Ever see the movie Big Trouble In Little China?
That’s too bad, because it’s great fun.
It’s one of my favorite movies. Hell, the one-liners are worth the prices of admission alone.
About midway through the movie, there’s a scene where the everyman hero, Jack Burton, (played by Kurt Russell doing a hilarious over the top impression of William Shatner channeling John Wayne) confronts the two thousand year old evil Chinese warlord and sorcerer, Lo Pan (the always outstanding James Hong). Long ago, Lo Pan struck a bargain with the God of the East, Ching Dai, who imposed upon him a horrible curse of no flesh and condemned him to walk the earth as the “ultimate evil spirit.” To fulfill the deal he made with Ching Dai, Lo Pan must find and marry a special girl. Lo Pan has been searching for that girl, a girl with green eyes, for more than two thousand years. When he finds her, and appeases Ching Dai by sacrificing her on their wedding night, he will be granted his wish – and his wish is, of course, ultimate power. Over the years, Lo Pan has found and sacrificed a number of likely girls, but none have been the right one to mollify his demon. Lo Pan, reduced after two millennia of cursed life to a palsied wizened basket-case in a wheelchair, explains his plan to conquer the world:
Lo Pan, his reedy voice rising with monomaniacal fanaticism, “I must find a special girl, Mr. Burton. A girl with green eyes. One brave enough to embrace the burning blade! And when I find her, I will marry her! Then Ching Dai will be appeased and my curse will be lifted!”
Jack Burton, brow furrowed in understanding, “And then you can go on to rule the universe from beyond the grave!”
Lo Pan, gleeful that Burton understands, “Indeed!”
Jack Burton, sarcastically rolling his eyes, “…or check into the nearest psycho ward, whichever comes first, eh?”
It’s my favorite scene in the movie, especially the part where Jack Burton looks Lo Pan right in the eye and, heedless of the vast power once wielded by the ancient sorcerer, asks him point blank, “Are you crazy? Is that your problem?”
You’ve already figured out where I’m going with this, haven’t you?
What gave it away? The guy willing to sell his soul for ultimate power or the serial marriages?
Back in October, Newt Gingrich opined that federal judges who made unpopular, or as he put it, “radical,” decisions should be made to answer to Congress.
Back then, that silly comment barely broke the surface of Newt’s, then, moribund campaign.
With his recent surge to the forefront of GOP presidential hopefuls* however, instead of backing off on this bizarrely unconstitutional position, Newt doubled down.
Last Sunday during an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Gingrich told Bob Schieffer point blank that the Capitol Police or Federal Marshals should be sent to arrest judges who make “radical” decisions. Note that Gingrich did not actually specify who gets to decide when a judge’s decision is radical – presumably President Gingrich will tell us when it’s necessary.
Schieffer: Let me just ask you this and we’ll talk about enforcing it, because one of the things you say is that if you don’t like what a court has done, the congress should subpoena the judge and bring him before congress and hold a congressional hearing. Some people say that’s unconstitutional. But I’ll let that go for a minute. I just want to ask you from a practical standpoint, how would you enforce that? Would you send the capital police down to arrest him?
Gingrich: If you had to.
Schieffer: You would?
Gingrich: Or you instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. Marshal. Let’s take the case of Judge Biery. I think he should be asked to explain a position that radical. How could he say he’s going to jail the superintendent over the word “benediction” and “invocation”? Because before you could — because I would then encourage impeachment, but before you move to impeach him you’d like to know why he said it. Now clearly since the congress has....
Schieffer: What if he didn’t come? What if he said, “No thank you, I’m not coming?”
Gingrich: Well, that is what happens in impeachment cases. In an impeachment case, the House studies whether or not — the House brings them in, the House subpoenas them. As a general rule they show up. I mean, you’re raising the core question — are judges above the rest of the constitution or are judges one of the three co-equal branches?
Are you crazy? Is that your problem?
Gingrich seems to have a particular hard-on for Judge Beiry, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Biery made a number of rulings regarding religion in Texas schools, specifically the inclusion of prayer in graduation ceremonies, that offended the hell out of Newt Gingrich – and a number of other folks who we’ll get to in a minute.
Gingrich doesn’t agree with the judge’s decision (no kidding, right?), which was to ban officially sanctioned prayer by teachers, administrators, members of the school board, or other officials during public high school graduations – note that this subject would never even have ended up in Biery’s court if the fanatical evangelical creationists involved hadn’t been assholes about it in the first place, but I digress. So, instead of filing an appeal, or living with the judge’s ruling, or attempting to change Federal law to allow for prayer during ceremonies, or any of half a dozen other options available under our law and Constitution, Gingrich instead thinks that the judge should be subpoenaed to appear before Congress and account for his decision – note that there is no Constitutional or legal precedent for this.
If the judge declines to appear, President Gingrich would send Federal Marshals to arrest him.
Then, Gingrich would have the judge impeached. Something Gingrich knows a bit about, but I digress. Again.
Question: What do you suppose Gingrich and other conservatives would say if the current occupant of the White House proposed such a draconian tactic? Or how about if, say, a federal judge struck down portions of Obamacare and Nancy Pelosi had that judge jailed for his insolence? What? I’m just asking. I’m sure Gingrich would totally support that.
You don’t have to be an ancient Chinese sorcerer to see what Gingrich is up to with this.
Besides pandering to Evangelicals in atonement for his previous sins, I mean.
See, Biery is on pretty solid Constitutional ground with his ruling. Gingrich knows it, and so do the Texas Creationists.
You bet they do.
Call the judge to account, and he would very likely be able to repeat chapter and verse supporting his decision – and that’s exactly what will happen should this go to the Supreme Court. That’s why Gingrich doesn’t want it to go before experts in the law and on the Constitution. That’s exactly why he wants the judge accountable to congress or better yet the president (providing he or another fanatical Christian is the president). A congressman or the president can use their religion and their bigotry and their personal beliefs for guidance – a judge can’t (or isn’t supposed to anyway, but yet again I digress).
Hauling a judge before congress as Gingrich demands, jailing a judge who makes an unpopular decision, would undermine our entire method of government.
And that is exactly what Gingrich is proposing.
Are you crazy? Is that your problem?
Now, I think the thing that astounded me most about Gingrich’s CBS interview was Shieffer and his “some folks” say that’s unconstitutional but I’ll just give you a pass. Wait. What? We’ll just let that go?
Are you kidding me?
No seriously, are you kidding me? We’ll just let that go?
What the hell?
That rumbling sound you hear is Edward R. Murrow spinning in his grave.
Honestly, this is what passes for journalism at CBS? Schieffer should be relegated to interviewing Paris Hilton and reading the scores from last night’s Dancing With the Stars. You have wonder how many CBS executives a half-assed excuse for a journalist like Schieffer had to blow to get his job.
We’ll just let that go for a minute? Forever, actually, since Schieffer never did come back to the question.
And that question is the crux of the entire matter.
Congress should have the power to arrest members of the Judiciary based not on violations of the law, but on a whim? Because some congressman thinks the judge’s decisions are “radical?”
The President should be able to detain and arrest Judges because they make decisions he doesn’t agree with?
What’s that you say? Newt didn’t say the President should be able to arrest members of the Judicial Branch? Newt was talking about judges having to answer to Congress? I’m exaggerating? Yes. Perhaps you should go back and check which branch of the Federal Government the Justice Department and the Federal Marshal Service are actually part of. See, either Newt doesn’t himself know (which I find unlikely), or he intends to give the office of the President virtually unlimited power. Once you start arresting judges for making decisions you don’t like, where does that stop? Gitmo?
Of course the third possibility is that Gingrich just thinks we’re all too damned stupid to know the difference. Not an unreasonable supposition I suppose, given that Bob Schieffer and the folks are CBS certainly are.
Let’s just let that go?
I don’t think so.
It’s not “some folks” who find Gingrich’s nonsense unconstitutional, it’s the Constitution itself, it’s the Founding Fathers, it’s two and a half centuries of the United States of America that declare this idiotic third world despotic idea unconstitutional. Separation of Powers and the constitutionally mandated system of checks and balances are the very heart of our republic.
Jailing judges who disagree with the government is what happens in dictatorships, in theocracies, and in fascist states.
Imagine the kind of country we would be living in if the Framers hadn’t made the Judicial Branch independent.
Civil rights. Equal rights. The right to vote. The end of slavery and Segregation. The Right to Representation and the rest of your Miranda Rights. All of these were “radical” at one time. Did you know that there was a time when a State could prevent married couples from buying or using contraception? And it would still be that way if it wasn’t for a couple of “radical” judges.
Of course there are gong to be rulings you don’t agree with. Do you think the men who wrote the Constitution didn’t know that? Of course they did, and they were willing to live with it because it’s one of those things that come with freedom. If you always get your own way, you’re not living in a democracy.
If it wasn’t for the independence of the Judiciary, America would be a very, very different county.
But, of course, that’s the point.
That’s exactly the point. Isn’t it?
Some folks, such as the members of the American Family Association, who today endorsed Newt Gingrich for President, want exactly that, a different America.
They want an America radically different than the one we have now.
The AFA is an organization of fanatical evangelical Christians who, according to the organization’s current director, Bryan Fischer, believe that non-Christians should not be protected by the Constitution. Yes, you read that correctly, the AFA publically professes that the Constitution of the United States and the rights it embodies only applies to Christians. (Fischer has also opined, with the endorsement of his many followers, that the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, has been “feminized” by liberals because during the current conflict it has been awarded primarily for saving the lives of fellow soldiers and not for killing people. I know, I know, I’m digressing again).
These are the people who would unashamedly turn America into a militant evangelical version of Iran – and have in fact declared their intention to do exactly that, starting with making non-Christians into non-citizens. These are the kind of professional double-thinkers who claim to stand for “family” values and then endorse a serial adulterer, these are the folks who speak of Christian morals and then endorse the only Speaker of the House to ever be sanctioned on ethics violations – violations he admitted to by the way, and which eventually led to his resignation from office.
But, of course, all is forgiven now because God apparently conveniently absolved Newt of his transgressions – well, at least according to Newt anyway.
Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, founder of the AFA said today, “Newt Gingrich recognizes the threat to our country posed by judges and lawyers imposing values upon the country inconsistent with our religious heritage, and has proposed constitutional steps to bring the courts back in balance under the constitution."
I strongly suspect Wildmon has never read the actual Constitution.
You know, the staggering level of hypocrisy displayed by people like Gingrich and evangelicals like Wildmon never ceases to astound and disgust me. These are the same assholes who, like former President George H. W. Bush, claim that non-Christians cannot be moral or ethical people (and in Bush’s case, non-Christians in the service of their country shouldn’t even be considered patriots), because they lack the guidance of the evangelical’s version of God. But then they turn right around and use God as an excuse to justify their own immoral and unethical behavior. All somebody like Gingrich has to do is make the completely unverifiable and utterly unsubstantiated claim that he’s been “forgiven” by his deity, and evangelicals start falling to their knees in order to give him sloppy oral gratification.
These are the people who make up Newt Gingrich’s base.
Gingrich accepted the AFA’s endorsement, calling Wildmon “one of the most important leaders in the country in the battle to uphold our founding principles.”
If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, you’re not paying attention.
If CBS was actually a news organization and Schieffer was actually a journalist he would have turned the klieg-lights on Gingrich and looked him right in the eye and asked point blank, “Are you crazy? Is that your problem?”
Instead, CBS literally gave Gingrich a pass.
The independence of the Judicial Branch of the US Government exists for a number of very good reasons – chief among them is preventing people like Donald Wildmon and his band of yellow-eyed fanatics from turning the United States into Jesusland. These people relentlessly condemn Islam as violent and evil, and Mormons as a cult, and atheists as immoral, but don’t you think for one damned minute that people who believe that Constitutional protections only apply to Christians wouldn’t be out lopping off heads, burning non-believers at the stake, and running the Holy Inquisition Sausage Grinder at full power if they could get away with it. It sure isn’t God who keeps them from doing it, it’s the Constitution of the United States and the power of independent Judges.
The independence of the Judiciary is the primary thing holding them at bay. No wonder they want destroy it.
I’ve heard it said that that Newt Gingrich is what stupid people think a smart person looks like.
Smart or not, Gingrich, like the ancient sorcerer Lo Pan, is certainly cunning.
I don’t think he means what he says. I don’t think he sincerely intends to see the Judicial Branch brought to heel. I think his outrage is carefully calculated and about as real as his first two marriages. I think he said what he said, and used Judge Biery for a specific reason. And you saw that reason today. I think Newt said what he said, and continues to beat this drum, specifically to get the endorsement of Evangelical Christians. And they were just dumb enough to fall for it.
Hell, if I was a betting man, I’d bet that Newt Gingrich isn’t even a believer, not really, not in private. I doubt that he believes in anything bigger than himself. Not that I really give a damn one way or the other.
In the end, of course, Jack Burton defeated Lo Pan and saved the world, but frankly I’m starting to think that the character we need isn’t Jack Burton after all.
I’m starting to think we’re going to need Snake Plissken.
* What’s the word for a group of presidential candidates. Pride? Like a pride of lions? Murder? As in a murder of crows? Maybe clamor. A clamor of candidates. A bloviate? A rectum? No, wait, I’ve got it! An embarrassment of candidates. Yeah, that’s it. Remember, you heard it here first, folks. Thank you and drive safely.