Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Prof. Rick Garnett on Kmiec's Latest Nonsense

(Hat tip: once again, Brian Burch at Fidelis)

Notre Dame Law Professor Rick Garnett, writing at Bench Memos on National Review Online, gives his rebuttal of Prof. Kmiec's latest Catholic Online piece:

I saw my old friend Doug Kmiec on campus at Notre Dame today, which reminded me that I needed to grumble a bit about his most recent "Catholic Online" column, in which he rehashes the much-discussed question, "for whom should Catholics who embrace the Church's teachings on abortion vote?"

... Doug's column goes off course in a few places, I think.
[ED.: Ya think?] He writes:
Given that abortion is an intrinsic evil without justification, thinking the overturning of Roe "solves" the abortion problem, when it does not, can mislead Catholics into the erroneous conclusion that any candidate unwilling to pledge reversal of Roe is categorically unworthy of support.
Yes and no. True, overruling Roe does not, by a long shot, "solve" the abortion problem. It would, however, do two very important things: (a) It would solve another, serious, problem — namely, it would undo the major error that was Roe, thereby improving the state of our constitutional law (about which Doug cares quite a bit [ED.: Does he? You wouldn't know it by the way he's been willing to prostitute his constitutional jurisprudence if it means making a case for Obama's candidacy.]); and (b) it would make it possible for We the People, acting through our legislatures, to take measures that might, bit by bit, "solve" the abortion problem. The fact that overturning Roe does not, by itself, end abortion does not change the fact that the persistence of Roe effectively removes abortion from the arena of legislative (even if only incremental) action and compromise. [ED.: Exactly!] Doug writes:
Senator Obama's position accepts the existing legal regime which leaves the abortion decision with the mother as a "constitutional right." Senator McCain's position would leave the decision with the individual states. Neither position is fully pro-life, both are pro-choice, with the former focused on the individual and the latter focused on the right of the states. Senator McCain's position is sometimes described as pro-life, but in truth, it is merely pro-federalism (states being free under the McCain position to decide to permit or disallow abortion as they see fit).
But this is not quite right. [ED.: Not quite right? In fact, it's a blatant lie. In an Orwellian example of moral equivalency fit for the pages of Pravda, Kmiec proclaims the anti-Roe position that would allow the democratic process to work to impose abortion restrictions to be every bit as "pro-choice" as Obama's position that he "will not yield" on the "fundamental right" of abortion-on-demand as the constitutionally protected law of the land.] Sen. McCain's position is not (merely) pro-"the right of the states" or pro-"federalism"; it is pro-"the right of the People" to try to promote the common good through law. Sen. McCain, unlike Sen. Obama, also supports a wide range of federal policies that regulate abortion and protect the consciences of pro-life citizens. Doug continues:
Independent of my Catholic faith, as a constitutional law teacher, I respectfully disagree with both Senator Obama and Senator McCain since the Constitution was intended as a means to enforce and guarantee the unalienable right to life recited in the Declaration of Independence, where of course it is explicitly traced to our Creator. Since neither candidate presents a position fully compatible with Catholic teaching recognizing abortion for the intrinsic evil that it is, Catholic teaching asks us to work for the reduction of the incidence of abortion through the most prudent way possible.

I am also a constitutional-teacher and, independent of my Catholic faith, I think that the Constitution probably does not, in fact, require governments to outlaw or regulate abortion. [ED.: Unfortunate, but quite right.] In any event, it is compatible, it seems to me, with Catholic teaching to have the view (as McCain does) that the Constitution permits (but does not require) We the People to legislate in accord with Catholic teaching, by regulating abortion (and banning capital punishment, and welcoming immigrants, etc., etc.). And, even if one thought that McCain's view was not "fully compatible" with Catholic teaching, it is not clear why one should regard him as, in effect, in a "tie" with his rival, whose views on *this* question seem quite *in*-compatible with Catholic teaching. [ED.: It's not clear, unless you come to understand that the purpose of the person making the claim is not attaining the truth, but rather obfuscating and twisting it for political ends.] Doug then says:

There is no single answer on the most effective manner to reduce abortion either. My experience, and that of others whom I greatly respect for their tireless efforts in parish work and with Project Rachel and Catholic pregnancy centers, suggest that Senator Obama's emphasis on personal responsibility (conveying especially to young people the need to understand the maturity and commitment needed for sexual intimacy) is the course most likely to make a difference.
This statement surprises and disappoints. [ED.: Nothing Kmiec writes on this matter either "surprises" or "disappoints" anymore. With each new attempt at justifying his support for Obama, he merely continues to call into question his credentials as some sort of "eminent Catholic constitutional expert", not to mention a "stalwart member of the pro-life movement".] One gets used to pro-abortion-rights advocates tossing around the charge that pro-lifers are single-mindedly focused on legal prohibitions (or only on the welfare of unborn children) rather than on in-the-trenches outreach to the needy and vulnerable but, as Doug knows full well, this is an unfair caricature. [ED.: No unfair rhetorical device or argument is out-of-bounds for those Catholics who are determined to paint Obama as "a Catholic natural" and the rest of us as a bunch of heartless culture warriors bent on political divisiveness.] Of course those of us who oppose abortion should engage in these "tireless efforts" and emphasize "personal responsibility". It hardly follows that we shouldn't care about fixing (or, at least improving) the law, or should be indifferent to the prospect that, under President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, the laws of the Nation will almost certainly move dramatically in a pro-abortion-rights direction. [ED.: Please don't confuse Prof. Kmiec with the facts.] Finally, Doug writes:
it is my own conclusion that Senator Obama would be more open to these considerations since he is more dedicated toward reducing the partisanship of the past, has very responsibly and very consistently called upon our better natures, and has articulated — long before he sought the presidency — a genuine appreciation for the importance of faith in the public square.
Here, I suppose there's not much to say. I do not believe the evidence supports the conclusion either that Sen. Obama is less "partisan" than Sen. McCain [ED.: Just ask John Roberts.] or that Sen. Obama appreciates more than does Sen. McCain "the importance of faith in the public square." (I have, I realize, publicly endorsed McCain, and so might be suspect here, but it seems worth recalling the serious political risks that McCain has taken by not being "partisan" on many issues. [ED.: C'mon. You should know by now that conservatives and Republicans never get any credit for taking political risks.]) To say this is not to say that Sen. Obama is a bad person or deny that there is something exhilarating about a youthful, African-American major-party candidate; it is just to doubt — his charisma notwithstanding — that he's meaningfully different, in his plans and policies and views, than other left-liberal American politicians... [ED.: But he talks so pretty with such flowery words that send tingles up my leg! And, besides, he said he'd still respect me the morning after the election was over.]
(emphasis and editorial commentary added)

My Comments:
Yeah, what Rick said (with my comments added in, of course).


Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Deacon Keith Fournier: "Why I Disagree with Doug Kmiec, Once Again"

Give It a Rest Already, Prof. Kmiec!

Deacon Keith Fournier: "No More ‘Left’ or ‘Right’, Time for a New Catholic Action"

Doug Kmiec's Newfound Celebrity Status Among Those on the Left

Doug Kmiec Soon To Be Sorely Disappointed

E.J. Dionne on Kmiec Being Denied Communion [UPDATED]

Deal Hudson on Prof. Kmiec and Blurring the Lines Between "Pro-Choice" and Pro-Abortion

Did Doug Kmiec Just Now Catch On That Obama and NARAL Are Politically Conjoined? [UPDATED]

Deal Hudson on "How Obama's Catholics Will Dodge the Infanticide Question"

Kmiec's Dishonesty [UPDATED]

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 Box

How 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 6/09/2008 11:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for being so thorough.

I am confident that Kmiec and his articles will be trotted out constantly by the liberal catholic academics as we get closer to the fall election. Your fisks and posts will be helpful.

Tim Lang

At 6/10/2008 5:43 AM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

I had seen this piece as well, and thought it altogether too polite and deferential towards Prof. Kmiec.

As, I gather from your interspersed comments, did you.

At 6/10/2008 8:48 AM, Anonymous crankycon said...

Polite yes, but also pretty thorough and right on the money. Kmiec's being hit by fire breathers such as myself and more polite individuals like Garnett. The overall effect will hopefully be to expose the weaknesses in Kmiec's argument to the Catholic audience. But I wonder how many people have been taken in by Kmeic's woeful logic thus far?

At 6/10/2008 11:20 AM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

No one has been "taken in" by Kmiec's arguments, I'm sure.

But no doubt many, many people, starting with Kmiec himself, are comforted to allow themselves to believe (however wrongly) that the vote they'd like to make anyway isn't really contrary to the Catholic faith after all.

Kmiec isn't about persuading pro-lifers to vote for Obama. He's about providing Catholic pro-aborts like himself cover to continue pretending to be pro-life while they vote for pro-abortion Democrats.


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