Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage has directed me to a new blog which is well worth your attention. It is called Moral Accountability and is the work of Robert P. George and his colleagues. There Matthew J. Franck critiques the latest mental gymnastics of Doug Kmiec.
Writing in Commonweal, Kmiec complains that he has been vilified by the right without justification, that basically all the opposition to his support of Obama has taken the form of name calling. Here’s a taste:
Noting my continued good health, the editors of Commonweal invited this essay which I submit even as I acknowledge the wisdom of Sr. Pius’s eighth-grade counsel: “Douglas, just offer it up!” That was good advice; and indeed I have at times considered the blog calumnies hurled at me as penance for occasions when I have put on a bit of a false front. We all want to be perceived as intelligent, kindly, and well considered, and we all occasionally speak too glibly for our own good-as I did, for example, representing Obama on the campaign trail while chastising him for his criticism of Justice Clarence Thomas; or suggesting, out loud and even on camera, that his one-time pledge of support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) during the primary was “boneheaded.” These are not politic statements, but unlike most blog entries, they represent honest, substantive dissent illustrating how it is possible for a person to be capable of admiring both Barack Obama and Clarence Thomas, and of supporting Obama while rejecting legislation that would in any way limit religious freedom or insult the church. (My message to President Obama on FOCA, by the way, will remain what it was to candidate Obama: FOCA runs contrary to the pursuit of the common good.)
Just a couple of things. First off, Mr. Kmiec is dodging when he says that Obama’s support of FOCA consisted of a “one-time pledge.” Senator Obama was cosponsor of the bill which was introduced into the senate April 19, 2007. Then, on January 22, 2008, 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Senator Obama released a statement in which he promised as president to see FOCA passed:
When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.
Finally, on July 17 2008 he promised Planned Parenthood that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the bill into law if congress presented it to him. Obama’s support of FOCA was a “one-time pledge”?
Kmiec goes on to say that Obama has no real interest in FOCA and that the right wing has drummed up all this concern to obscure the real common ground that Obama shares with the Church. I guess we are supposed to take Mr. Kmiec’s word for it, rather than Obama’s. Franck puts it well when he says:
Ah, FOCA. Douglas Kmiec assures us that “there is no real legislative interest” in it. It may be that even its supporters feel that the time is not right to press its passage right now. But the fortunes of the bill are a matter for predictive political science, not for moral reasoning. The fact remains that Barack Obama is on record promoting it as among his highest priorities and stating his desire and intention to sign it. The nation’s Catholic bishops are worried enough to have spoken out publicly and repeatedly against the bill since Obama’s election. Nothing they have said, and nothing Douglas Kmiec has said, has caused Obama to waver even a millimeter from his devotion to such a radically pro-death policy.
Secondly, Kmiec sounds a bit shrill when he points out how much uncharitable opposition he has received. Anyone with his conservative background, experience and education would have known upfront what the reaction was to be when he went from supporting Mitt Romney to Obama. Furthermore, as Matthew Frank points out, if he is now a villain in conservative circles, he is also a hero in the ranks of Obama supporters. Everything has a price.
I do not condone the namecalling, particularly when Catholics who are concerned about the faith are invloved, but then again, Kmiec did just help the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever to get elected. He cannot really be all that surprised or scandalized by the frustration of pro-lifers.
It is also interesting how Kmiec makes no reference to the thoughtful and respectful debate that was conducted with him on Catholic Online by Deacon Keith A. Fournier, Steven Mosher and others, and many others elsewhere. Instead we get this:
A hate-filled blogosphere, on the other hand, feeds a politics of odium, misleading people of faith and good will, diminishing and at times obliterating our ability to know one another. Our faith urges us to presume the stranger is kind, and to seek out opportunities to manifest love of neighbor. Sadly, neighbor-love is not what has overwhelmed my in-box since my Obama endorsement. Instead, right-wing blogs and their readers have launched missiles of hate, delivering ad hominem invective of an astonishing vehemence and crassness. I am “an embarrassing shill,” “hysterical,” and “pathetic”; also “a fool,” “an Obama shill of such mystifying obtuseness that one suspects a head injury,” “a slimeball,” “an unfaithful, cowardly betrayer”; just “another so-called Christian who flashes a Bible and looks righteous to the pagans,” and so on. “I hear,” wrote one Catholic blogger, cutely summoning the gospel, “that Sen. Obama will be FedExing thirty pieces of silver to Doug Kmiec.
Catholic Online has posted an article in which Catholic bloggers respond to Kmiec. One such blogger is Thomas Peters of American Papist:
In his experience, Peters said, incivility, hate and falsehood are not serious problems on Catholic blogs. According to Peters, Kmiec’s treatment by leading bloggers, was extremely well-behaved “considering the gravity and intensity of what is at stake here (once again, lest we forget – the lives of millions of unborn children).I’ve written almost 100 articles that mention Kmiec and I would challenge him to find something I wrote that is not a fair criticism.”
Peters suggested Kmiec is engaging in misdirection.
“He has attempted to move the debate away from the original argument in question (specifically Obama’s record on life issues) into the realm of the character assassination he feels he has been subjected to. Kmiec constantly points out the vitriolic or silly criticisms he has received, while almost wholly ignoring the substantive disagreements that many prominent members of the pro-life movement have raised in response to his arguments. It shouldn’t be surprising that he fares well when he matches himself up against this army of straw men, or in this case, these nameless, faceless ‘bloggers’.”
Finally, what are we to say of Kmiec’s opposition to FOCA which he promises to express to the president if he “by chance” happens to attempt to push the bill through: “FOCA runs contrary to the pursuit of the common good”? In fact support of FOCA means that Obama’s promise to reduce the number of abortions is just political manuvering, and that he is fully committed to the culture of death, which is a tad more than just contrary to the common good.
Let us do the charitable thing and pray for the enlightment Mr. Kmiec and his deliverence from Obamamania. See the latter part of Kmiec’s article in Commonweal for a sincere but rather melodramatic presentation of his and Obama’s persecution:
All of the world’s overheated overstatement cannot be blamed on the blogs, of course, but the blogosphere’s megaphone quality magnifies unfortunate remarks best left in more limited, and usually more nuanced, contexts. During the election campaign, Archbishop Raymond Burke called the Democratic Party “the party of death,” an expression deeply hurtful to my octogenarian father and millions of other lifelong Democrats who still see the Democratic Party as Leo XIII saw it-the “working man’s” party. The situation worsened when bloggers exported from the student newspaper a classroom remark of Cardinal Francis Stafford at The Catholic University of America describing some of the policies of the president-elect as “aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.” With admirable restraint, the Obama administration has kept its puzzlement and disappointment with these blog-spread commentaries to itself.
I think that Mr. Kmiec should happy that he got a good measure of reasoned argument from reputable Catholic publishers and bloggers. Actually the Left gets the prize when it comes to the extremes of hate-mongering. Pro-lifers have known this for a long time. One would assume Mr. Kmiec must know this as well.