On Fox News this morning, Steve Doocy, reflecting on Newt Gingrich’s remarks in last night’s debate, said the disgraced former House Speaker “was brilliant” when “talking about out-of-control judges and the courts.”

I saw the same comments. “Brilliant” wasn’t the adjective that came to mind.

Megyn Kelly noted in her question to Gingrich that he’s proposed congressional subpoenas for judges who issue rulings that Republicans don’t like, as well as judicial impeachments and the prospect of eliminating courts the right finds offensive. Kelly reminded Gingrich that two conservative former attorneys general have characterized his approach as “dangerous,” “outrageous,” and “totally irresponsible.” He responded:

“[T]he courts have become grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful, and I think, frankly, arrogant in their misreading of the American people. […]

“I taught a short course in this at the University of Georgia Law School. I testified in front of sitting Supreme Court justices at Georgetown Law School. And I warned them: You keep attacking the core base of American exceptionalism, and you are going to find an uprising against you which will rebalance the judiciary.”

Gingrich added he’s “prepared to take on the judiciary” unless federal courts started issuing rulings that he agreed with. He went on to say he understands these issues “better than lawyers,” because he’s “a historian.”

Let’s note a few relevant angles here. First, it’s time to stop characterizing positions such as these as “conservative.” Gingrich doesn’t want to conserve anything; he’s eyeing a radical revolution of the separation of powers and the American branches of government, stripping the judiciary of its power as an independent branch.

Second, Gingrich is a lousy historian. Real scholars tend to consider Gingrich’s crusade against the courts as a crackpot agenda.

And third, it was odd to see Ron Paul, of all people stand up last night as a voice of reason.

“Well, the Congress can get rid of these courts. If a judge misbehaves and is unethical and gets into trouble, the proper procedure is impeachment. But to subpoena judges before the Congress, I’d really question that. And if you get too careless about abolishing courts, that could open up a can of worms. Because there could be retaliation. So it should be a more serious — yes we get very frustrated with this, but the whole thing is, if you just say, ‘Well we’re going to — OK there are 10 courts, let’s get rid of three this year because they ruled a way we didn’t like.’

“That to me is, I think opening up a can of worms for us and it would lead to trouble. But I really, really question this idea that the Congress could subpoena judges and bring them before us. That’s a real affront to the separation of the powers.”

Yes, Ron Paul was the sensible one on the stage last night when it comes to the courts. Great.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.