I raised questions when he first gestured in this direction, and am not persuaded by the arguments he offers today. He notes massive disagreements with Obama on a variety of issues, hoping only that his mind isn’t closed. Is there any evidence of his openmindedness other than words meant to disarm?
The least unpersuasive part of his statement is here:
Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen. In pursuit of these fatally flawed purposes, the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment. Today, I do no more than raise the defense of that important office anew, but as private citizen.
About this, reasonable conservatives, and reasonable people generally, can disagree. I find it more than a little odd that Mitt Romney--Prof. Kmiec’s previous horse in the race--had this to say a couple of months ago:
It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now. It was not well managed in after the takedown of Saddam Hussein and his military. That was done brilliantly, an extraordinary success. But in the years that followed, we were undermanaged, underprepared, underplanned, understaffed, and then we come into the phase that we have now. The plan that Bush and General Petraeus put together is working. It’s changing lives there. Perhaps most importantly, it’s making sure that al Qaeda and no other group like them is becoming a superpower, if you will, in the communities, and having a safe haven from which they launch attacks against us. It’s critical for us. The most important issue is what do we do now, and their just run and retreat regardless of the consequences is going to be a real problem for them when they face a debate with a Republican on the stage.
If this judgment about the justifiability of the war wasn’t an obstacle to supporting Mitt Romney, why is it so problematical now?
I close by noting Prof. Kmiec’s recursion to a "law-enforcement" model of combatting global jihad:
Effective criticism of the incumbent for diverting us from this task is a good start, but it is incomplete without a forthright outline of a commitment to undertake, with international partners, the formation of a world-wide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby, stem radical Islam’s threat to civil order.
He is, of course, entitled to his view, but, once again, it doesn’t quite square with what Romney wrote here, where he focused on the military dimensions of our response to the challenge of global jihad. There’s one sentence devoted (if "networks" are the same as an "entity") to what for what it seems Prof. Kmiec thinks ought to be the core of our response.
So I’m left puzzled by this move from Romney to Obama. Surely there’s less distance between Romney and McCain than between the former Massachusetts governor and Obama. And surely both Romney and McCain are very likely to be better on a whole range of Prof. Kmiec’s issues (e.g., same-sex marriage, abortion, judicial appointments, "subsidiarity") than is Obama.
Or does Prof. Kmiec now regret his support of Romney?
Update: Power Line has more on the Romney-Kmiec-Obama disconnect here.