Newt Gingrich, apparently thinking “What the hell, the voters will never make me president anyway,” made headlines last night by saying Congressman Barney Frank and former Senator Chris Dodd should be arrested for their alleged role in bringing about the financial crisis. Gingrich said that voters have a right to be angry, and if they want to see people jailed for the meltdown, “you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.” Charlie Rose, obviously shocked by Gingrich’s suggestion, offered him the chance to moderate his remarks, but Gingrich didn’t bite. What should we make of this suggestion from the former speaker?
It will surprise no one to learn that this, like almost everything Gingrich says, is half-baked nonsense. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution contains the “Speech and Debate Clause,” which says that members of Congress “shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.” According to the Department of Justice, this clause “provides absolute immunity to