Newt Gingrich on Friday delivered a blistering critique of a federal court system that he said has become “alien” to the country’s culture, an unusual topic for a major speech during the presidential election but one that underscores the ex-House speaker’s desire to distinguish himself from his GOP rivals.
Gingrich, whose presidential campaign has struggled to gain traction amid questions about its viability, told a mostly full room of social conservatives at the Values Voter Summit that the “lawyer class” and courts are undermining the country’s Judeo-Christian roots.
“With each passing decade, the judges have become more hostile to American tradition,” he said. “If judges think they are unchallengeable, they are inevitably corrupted. I don’t mean in a sense of money, but in sense of arrogance, in imposing their judgment on the rest of us.”
Gingrich cited the power of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the high court’s swing vote. "If he wakes up and feels conservative that day, the country leans to the right," Gingrich said, "and if he wakes up and feels liberal the country swings in the other direction." Kennedy, in effect, has become a “one-man Constitutional Convention,” Gingrich said.
The somewhat wonky theme of Gingrich's address appeared to please many in the audience, who regularly applauded and stood in ovation. The former Georgia congressman and House speaker has argued his campaign is about more than just defeating President Obama, but reversing the march of liberal secularism he thinks is trying to reshape the country. Other GOP presidential hopefuls who addressed the gathering on Friday, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former business executive Herman Cain, paid more attention to their economic agenda.
The ex-Republican leader said after securing the nomination, he would challenge President Obama to seven, three-hour Lincoln-Douglas-style debates, one of which would focus on the judicial branch. He argued that they would be more suitable venues for expounding on ideas than the 30-second segments he has given during Republican debates, which he derided as “game shows.”
Gingrich’s addressed the crowd minutes after Cain, a GOP rival and fellow Georgian, delivered a speech that drew wild applause from the audience. Gingrich said he and Cain spoke backstage.
“The elite media said several weeks ago it was a two-person race,” said Gingrich, referring to the focus on Perry and front-runner Mitt Romney. “Herman and I decided that may be right, but they had the two wrong people.”