Douthat Puts Kmiec in His Place

Thursday, November 6, AD 2008

Many of us on the conservative side of the spectrum have been sounding a tad cranky the last couple days.  Still, occasionally this frustration is channeled into well deserved directions.  Commenter and fellow Steubenville alumnus FUS01 pointed me towards a great piece by Ross Douthat, part of an open discussion on the future of the GOP over on Slate.  In response to Kmiec’s now familiar comlaint that GOP pro-lifers are unrealistic in wanting to defeat Roe, and his claim that Obama is a natural for pro-life voters, Douthat dishes it out to him in a way that Kmiec richely deserves:

Continue reading...

20 Responses to Douthat Puts Kmiec in His Place

  • Ross nails issue big time. Not sure who is more worthy of my contempt- the anonymous McCain staffers dropping info about Sarah The Trailer Park Shopper or Kmiec The Useful Idiot. Time was that I thought Dougie was angling for some fancy gig like Deputy AG. Might well be he was ideoligically motivated to twist and turn the Church’s position on abortion like a South Philly pretzel maker. Makes him all the more pathetic. No more of his ilk in either U.S. Catholicism, Sharper More Focused More Battle Ready Pro-Life Movement, or a GOP free of impediments like the leakers, seeking a More Moderate America. Moderate- bleh. Armadillos get smushed in the middle of the road. Go back to Pepperdine, Dougie, and leave the heavy lifting to others.

  • “embarrassing shill”

    An accurate assessment of Kmiec.

  • A pretty hyperbolic diatribe. I can understand how distraught we all are, but this may have been unconstructive.

    I don’t want to be a party pooper and I certainly agree where the emotions are emanating from, but maybe we should all get this out of our system now and quickly so we can return to the issue at hand.

    Protecting the unborn, reversing Roe v Wade, ie, promoting a culture of life.

    I for one will be having a pint or two and vent with friends this weekend, after that, full steam ahead with the Pro-Life Movement!

  • Ordinarily I would agree with Tito’s sentiments. In the case of Kmiec, however, I am willing to make an exception.

  • Tito, I did not find this hyperbolic. It was accurate. In my mind, Douthat should be credited for having the courage to say what he said in a hostile forum like Slate. George Weigel, Robert George, Ramesh Ponnuru, legal scholars John Breen, and Rick Garnett have all made the same point. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Kmiec was acting deliberately in bad faith. See, for instance, Kmiec’s endorsement of the pro-choice position in this LAT op-ed:

    “Sometimes the law must simply leave space for the exercise of individual judgment, because our religious or scientific differences of opinion are for the moment too profound to be bridged collectively. When these differences are great and persistent, as they unfortunately have been on abortion, the common political ideal may consist only of that space. This does not, of course, leave the right to life undecided or unprotected. Nor for that matter does the reservation of space for individual determination usurp for Caesar the things that are God’s, or vice versa. Rather, it allows this sensitive moral decision to depend on religious freedom and the voice of God as articulated in each individual’s voluntary embrace of one of many faiths.”
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-kmiec17-2008oct17,0,2107469.story

  • I understand that the pro-life position on abortion does not command majority support in the United States and that people of good will can disagree on the subject.

    I disagree that informed and thoughtful people of intelligence and goodwill can disagree on the question of abortion, any more than they could on questions like slavery or the Nazis’ “final solution.”

    Science teaches us that human life begins at conception. Theology teaches that human life has inherent dignity and rights. Just law must take this into account.

  • Two items of context that may help:

    1) Douthat is normally such a moderate voice that hearing him put the hammer down like this is both fun and gives his words more impact than if they came from someone who was a fire breather by habbit.

    2) Kmiecs essay yesterday in the same round-table which Douthat was directly responding to was so weasley and indeed bordering on incoherant I figured he deserved it in the immediate as well as the general sense.

    That said, I do agree that wallowing in recriminations at this point would help no one but our opponents and I’ll try to avoid falling into that.

    Lord, make me irenic… But not quite yet.

  • This is a topic that is going to keep coming up, but we can be both forceful in our opposition as long as we’re fair. While hyperbolic rhetoric is not helpful, at the same time I don’t think we need to walk on eggshells every time we open our mouths or write a post or column. And as DC said above, this is pretty stark rhetoric considering the source, much as it was shocking to see Byron York – also normally reserved – really take it to McCain’s staff.

  • I agree with how we are characterizing Kmiec.

    Let’s get this out of our system, but let’s get prepared come Obama’s inauguration.

    I hope I wasn’t too harsh. It is not a reflection on anyone at all.

  • I hope I wasn’t too harsh. It is not a reflection on anyone at all.

    No prob. I think we’ve established pretty well over the last couple days that a bit of mutual criticism is fine around here. 🙂

    And I do agree with you about not wanting to become nothing but a grudge-central — though I flatter myself there’s little long term danger of it.

  • Mutual criticism is fine and welcome by me (and hopefully others).

    🙂

    I don’t want a grudge-central as well and share your sentiments et al.

  • …a bit of mutual criticism is fine around here.

    Refreshing. Nothing says you can’t be on the same team, so to speak, and have some genuine disagreement, and most importantly argue it publicly. That’s far more respectful than silently circling the wagons or just being snarky and quarrelsome to one another.

    People generally quarrel because they cannot argue. -GKC-

  • I had the same thought when I read Ross today… I’d read his initial piece (along with Manzi’s and Kmiec’s when Ross linked all of them the other day) and then saw his link today… his description of the post is as follows: “The Slate dialogue continues, and I say some very unkind things about Douglas Kmiec.”

    As DC noted, for Ross Douthat to get that strong in tone is unusual, and says something in itself.

  • Who is this Douthat guy and why does he think that people of good will can disagree on the subject of abortion?

    It has been fully resolved that if you buy abortion, you don’t have an intellectual pulse.

  • I see P. Diddy has beaten me to the punch here. The statement that leaps out is:

    “I understand that the pro-life position on abortion does not command majority support in the United States and that people of good will can disagree on the subject.”

    That’s a huge concession from Douthat isn’t it? And yet we obviously look at Robert E. Lee and other southerners before the abolition of slavery as men of good will. But right about now I don’t think at pro-choicers that way.

  • “That’s a huge concession from Douthat isn’t it?”

    Not really, unless you think that 70%-80% of the country is not only wrong, but of bad will. Presuming bad faith on the part of anyone outside the pro-life movement is counter-productive to the goal of enacting abortion restrictions. If we are going to make progress, we have to recognize that many Americans are conflicted about abortion, and continue to work to persuade them about the importance of protecting human life in the womb.

    Even limiting abortions to the first tri-mester (which would be supported by a majority of Americans) would reduce abortions by around 10% (saving roughly 100,000 lives a year). These types of modifications in the law are not the end goal, but they are worth aiming for – and in that process we need to presume good faith on the part of people in the mushy middle on abortion.

  • I’m unimpressed with a strictly numbers approach to determining whether a group is of good will. That’s part of the reason we don’t have a democracy but a representative form of gov’t. Should Germans during the Nazi regime be let off the hook?

  • “I’m unimpressed with a strictly numbers approach to determining whether a group is of good will.”

    You are free to presume bad faith; good faith and bad faith are difficult to prove, and I will certainly not try to persuade you one way or the other about a group as diverse as 70-80 Americans. Only honest discussions with people who are pro-choice will do that. As I said, however, it would be disastrous for the pro-life movement as a whole to presume bad faith. People who are not of good will cannot be convinced to support abortion restrictions, which makes argument useless. Similarly people who are of good will do not like to be addressed as if they are not. We should nearly always presume good faith rather than bad when we are trying to extend legal protection to the unborn.

  • Pingback: Are Pro-Lifers Stuck With the Republican Party? « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective
  • Pingback: To The “Traitor,” Go The Spoils? Kmiec & The Ambassadorship « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective

The Dilemma of the PLCOS

Monday, October 20, AD 2008

It occurred to me recently that the typical Pro-Life Catholic Obama Supporter finds himself in a bit of a pickle… on the one hand, he obviously hopes (and prays?) that Senator Obama wins the presidential election; on the other hand, in order for his repeated assurances that there’s just no way that Obama’s abortion extremism will ever come to pass, he must similarly hope (and pray?) that the Illinois Senator’s party does not do as well as it appears it will, because if the Democrats do succeed in making substantial gains in the House and especially the Senate, then that abortion extremism has a very good chance of in fact becoming law.

So… go Obama, go GOP???

Continue reading...

10 Responses to The Dilemma of the PLCOS

  • If allegedly pro-life Obama supporters are in a pickle, it is solely the problem of justifying their vote for Obama without giving away the dishonesty of their claims to be pro-life.

  • Paul, why can’t we take them at their word, instead of employing a hermeneutic of suspicion? Whatever the faulty reasoning employed by, for example, Doug Kmiec, he *does* have a track record that establishes his pro-life bona fides. The idea that one might support a particular candidate *despite* their stance on issue X — not because of it — is well-established, practically, philosophically and theologically; I, for instance, will vote for McCain *despite* his views on research on frozen embryonic human beings… I see no reason to deny that the same is possible for a PLCOS. I want to be clear: I think their reasoning is faulty & muddied; but that doesn’t mean that I presume that they are not of good faith.

    I just don’t see what value or purpose there is in impugning the motives or intentions of PLCOSs… better to focus on the error of their thinking that accuse them of being in bad faith.

  • Best not to fall into that trap in the first place. Pro-Obama Catholics are more twisted than a boxload of Philadelphia pretzels. Sometimes they almost make sense, as in Douglas Benedict Arnold Kmiec. Sometimes they just babble, as in Joe Biden, Proud ‘Pope John XXII Catholic-‘ as one can determine one’s Catholicity by a fave Pontiff. These poor deluded souls are dropping into the same hole as our esteemed bishops since oh about 1968. Time after time our bishops issued letters and statements and stuff about solidarity with the poor and social justice and the rights of the downtrodden- all good and proper. Time after time the official Dems swatted them away. Comes Cardinal Bernadin with his ‘seamless garment.’ Same back of the hand. So now we have shepherds who got their croziers from the Twin Towers, Johannes Paulus Magnus and Benedictus Wonderfulness. With the admonition to wack a few noggins once in a while with them. Thus the wonderful gusher of recent statements about human life, abortion, citizenship, stuff like that there. Highlighted by the witness of our beloved Archbishop Chaput, The Bishop For Our Time, much like Dagger John Hughes in the mid 19th century and Blessed Fulton Sheen post WW II. The Pro-Obama Catholics will be seen ultimately as useful idiots- should their idol ascend to the throne of Washington Lincoln and Slick Willie- or doofuses if the Jet Jockey gets there. We will have a massive final for all the marbles rumble on abortion in our great nation in the next three to four years. Coinciding I believe with the increasing number of Baby Boomer women no longer able to conceive and bear children. Let us see how these useful idiots choose sides. I’ve made my choice- as has Don Mac, Chris B., Tito and Company.

  • Just read an article by E. J. Dionne entitled, “A Catholic Shift to Obama?” It says a Pew Research Center survey showed Obama leading John McCain among Catholics by a margin of 55 percent to 35 percent. This concerns me a lot.

  • Unfortunately, Cathy, I’m not surprised… concerned (like you) and disappointed, but not surprised. Most Catholics have traditionally gone Democrat, and they also traditionally go with the flow.

    A lot of work remains in evangelizing and catechizing our own.

  • I don’t know that it is necessarily the case that pro-life Catholics for Obama would be routing for the GOP to take control of Congress to stymie any abortion bill. I think the PLCOS would be for a Democratic majority so that Obama’s administration can start work its miracles. I think also it has to come down to fundamental assumptions.

    From the arguments I’ve read, the two things that make Obama attractive to Catholics is his economic policies (read social justice), and the War in Iraq. If the assumption is that abortions occur predominantly because of financial concerns, then fixing the economy–or at least offering huge entitlements–should fix the abortion problem. If we feel justified in “slaughtering innocents in Iraq”, we give scandal and teach that we can kill anyone in our way, and so shutting down the slaughterhouse would send the message that it isn’t okay to slaughter the innocents. Thus Obama, despite being hugely pro-choice, would actually lead to a decrease in abortions.

    Of course, if your fundamental assumption is that people predominantly have abortions because they can’t stand the inconvenience of a kid (while enjoying all the pleasures of sex), then the whole argument above falls apart.

    I wonder which assumption is correct?

  • Ryan, I agree that it’s extremely unlikely that a PLCOS would be rooting for the GOP, but how else can they maintain their position that a President Obama wouldn’t be able to achieve his agenda with regard to ESCR (clone & kill) and abortion? If a PLCOS both supports Obama *and* a stronger Dem majority in both houses (as presumably s/he would), the almost certain consequence is the federal funding of abortion and destructive ESCR.

    I agree with you on the question of assumptions.

  • The justification comes from, I think, the notion that if the motivation isn’t there, it doesn’t matter what is on the books. (Included might also be a misguided feeling that some abortions are okay, such as when it is either abort the baby or lose both the baby and the mother.) For example, here at UW, there’s still a law that says if we ride our horses onto campus and tether them in Prexy’s Pasture, the UW President has to feed and water them. Strangely, you don’t actually see any horses tethered in the pasture (though we have now filled it with all kinds of bizarre artwork). The law is on the books, but there’s no motivation to take advantage of it.

    The PLCOS feel that if the motivation to have abortions is not there, it doesn’t matter if abortion is legal or not–no one will have one. Just as how when alcohol is legal, no one ever binge drinks, and when controlled substances are legal the fascination with them dies out and no ever uses them.

  • Regarding Kmiec specifically, I think a strong argument could be made that he is now arguing in bad faith. See, for example, his recent article in the LA Times:

    “…when these differences are great and persistent, as they unfortunately have been on abortion, the common political ideal may consist only of that space. This does not, of course, leave the right to life undecided or unprotected. Nor for that matter does the reservation of space for individual determination usurp for Caesar the things that are God’s, or vice versa. Rather, it allows this sensitive moral decision to depend on religious freedom and the voice of God as articulated in each individual’s voluntary embrace of one of many faiths.”

    Notice in this article, 1) Kmiec mischaracterizes the debate about abortion as an issue of ‘religious freedom’, 2) he advocates the ‘personally opposed’ position. As he of all people is certainly aware that Catholics are against abortion as a human rights issue rather than a ‘religious’ issue, it’s hard to maintain that he is arguing in good faith. I think earlier this year Kmiec made a number of arguments that could be held in good faith, but it seems to me that his recent statements are following the well-worn ‘personally opposed’ path of many Democrats before him.

    Perhaps this is unfair, but it strikes me as rather opportunistic for him to try and cash in on the Catholic brand by writing an book-length apologia for Obama. The only reason that the book is important is because he’s using the Catholic label, and he, in fact, misrepresents some of Obama’s past positions in the book (always in ways that are more flattering to Obama).

  • Notice in this article, 1) Kmiec mischaracterizes the debate about abortion as an issue of ‘religious freedom’, 2) he advocates the ‘personally opposed’ position.

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect Kmiec of taking his talking points directly from Gerald Campbell of Vox Nova.

Kmiec on Korzen, Kelly and Chaput – A Matter of Priorities

Monday, October 13, AD 2008

“Catholic Answers: Two books for voters who take their faith seriously”– Doug Kmiec, who has lately become something of a poster-boy and spokesman for ‘Catholics for Obama’, reviews Archbishop Chaput’s Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (Doubleday, 2008) and A Nation for All How the Catholic Vision of the Common Good Can Save America from the Politics of Division , by Chris Korzen and Alexia Kelley.

As to be expected, Kmiec finds a sympathetic ear in Korzen & Kelley, given their assertion that Catholics have become ‘preoccupied’ with abortion to the subordination of peace, the environment and welfare:

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Kmiec on Korzen, Kelly and Chaput – A Matter of Priorities

  • I cannot help but believe that these guys simply have no interest in abortion as an issue. I don’t believe their insistence that they are somehow pro-life, nor can I believe that they honestly think that Barack Obama will cure war and poverty in the same way that they criticize Republicans for not having ended abortion.

    At best, these guys may think that they’ll be pro-life later, when there ain’t-a gonna be no war no more, and when the poor are no longer with us. But I can’t help my suspicion that, even if they could achieve these things, they’d still want to uphold the “right” to an abortion.

    Their refusal to be taught by the bishops and the Holy Father on this issue is most telling. They are desperate to justify their vote for Obama and the new ardently pro-abortion regime he promises. Maybe they can sleep at night after spending their days giving such scandal, but I couldn’t.

  • I believe it is utter rationalization to vote for Democrats, who champion the culture of death in all its forms, because the Republicans haven’t eliminated abortion themselves. Congress operates on coalitions, and, Bush has only been able to get two Supremes through…both pro-life.

    Simply put, it is the ONLY issue this year…everything else pales next to the sacred duty of all Christians to uphold “personhood!” The Natural Law, upholds the dignity of each human life, but, for Christians, it is the Holy Trinity, ie., “three Divine Persons in communion,” which bestows ultimate dignity on human personhood. “Personhood” is the ultimate victim in every abortion.”

  • “Of course, voting for a “prolife” candidate does not guarantee that he will appoint Supreme Court justices who accept the church’s natural-law arguments against abortion. Nor does it mean that anti-Roe appointees will be approved by what is sure to be a Democratic Congress.”

    Is Kmiec trying to say that only “natural law” jurists will be anti-Roe?

    One of Kmiec’s arguments that really concerns me holds that we’ve been counting anti-Roe justices wrong.

    First, because the GOP is unwilling to make openly the case for overturning Roe, we have to judge anti-Roe justices by circumstantial evidence, like whether his wife is a strong pro-life woman.

    Even if a justice is putatively anti-Roe, he or she might not completely overturn Roe but only make minor piecemeal changes. The justice might be more committed to stare decisis or schools of jurisprudence that would mitigate his or her desire to fully overturn the decision.

    As for FOCA, I’d like to know if it has a realistic chance of passing even under a predominantly Democratic Congress.

  • But why is the GOP unwilling to openly make the case for overturning Roe?

    I think it is because this type of campaigning is easily misunderstood; people may misunderstand the Constitution and the law. It also might not be a very winning issue politically.

    I don’t think this is a good excuse, but it’s probably why they’re not doing it.

  • Kevin – FOCA has been attempted in the past. However, there is more support for it from members of Congress than ever more. The current legislation was introduced April 19, 2007. Planned Parenthood is actively campaigning for the bill. See: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/issues-action/courts-judiciary/support-foca-14393.htm

    Given our country’s political climate at this time in history, it would be imprudent for Catholics to assume the FOCA is too radical to ever be passed.

    The house bill has already more than 107 cosponsors (106 Democrats, one Republican). To view an always-current list of co-sponsors, arranged by state, click here for the current list: http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/issues/bills/?bill=9653451&cs_party=all&cs_status=C&cs_state=ALL

    The senate version introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), had more than 19 Democratic cosponsors, including presidential candidate Barack Obama (IL) plus Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY), and independent Joseph Lieberman (Ct.). To view an always-current list of co-sponsors, arranged by state, click http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/issues/bills/?bill=9668701&cs_party=all&cs_status=C&cs_state=ALL.

    This bill is so dangerious that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Secretariat has urged clear, vigilant, and persistent advocacy against the “Freedom of Choice Act” (or FOCA). The Pro-Life Secretariat has expressed grave concern to state Catholic conferences that FOCA would, if enacted and signed into law, sweep away hundreds of pro-life laws and policies at the state and federal levels! Check out the USCCB-approved alert released September 24, 2008: http://www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=263

    For a careful legal analysis of FOCA by the USCCB’s Office of General Counsel, see: http://www.nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/pl-foca.pdf

    Cardinal Rigali recently warned “if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket.” See the September 30, 2008 press release from USCCB about FOCA: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2008/08-141.shtml