Monday, December 01, 2008

And You'd Prefer....

Douglas Kmiec, the pro-life Catholic stalwart who sent shockwaves through the conservative Catholic community due to his support of Barack Obama for President, is being floated by some for the ambassadorship to the Vatican.

Stephen Bainbridge and Feddie are not happy, calling an "insult". Which is odd, because my first reaction would have been "gesture of good faith". Professor Bainbridge draws an analogy to the appointment of Norman Finkelstein as ambassador to Israel. But the actual proper analogy would be President Finkelstein (shudder) appointing his inexplicable supporter, Richard Rubenstein to the post. As unhappy as I'd be with the election of President Finkelstein, I can't think of anybody I'd rather he appoint as ambassador than Rubenstein.

The Vatican ambassadorship is typically given to a prominent Catholic supporter of the President. Kmiec, however, is apparently disqualified because he is a "traitor" to the pro-life movement through his support of Obama. It's not that I don't understand why these folks were upset by Obama's move. I just fail to see what would be a preferable alternative. A non-Catholic? An avowedly pro-choice Catholic? What is the game plan here?

UPDATE: Henry Farrell chimes in with more.

2 comments:

PG said...

How bizarre. How did these folks cope with Ray Flynn or Lindy Boggs? I can see how it could be perceived as "insulting" to have a Catholic ambassador to the Holy See who is not an abortion prohibitionist, but so long as there are pro-choice Democrats being elected president, their ambassadors are going to be people who supported ... pro-choice Democrats. I suspect that as usual, the real problem is with the fact that a pro-choice Democrat has been elected. Certainly they don't say anything that clearly differentiates Kmiec from Flynn or Boggs. As best I can tell, Kmiec is regarded as a "traitor" because he used to be such a good cheerleader for conservatives, not because he has ceased to be a pro-life Catholic.

Daniel Merritt said...

Well, in material wars a traitor is considered worse than an enemy soldier, and throughout history the punishment - and hatreds - have been much more severe.

There's no logical reason this should apply to ideological disputes - which hopefully will never reach anything approaching an armed conflict - but emotionally people may feel the same way.

An alternative interpretation is that Kmiec is dangerous. Even if the conservatives opposing the appointment aren't all consciously thinking this, the feelings originated because it's imperative anyone with stalwart pro-life conservative credentials who nonetheless has 'defected' to the Democrats be shunted off into the background. The more that person is in the spotlight, the more it seems like you can change party affiliations without abandoning your convictions on the social, moral issues.

At the moment, the social moral issues are just about the only thing still giving the conservatives/Republicans a remotely respectable base.