Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich threatened on Sunday to have U.S. judges arrested if they disagreed with his policies as president, ratcheting up his attacks on the judiciary as he tries to halt a slide in his campaign.
"I got into this originally because of two things: the steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a non-religious country and the encroachment of the courts on the president's commander-in-chief powers, which is enormously dangerous," Gingrich said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Gingrich has said that, as president, he would ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflicted with his powers as commander in chief. He said on "Face the Nation" he would subpoena a judge if the jurist disagreed with him, and send police "if you had to or you'd instruct the Justice Department to send a U.S. Marshall" if necessary to bring the judge in.
The tough line against judges may please conservatives who rail against an "activist" judiciary over issues such as allowing gay marriage rights or limiting prayer in schools. But it could also work against Gingrich since voters already are angry over constant battling in Washington between the White House and Congress.
"That's not going to sit well in a seven-second soundbite," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "When people hear that, that becomes divisive. And what are people most concerned about now? Divisiveness in Washington."
Gingrich reached the top of the Republican field last month as the favored conservative alternative to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. But his front-runner status has prompted withering attacks from rivals that he is an unreliable conservative and influence peddler, particularly over fat fees he earned from Freddie Mac, a mortgage giant tied to the economic recession.