The disgraced former House Speaker sure does say strange things.

Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich suggested at a Fox News forum hosted by Mike Huckabee in South Carolina on Saturday that it would be a good idea to fire federal employees for being too liberal. Federal law, on the other hand, says Gingrich’s plan would be illegal.

“I think an intelligent conservative wants the right federal employees delivering the right services in a highly efficient way and then wants to get rid of those folks who are in fact wasteful, or those folks who are ideologically so far to the left, or those people who want to frankly dictate to the rest of us,” Gingrich said in response to a question from a federal employee at the forum. [emphasis added]

The federal government has a lot of workers on the payroll, and the vast majority of them are what’s called “career employees.” Their jobs are bureaucratic, not political, and they don’t come and go based on presidents or parties.

Gingrich argued there’s value in having an administration “get rid of” these public servants if he disapproves of their liberal political ideology. This isn’t just crazy; it’s illegal.

Indeed, an example of these kinds of misdeeds should still be fresh in the political world’s memory. During the Bush/Cheney years, we saw unqualified right-wing activists take on key roles in government employment, and abusing their power to openly discriminate against those with the “wrong” politics. Qualified applicants who were deemed “insufficiently loyal to the Republican Party” were frequently passed over.

Federal law prohibits all of this, which is why the Bush/Cheney practices became an important national scandal. Does Gingrich not remember this? Or is he calling for illegal employment discrimination because he thinks the Republican base will like it?

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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.