Doug Kmiec has resigned as U.S. Ambassador to Malta.
I’m not surprised by the news. Kmiec’s resignation is only the latest episode in a long, slow decline of intellectual integrity which first became public when he endorsed Obama for President in 2008. Kmiec’s story and his stories about Obama’s true agenda passed beyond absurdity some time ago.
I pity Kmiec personally but I do believe it is important to write about this news involving him because I believe we can all learn a great many lessons about what befalls us when we begin to put our political agendas and personal ambitions ahead of the Gospel.
Kmiec, as we all know at this point, was the most visible Catholic, “pro-life” champion of Obama in the Presidential campaign and since then. He helped convince on-the-fence Catholics (and the wider American population) that Obama’s positions could be reconciled with the Catholic Church. His support of Obama was quickly identified as useful to those who wanted Obama elected, and they were happy to supply him with a platform before the election, and a reward after the election (the ambassadorship to Malta).
Then, like all men who serve an expedient purpose for a time, once Kmiec became more of a liability than an asset to the administration, he was first internally criticized, practically reigned-in, and finally allowed to resign – with no assistance from his “friend” Obama.
Liberal Catholics are trying to make Kmiec into a martyr for religious freedom … as if being appointed the ambassador of a seaside resort country –complete with a staff that by Kmiec’s own admission he employed as his research assistants– were purgation! Would that religious “oppression” always came with such trappings of prestige and comfort.
Of course Kmiec is not a martyr for religious freedom. He’s a constitutional scholar who should have known at the outset that his public voice would have to be sublimated to the real, practical responsibility of being America’s official state ambassador to a foreign power.
But that’s just the point: the real world is increasingly not the world that Kmiec thinks he inhabits. Kmiec’s world ceased to be the real world when he convinced himself (and still tries to convince others) that Obama is a “Catholic” president. The rest of the story is tragically predictable.
This connection between Kmiec’s self-delusion about Obama’s agenda and his delusion about his actual role in that agenda is the only thing that can begin to make sense of the recurrent disconnect between what Kmiec says about Obama’s agenda and politics and what we see happening in the world – what we have seen Obama do, and why the State Department thought it was inappropriate that one of their Mediterranean ambassadors had decided to act as if he was some sort of “religious-based diplomacy” international ambassador-at-large with a personal mandate from the President.
More revealing still is to see how Kmiec’s top enablers – progressive Catholics – expected Kmiec’s battle against the state department to go his way. Joe Furella wrote five days ago:
“Obama now needs to step in, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and support the man who has supported them.”
Well, the Obama cavalry clearly never arrived. That’s because it was never sent. That’s because Kmiec used to serve Obama’s needs, and now he doesn’t. None of that was hard to predict.
Michael Sean Winters is an even better example of liberal self-delusion in this situation. 10 days ago he accused Jack Smith of the Catholic Key of “making a molehill out of a molehill” by bringing up Kmiec’s reprimand by the State Department. Well then, by Winters’ own admission, Kmiec evidently resigned over a molehill, or it wasn’t actually a molehill in the first place, and Winters was wrong. Who’s surprised?
Winters tried to argue instead that Kmiec’s extra-curricular activities constituted a “deepening of his official duties, rather than a straying from them.” But reality would disagree. Kmiec’s unilateral interpretation of his responsibilities were opposed to the commitment he made to U.S. officials when he accepted the diplomatic position they offered him.
But even this is untenable. So all Winters has left is to falsely claim: “…everyone, not just Catholics, are scratching their heads over [Kmiec's resignation].” Well, I’m not confused. I would suggest the proper reaction isn’t to scratch one’s head, it’s to open one’s eyes. I’ll explain.
Liberal Catholics who enable Obama’s agenda constantly fall into the temptation of thinking Obama loves their “Catholic” positions, when he in fact loves that their “Catholic” positions endorse his political program. To make a Chess metaphor, Kmiec and liberal Catholics are pawns who think they are bishops and are thereby taken by surprise whenever their King decides to sacrifice them in his own defense. Kmiec’s posturing in his Maltese position was becoming an embarrassment for the current administration, so they told him to quit it. He decided to quit entirely, because he cared more about his non-diplomatic role than his actual diplomatic role.
At the beginning of this Lent I issued a letter to prominent Catholics who publicly supported Barack Obama: “Come Clean on Obama.” In it, I named Kmiec as one of the Catholics I was calling to.
Now, in the final week of Lent, Kmiec has before him visible, tangible, unavoidable evidence that what he thought Obama wanted him to do was not the case. His illusion about what Obama wanted him to do has come to an end. Now is the time for Kmiec to reexamine what else about Obama he may have gotten wrong – for him to confront the deeper illusion. Now is the time to come clean. It’s never too late.
Deacon Keith Fournier says that Kmiec has come home. Sadly, he has only done so in the geographical sense. It remains to be seen – and I pray that it does come to pass – if he will come home to the full reality about Obama’s agenda and how it fundamentally opposes our Catholic principles, principles which lead to human flourishing in the real world because they match the reality God has inscribed in the world and in each of us.
In the meantime, my Lenten prayer for this pro-Obama Catholic must remain.