Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Kmiec endorsement of Obama

Already noted by PWS. He has been hinting at this for some time.

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.

Discussions - 8 Comments

One word: Flaky.

Two things stand out with Prof. Kmiec. One is his emphasis on Obama's reasonableness. Obama seems like someone with whom you could have a good, spirited disagreement with without it devolving into nasty accusations or the like. I think that really appeals to Kmiec (and many others) and I think it probably represents one of Obama's genuine virtues (which is why is association with the oh-so-bombastic Rev. Wright is so incongruous). The second is the war. It's hard not to read the endorsement as little more than the working out of frustration over the war in Iraq. Neither of these quite answer the "Romney to Obama?" question, but I think they do help explain the endorsement, even though (as Joe says) there's no indication that the willingness to have a "conversation" about controversial issues reveals any willingness to move on those issues. Obama, after all, isn't even willing to acknowledge (so far as I know) that abortion is tragic in any sense.

the formation of a world-wide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby, stem radical Islam’s threat to civil order.

We can call it the "United Network Command for Law and Enforcement".

I've said before--in response to word that Michael McConnell had recommended Obama for his teaching position at the University of Chicago Law School--that evidence that he'd be a good colleague doesn't make him presidential timber. I cherish "reasonable" liberal colleagues as honest interlocutors (among other things), but that doesn't mean I'd support any of them for President.

words meant to disarm

I'm curious about what this means. Does it refer to charm? To insincerity and/or hypocrisy? To debaters' tricks? To rhetorical technique? All of the above?

Joe's implication is that Obama is closedminded and only appears to listen or seriously entertain opposing views. He would "disarm" his opponents (like gun control advocates would do?), perhaps the better to fool or intimidate or control them. Why would anyone want such a person as a colleague OR as a president?

I'm with David on this, and fully concur with his one word description of Kmiec's behavior, id est, "flaky."

4: Amen, Professor Knippenberg.


How else am I to understand Obama when he says he respects (some things about) conservatives but has a consistently left voting record? If there's any evidence that he's willing to compromise (move toward the center), I haven't seen it. If he were a basically reasonable and fair-minded (albeit essentially predictable) man of the Left, who didn't go out of his way to demonize those with whom he disagreed, I might be delighted to have him as a colleague. But I wouldn't vote for him for President.

And since he's not trying to be my colleague (he has better things to do and bigger fish to fry--I love my job, but not so much as to lose all sense of proportion), the prospect of interesting and intellectually stimulating disagreements with me and my ilk is highly unlikely to be what moves him. Obama has been a man of action all his adult life. Speech and conversation aren't ends in themselves. Nor do I think he's a Habermasian who engages in "action oriented to reaching understanding," if memory serves about that term of art. So I'm suspicious....

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