Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) stressed Friday that he does not believe President Obama should be impeached in reaction to an interview he gave where iimpeachment of the president was discussed.
Gingrich, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, pushed back hard against the characterization of his interview with the conservative Newsmax magazine, during which he was asked if President Obama should be impeached over his decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
In the interview, Gingrich said that if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) had been elected president and taken a similar action, she would be hearing calls for impeachment.
"Imagine that she had announced that Roe v. Wade in her judgment was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed," he said. "The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment."
Asked if Obama's decision is impeachable, Gingrich said, "I think that's something you get into much later, but it is clearly a dereliction of duty and is a violation of his constitutional oath."
Gingrich helped begin impeachment proceedings in the late 1990s against President Bill Clinton, but the impeachment effort eventually became very unpopular with the public. Republicans lost five seats in the House in the 1998 midterm elections, which were held during the investigation of Clinton.
Gingrich stepped down as Speaker and announced he would resign from Congress following Election Day.
The Defense of Marriage Act allows states that do not recognize same-sex marriages to not honor those performed in other states that do. It also defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Obama this week instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Clinton-era law, saying that he believes it is unconstitutional. But Gingrich said that Obama's unilateral action is what's in violation of the nation's founding document.
"The fact that the left likes the policy is allowing them to ignore the fact that this is a very unconstitutional act,” Gingrich said.
By speaking out strongly on DOMA, Gingrich is casting himself with social conservatives who have publicly rejected Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' (R) call for a "truce" on social issues.
The former Speaker also put pressure on House Republicans by calling on them to pass a resolution next week that demands that Obama enforce the law. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), another potential presidential candidate, has also called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to defend the law.
"They should say if he fails to do so that they will zero out the Office of Attorney General and take other steps as necessary until the president agrees to do his job," Gingrich said.
Boehner has not condemned the move outright, but his spokesman this week said the timing of the ruling is inappropriate.