Jeff Neal for C.U.R.E. - Certain Unalienable Rights Endowment

Gingrich and Lincoln vs. Hope and Change

In Opinion on December 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Newt Gingrich is being criticized, i.e. people are talking about him, for suggesting that the President of the United States can disagree with a federal judge’s interpretation of the Constitution.  He mentions Abraham Lincoln as a previous holder of that office who had the same view, particularly in reference to the Dred Scott decision.  Is mentioning Lincoln just Mr. Gingrich being arrogant again, or is there some merit to the reference?  I wanted to know, so I did a little research.

First, Mr. Gingrich DID NOT, as has been reported, suggest that he desired to have a veto over judges with whom he might have a minor difference of opinion.  He, as serious man, said that there are times when, if the judiciary’s decisions are so seriously and completely antithetical to American jurisprudence, then the people’s representatives have a sworn duty to assert their authority to prevent the judiciary from declaring a monopoly over the determination of what the meaning of the word “is” is; the determination of what is the meaning of “American jurisprudence.”  But, we’ll come back to Mr. Gingrich anon; let’s visit 1857.

In this speech, (Link Here) President Lincoln (a) explains that every public official “swears that he will support [the Constitution] as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others(emphasis mine) (b) discusses at length the concept of precedent as a factor in determining the validity, force and justice of court decisions, and (c) lays out his considered view that the Court had erred in the Dred Scott decision.  It is an important speech to read while considering Mr. Gingrich’s recent dust-up over judges.  This paragraph jumped off the page because of its nuanced analysis of the phrase “all men are created equal.”

The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.

I think the nut is cracking!  Maybe Mr. Gingrich is seeing that too.  Maybe he knows it’s time to recall some first principles rather than taking a poll or convening a task force of entrenched powers to determine what solutions might address our nation’s ills.  Maybe he realizes that freedom is at stake and that letting government “fix” the problem with court orders, over-reaching legislation and other versions of reducing freedoms will destroy what’s left of the Founder’s ideas about how a nation is constituted and administered.

More to the point, a little further on, Mr Lincoln says:

Now let us hear Judge Douglas’ view of the same subject, as I find it in the printed report of his late speech. Here it is

No man can vindicate the character, motives and conduct of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, except upon the hypothesis that they referred to the white race alone, and not to the African, when they declared all men to have been created equal — that they were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain — that they were entitled to the same inalienable rights, and among them were enumerated life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration was adopted for the purpose of justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother country.

My good friend, read that carefully over some leisure hour, and ponder well upon it — see what a mere wreck — mangled ruin — it makes of our once glorious Declaration.

Douglas again: ‘They were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain!’

Why according to this, not only negroes but white people outside of Great Britain and America are not spoken of in that instrument. The English, Irish and Scotch, along with white Americans, were included to be sure, but the French, Germans and other white people of the world are all gone to pot along with the Judge’s inferior races.

I had thought the Declaration promised something better than the condition of British subjects; but no, it only meant that we should be equal to them in their own oppressed and unequal condition. According to that, it gave no promise that having kicked off the King and Lords of Great Britain, we should not at once be saddled with a King and lords of our own.

The point for us to take from this 160-year old speech?  Mr. Gingrich may not be perfect; you may think he’s may be wrong most of the time.  But, he is serious.  While it is impossible to address adequately the relationship between the judiciary and the executive in a 30-second sound bite, I nonetheless respect and praise Mr. Gingrich for trying to get through the noise and make a serious point.  He seems to be doing that often these days and I grow angrier by the day at his opponent’s (particularly the GOP) constant habit of misconstruing and misrepresenting his positions, ergo this 1000+ word post (sorry).

Mr. Lincoln was attempting to save the Union.  Mr. Gingrich and more than a few of the people who are not part of the ruling class believe we face a similarly serious point in our history.  If we won’t let Newt Gingrich be serious about the state of our nation today, if we think this year’s version of “Hope and Change” (I have in mind Mr. Romney’s “Let America be America Again”) is enough, then let’s let Mr. Gingrich exit stage right, and let’s go about preparing our bunker for the next revolutionary war, because absent the kind of re-thinking that Mr. Gingrich has in mind, that is the only solution that remains if we are to escape the bonds of the ruling class that has mutinied the ship of state and is sinking it in the open sea.

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  1. I’ve watched and read what Mr Gingrich said a number of times. He did not say what you suggest he did. Furthermore, when the President says “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” as required IN THE CONSTITUTION I think he is swearing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. What do you think he is swearing to do? Is there a clause missing in my copy that says “unless it’s a judge who is undermining the Constitution?

    Not sure what point you are attempting to make with the reference to Lincoln and Obama’s morals. Morals are subjective, the law of the land is pretty objective and at no time did Lincoln say I’m doing this because it’s moral unless he also said that it was consistent with his reading of the law. Read Lincoln’s Sword and you’ll gain a very good understanding of that man’s thinking – Mr. Obama’s bears no resemblance to Lincoln’s mind.

    Obama refusing to enforce DOMA is unconstitutional in itself. He just doesn’t like the law and thinks he can score political points by ignoring it. If he thought it were unconstitutional, he’d amount a real challenge like the one Gingrich suggests he would mount in SERIOUS matters, not over trivial differences of opinion about matters of little import.

    I didn’t equate arresting judges with Lincoln’s treatment of Dred Scott. I compared the seriousness of his thinking with the serious thinking of Gingrich. I have no idea if Lincoln ever tried to arrest a judge. The truth of that claim is not relevant to the point I was making which very simply was that Mr. Gingrich’s thinking is not outlandish, it’s rather the sign of a serious mind.

  2. JA- it is my impression that you argue for the sake of arguing, not really to make a point, so I announce that you win.

    Have a good day

    • you repeat over and over that your understanding of things is superior to mine. I have no interest in communicating with such an arrogant piece of crap. Please go away.

    • I asked you to go away. If I read another slanderous piece about me on your blog, I will track you down and make you regret the day you challenged me. Your facts are wrong, your opinions posing as analysis are silly and your pretense that you know something about my professional life reveals that you are an idiot.

      You are warned. Cease and desist or you will find yourself involved in a situation that you are not equipped to handle.

      Be a man, come out from behind your anonymous blog – or go crawl under a rock and leave me alone, you piece of shit.

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