Daniel Larison offers a qualified defense of Doug Kmiec: however unpersuasive Kmiec’s pro-Obama arguments on abortion might be, there are plenty of Catholics and conservatives who take just war theory seriously and therefore find their colleagues’ pro-McCain (or pro-Bush) arguments on foreign policy and torture equally appalling. In light of this, Larison finds it difficult to understand why Kmiec has “been summarily dismissed and belittled over the last several months.”
The trouble with this argument is that, unlike Andrew Bacevich — who opened his Obama endorsement with the line “Barack Obama is no conservative” — Kmiec has not made the war or any other proportionate issue central to his case for Obama. He has spent much of his time and gotten most of his attention as an apologist for Obama’s position on abortion. This has required him to repeatedly say things that are untrue. Perhaps Kmiec’s critics are wrong or judging him too harshly, but it is very difficult to see how someone as informed about these issues as Kmiec could make some of these arguments in good faith.
This is especially true since Kmiec basically argues that Republicans have to overturn Roe v. Wade to prove their seriousness on abortion while Obama can be viewed favorably for supporting economic and welfare policies that might conceivably reduce abortions. One need not be naive about the Republicans’ commitment to the pro-life cause or social consevatism generally — I am certainly not — to realize they have enacted some policies that have in fact reduced abortions. Obama favors oveturning nearly all of these policies, either directly or through the Freedom of Choice Act, and has not embraced the abortion-reduction strategy of pro-life Democrats. Even if he offers economic support to pregnant mothers, he also would like to offer them taxpayer funding to have abortions.
Obama hasn’t even taken office yet and he is already working to reverse the Bush adminstration’s Mexico City policy and restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research. (In fairness, McCain is also to the left of Bush on conducting embryo-destructive research at taxpayer expense.) Again, if Kmiec was going to argue that he was supporting Obama in spite of these facts, that would be one thing. He has instead misrepresented Obama as an improvement over past Democrats on life issues.
Imagine that I favored John McCain based on tax cuts and abortion but told antiwar conservatives they should support him on antiwar grounds. Yes, on paper his position is more pro-war than Obama’s. But the Democrats haven’t really done anything about the war since retaking Congress in 2006. McCain can be tolerant of the antiwar view, and even opposed U.S. military interventions in Lebanon and Somalia. Just as only Nixon can go to China, only McCain has the credibility to end the Iraq war. He learned in Vietnam that war is horrible and capacity problems will prevent him from expanding the war to Iran.
How many takers would I have among antiwar conservatives? Not many, I’d presume. But I would at that point be their Doug Kmiec.
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