clerks. (Laughter.) By the way, we aren’t going to pay the electric bill for two years. (Laughter.) And since you seem to be — since you seem to be rendering justice in the dark, you don’t seem to need your law library, either. (Laughter.)
This is, by the way — I am paraphrasing Hamilton in “The Federalist Papers,” in which he is defending — he says flatly, the judiciary’s the weakest of the three branches. I mean, this modern model is just totally opposite the American tradition. (Applause.)
Obviously, I’m only outlining for you item nine of the legislative part of the 21st-century Contract With America. And yet you can tell just from this, I mean, the struggle we’re going to have with the lawyer class over shrinking their power and their dreams of being the people who dictate to America how we should behave — just in that one zone, imagine how big this conflict is, and then you have other zones. How do we create jobs? How do we get the National Labor Relations Board under control so it’s not attacking Boeing and other job creators? How do we replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an environmental security — with an environmental solutions agency that has common sense, cooperation, takes into account the economy?
I mean, step after step of things that really matter: How do we control the border by January 1 of 2014? Which you can do, by the way. You pass a law very early in 2013 that says: We are suspending any regulation or law which would inhibit us from the National Security Act of securing our border — no environmental impact statement, no confusion; get it done now. (Cheers, applause.)
Each of these steps will be met with substantial resistance by the reactionary forces who had dreams of creating a radically different America. And each of these steps has to win, if we’re going to give our children and grandchildren the free, safe and prosperous country that our children and grandchildren — that our parents and our grandparents gave us.
I came here today because I think this is going to be a tremendous struggle. I did not come here today to ask you to be for me, because if you’re for me, you’re going to vote and go home and say: I sure hope Newt does it. And I can’t; no one person can do this. Under our Constitution, the president can lead the American people in educating the Congress, in changing things. If we shrink the power of Washington by applying the Tenth Amendment, we have to grow citizens back home to fill the vacuum. (Cheers, applause.)
So I came today to take this opportunity to outline for you one of the great historic decisions we will make over the next few years: whether we take back the courts, we rebalance the Constitution, we insist on judges who understand the Constitution. And I can promise you, in a Gingrich administration, only people who are dedicated to the original document and its original meaning will get any court appointment at any level. (Cheers, applause.)
So let me just close and say to all of you I am here to ask you to be with me, to ask you to be with me for eight years, to ask you to stand side by side to make sure that we once again reclaim America from the forces of socialism, from the forces of class warfare, from the forces of secularism, from the forces who would let — try to get us to not teach our children about the history of this great country.
If you will be with me, together we will decisively defeat Barack Obama, we will defeat the Democrats in the Senate, and over the next few years, we will decisively reclaim America as the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Thank you. Good luck, and God bless you. (Cheers, applause.)