I’ve got it! Instead of seeing Newt Gingrich’s campaign as an extended book tour, it should be conceived instead as a really, truly, fundamentally radical and transformational take on reality TV. What prompts this thought is today’s column from George Will, “Gingrich, the Anti-Conservative,” which really takes the wood to Gingrich for his recent remarks on the judiciary:
Gingrich’s unsurprising descent into sinister radicalism — intimidation of courts — is redundant evidence that he is not merely the least conservative candidate, he is thoroughly anti-conservative. He disdains the central conservative virtue, prudence, and exemplifies progressivism’s defining attribute — impatience with impediments to the political branches’ wielding of untrammeled power. He exalts the will of the majority of the moment, at least as he, tribune of the vox populi, interprets it.
I think Will’s analysis of the judiciary in the rest of the column isn’t quite right, as it elides recognition of the proper ground of criticism of the contemporary jurisprudence (namely, that our judiciary has become wholly positivist and has abandoned any reasoning from the first principles of natural law and natural right), but neither does Newt make out this case. Will is right to attack Newt’s simple majoritarianism. But Will is especially and absolutely correct in noting that Gingrich “disdains the central conservative virtue, prudence.”
A very sage friend wrote to me in response to my post here a few days ago that offered a partial defense of Newt’s general position:
Newt takes things that are quite plausible–like the power of Congress to legislate under the Fourteenth Amendment, or Lincoln’s understanding of the limits of the courts, or the power of Congress to alter the appellate jurisdiction of the lower courts–and then he adds something beyond the bounds, something that will scare the public, and be easily caricatured by the media. And so we run the risk of Newt actually discrediting Lincoln’s position–and making it unlikely that any Republican president will take Lincoln’s course. For he will be accused of falling into the discredited grooves of Newt.
Too true. Sigh. But it certainly makes for exciting television.