Thursday, May 08, 2008

Kmiec's Dishonesty [UPDATED]

Kyle at Postmodern Papist has a post regarding Professor Kmiec's endorsement of his original endorsement of Barack Obama:
... Professor Kmiec, who served Presidents Reagan and Bush I as head of the Office of Legal Council, supports Obama not despite Obama’s abortion stance, but rather because he believes Obama would be better at decreasing abortions in these United States. I don’t know whether or not Kmiec is right about Obama in this. I remain skeptical. Nevertheless, his position is reasonable...

In short, Kmiec doesn't hold up overturning that awful court decision [Roe v. Wade] as the primary, non-negotiable means aimed at bring an end to abortion. With that, at least, I agree.

My own thoughts on an Obama presidency are mixed. I like his politics of hospitality, which he projects without being wishy-washy or lukewarm about his principles and positions. I fancy his focus on personal responsibility. Unlike Professor Kmiec, however, I remain skeptical of what good Obama will bring to the unborn...

In an update to his post, Kyle notes Feddie's and my reactions to Kmiec's piece:
Jay Anderson of Pro Ecclesia and Feddie of Southern Appeal have less than kind words for Kmiec. Both take issue with the professor's insistence that Obama is not pro-abortion, and Jay chastises Kmiek for misrepresenting the McCain campaign. Both bloggers are much more critical of the Kmiec endorsement than I am.
For the record, I am critical of Kmiec, not so much for endorsing Obama, as in the disingenuous way in which he's gone about it.

As I've stated before, I think it entirely reasonable for someone to come to the conclusion that there are "truly grave moral reasons" that would justify voting for a "pro-choice" candidate like Obama. I might disagree with that assessment, but I don't think it a necessarily unreasonable conclusion for one to reach.

Again, however, my problem with Kmiec lies not in a belief that his endorsement of Obama is inappropriate, but rather that Kmiec is being dishonest.

FIRST, the reasons he gives for opposing McCain don't hold water because Kmiec at first supported Mitt Romney, whose positions on the issues that Kmiec highlights as problematic are identical if not WORSE than McCain's from the standpoint of Catholic teaching. For example, Kmiec criticizes McCain over immigration when, in fact, McCain's position is very close to the USCCB's own position and one that he has staked out at great political risk to himself, while Romney's immigration position was the sort of harsh stance of which the U.S. Bishops have been so critical. And what about torture/waterboarding? McCain, again at great political risk to himself, staked out a position on the issue in line with Church teaching while Romney was busy trying to out-Jack-Bauer the other GOP candidates. Why does Kmiec give Romney a pass for positions on which he now criticizes McCain? Could it be that Kmiec's antipathy toward McCain is personal rather than policy-based?

SECOND, Kmiec isn't being honest in favorably portraying Obama as the agent of "transcending political division" in contrast to the alleged "base tactics" and "divisiveness" of McCain. McCain has a proven track record of bipartisan cooperation. He's more likely to criticize his own party for "divisive tactics" than he is to engage in them himself. Obama, on the other hand, has proven himself to be among the most reflexively liberal and partisan members of the Senate - he was 1 of only 20 Senators, for example, who voted against Chief Justice Roberts (based on his belief that Roberts was a danger to the "settled precedent" of Roe v. Wade). McCain has taken actual political risks that have often put him at odds with his own party (especially on issues of import to Catholics such as torture and immigration reform), whereas Obama has been nothing but a lockstep left-liberal who has evidenced absolutely no proclivity for compromising his left-liberal orthodoxy on issues of import to Catholics such as abortion and same-sex "marriage" (where, in fact, he has shown a proclivity for pushing the envelope even further to the left than most Democrats are willing to go).

THIRD (and finally), Kmiec isn't being honest in trying to make a pro-life case for Obama. Let's go ahead and get one matter out of the way: OF COURSE OBAMA IS UNDOUBTEDLY AND UNASHAMEDLY PRO-ABORTION. Nevertheless, as I blogged here, if you believe "truly grave moral reasons" exist for supporting Obama despite his support for legalized abortion on demand, then fine, go ahead and support him. But do so IN SPITE OF his abortion position. And be willing to acknowledge just how bad he is on the issue. But what Kmiec and commentators like Gerald Campbell have tried to do is BAPTIZE Obama's abortion position: (1) so that "pro-choice" is suddenly an acceptable position for Catholics to support (rather than acknowledging it for what it really is: political support for legalized abortion-on-demand); and (2) to give the impression that supporting Obama will actually FURTHER the pro-life cause. Give me a break!

I mean, Kmiec's reasoning on how a "pro-choice" Obama presidency will supposedly bring about "changing hearts and minds" and creating a culture of life is nothing short of bizarre, as if Obama has the magical ability to reduce abortion by sheer force of personality, since there's not a whole lot there policy-wise for accomplishing that task. One policy vehicle that Kmiec does talk about for bringing about this miraculous feat is the 95-10 proposal, which will allegedly reduce abortions by 95% over 10 years ...
"by ensuring that no woman faces such decision without having already had the benefit of responsible information about abstinence and contraception [and in] the event of a pregnancy, ... objective information about fetal development, the proper guidance of a parent if the prospective mother is a minor, and the public's assurance of necessary economic support to carry the pregnancy to term, and if it be the mother's informed choice, the adoption of her child".
Let's lay aside for a moment the fact that Obama hasn't even endorsed (and isn't likely to endorse) such a thing, despite the fact that the proposal has been floating around in Democrat circles for a few years now. But beyond that, Kmiec's claim that the proposal will reduce abortion by 95% is wildly optimistic to say the least. As InsideCatholic's Todd Aglialoro has noted:
"We already have a a mishmash of abstinence and contraception education in this country, so that's nothing new. And in the age of the sonogram, how will a few pamphlets about fetal development provide any further disincentive to have an abortion -- to say nothing of a disincentive so strong that it will stop 3,800 abortions a day??"
Exactly. The 95-10 proposal is nothing more than a political band-aid to give pro-life Democrats cover (never mind that part of the proposal would be to make contraceptives readily available to teens). And it certainly won't reduce abortions by 95%. Aglialoro's criticism of the 95-10 proposal concludes:
"The kicker, of course, is that even these feeble, moderate measures are absolutely anathema to the abortion lobby, to which any national Democratic candidate MUST pledge obeisance."
In other words, Kmiec is claiming something on behalf of Obama that Obama is unlikely to adopt as his own.

Like I said, Kmiec's being dishonest.

UPDATE (9 May)
From Leon Wolf at RedState: " Douglas Kmiec Will Have a Plate of the "Safe, Legal and Rare" with a Side of "I Feel Your Pain," Please." This is priceless:
... Kmiec used to be a sharp enough guy to recognize the fallacy of the false dilemma when he saw it. Supporting judges who want to overturn Roe v. Wade doesn't mean you can't also support things like birth control, education, and parishioners talking to their pastors. Kmiec offers no evidence whatsoever that McCain is against the widespread availability of birth control or all the other things that allegedly make Obama's approach on abortion better. Kmiec's argument on this point really boils down to nothing more substantive than "Barack Obama looks a lot more handsome and convincing when he bites his lower lip and tells women that he feels their pain." Well, I suppose that may be true, but I haven't the foggiest why it should sway a man who makes a living by allegedly thinking and writing seriously about legal issues...
And this sums up the pathetic sadness of the whole thing:
... Douglas Kmiec used to be a morally serious person. But now, one reads through his writings searching in vain for anything approaching serious moral reasoning that begins from valid premises and ends with sound conclusions. Instead, we are treated to Andrew Sullivan-esque analysis that leaves one with the feeling that the analyst is not describing a person, but rather a siren whose bewitching song has robbed the analyst of his reasoning faculties.

Kmiec used to be better than this...
(Hat tip: Christopher Blosser at Catholics in the Public Square)

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Catholic Teaching and Political Risk Taking: When Credit Isn't Given Where Credit is Due [UPDATED]

Kmiec's Wishful Thinking on Obama and Abortion

The Curt Jester: "Shameless Garment" [UPDATED]

So-Called "Catholic Reaganite" Doug Kmiec Endorses Obama [UPDATED]

"No'bama for Me, Thanks"Can a Catholic Vote for Obama?

Obama's Pledge to Planned Parenthood: “I Will Not Yield"

Deal Hudson: "Barack Obama's Catholic Problem"

"Why American Catholics are Supporting Barack Obama

Catholics at the Ballot BoxHow the Catholic Left Will Tackle McCain

Why Does Kmiec Criticize McCain for Positions on Which He Gave Romney a Pass?

Deal Hudson on "Douglas Kmiec and the Lure of Obama"

Douglas W. Kmiec on "The Moral Duty to Inquire"

Professor Bainbridge: "Will Catholic Reaganites Go for Obama?"

Deal Hudson: "Preacher Man: Barack Obama and the the Gospel of Liberalism"

"Sorry, Doug Kmiec, But This Catholic Isn't Buying Obama"

Ramesh Ponnuru on Douglas Kmiec and "Catholic Reaganites for Obama" [UPDATED]

Romney Advisor Says Obama "a Natural for the Catholic Vote"

Obama "Post-Partisan"? Ask John Roberts

Obama and the "Pragmatic Center"

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At 5/08/2008 11:20 AM, Blogger Terry said...

Unlike Professor Kmiec, however, I remain skeptical of what good Obama will bring to the unborn...

This man goes beyond supporting the wellbeing of the unborn. This man on four separate occasions supported the killing of the born, something not even his ardently feminist primary opponent would support at the federal level.

Moreover, this man has publicly and unequivocally stated one of his first actions as President of the United States will be to overturn the Mexico City policy thereby, at its roots, seeking to make abortion more accessible. How is that going to reduce abortions? And how is that not pro abortion?

At 5/08/2008 11:24 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...


You are correct. I've updated the third point in my rebuttal to Professor Kmiec by adding this:


At 5/08/2008 12:37 PM, Blogger Kyle R. Cupp said...


Sorry if I misrepresented your position. I've revised the post in question to better state (I hope) your basic criticism of Kmiec.

At 5/08/2008 12:43 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...


I don't think you misrepresented my position at all. I HAVE been critical of Kmiec's endorsement of Obama.

But I merely wanted to clarify that the primary reason I've been critical of Kmiec's endorsement of Obama is that I don't believe he's being altogether above-board in going about it.

Please don't take my clarification as any sort of rebuttal of what you've written.

At 5/08/2008 2:06 PM, Blogger matthew archbold said...

Jay, As long as the abortion industry funds Democratic candidates with millions and millions, you will see no change in abortion.
Now, I agree with you that we must change hearts and minds on this.
However, Roe must be overturned before we are even allowed to have a meaningful discussion on a state by state basis. Right now, Roe is all or nothing.
States will come up with compromises which will likely limit abortion to the first trimester in many states while still allowing late term abortions in places like NY or California.

At 5/08/2008 2:11 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...


I'm in 100% agreement with you on the fundamental priority of overturning Roe. It's Kmiec that seems to have lost his way on that.


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