Former Speaker Newt Gingrich released the outline of his new "Contract With America" on Thursday, but he said the document is so chock full of ideas it will take him until Sept. 27, 2012 to fill in the details.
Gingrich has never been at a loss for ideas. The paleontology enthusiast and former chairman of the Congressional Space Caucus buys, sells and trades them with the fervor of a nine-year-old market maker in baseball cards. The question about Gingrich has always been whether many of those ideas -- and his devotion to them -- are similarly paper-thin. And sometimes it's hard to know whether Gingrich, an expert at political posturing, is advocating anything at all.
Like his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Gingrich has been beating up on the Federal Reserve lately, joining in the call for the Fed to abandon the half of its "dual mandate" concerning full employment. But in his "Contract" outline, Gingrich seems to go further, stating that we will never achieve "sustainable long-term job creation in this country if the Fed continues to artificially affect the level of interest rates." Given that artificially affecting interest rates is a good part of what the Fed does from 9 to 5, is Gingrich now nuzzling up to Ron Paul voters?
Then there's this, the title of the Contract's last section:
"Restore the proper role of the judicial branch by using the clearly delineated powers available to the president and Congress to correct, limit, or replace judges who violate the Constitution."
This seems to go beyond the usual conservative kvetching about "activist" judges (provided the activists are liberals, naturally). Gingrich even cites the precedent of President Thomas Jefferson's purge of Federalist judges. Who exactly would Gingrich "correct, limit, or replace," and on what legal grounds?
For answers, see this space on September 27, 2012.
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)