Square Zero

Has Doug Kmiec Truly Lost His Mind?

Posted by Eric (May 28, 2009 at 4:15 pm)

Doug KmiecListening to some of the meandering nonsense coming from Doug Kmiec during his recent debate with Hadley Arkes at Villanova University (Part 1) (Part 2), I began to wonder if he’d lost his mind.

For example, he asked us to believe that what Barack Obama meant when he said he wouldn’t want his daughters “punished with a baby” if they made a mistake was that he wouldn’t want to see them deprived of all the joy that comes from learning that you’re going to become a parent when the time is right. “Punished with a baby” seems like a strange way to put it, but that’s what Obama told Kmiec, and Kmiec bought it.

Now I find this sentence in a National Catholic Reporter article on Obama’s Sotomayor Supreme Court pick:

Frankly, that’s a tough issue in knowing where the government is wrongfully using its funds to penalize you for your point of view differentiates from where the government is expressing its own opinion is often treacherous territory.

Wow. I think I know what he’s trying to say here, but I see at least three different sentences all wrapped up around each other in there like Siamese triplets—what I described to my students at a “mixed construction” when I was a teacher of English composition.

A “mixed construction” is what happens when you start out expressing an idea with one sentence pattern and somewhere in the middle switch to a different, incompatible sentence pattern. It happens all the time to people in live interviews, but it’s not what you expect from a supposedly brilliant scholar writing something for publication.

Kmiec starts off with the wordy and awkward “that’s a tough issue in knowing”—which we could streamline as “it’s tough to know”—but switches to a different construction at the word “differentiates” and then again with the clause “is often treacherous territory.”

He’s losing his place in this sentence just like he does over and over again in the debate with Arkes. You think he’s building up towards a point, when he just veers off into something else. I give Arkes a lot of credit for being able to find points to debate over; I found Kmiec so rambling that I wouldn’t have known where to begin.

Now, for anyone who thinks I’m picking on Kmiec unfairly for one badly-written sentence, there’s also this, the concluding paragraph of the NCR piece:

Of course, this woman is from New York, and at the risk of enormous stereotype of the Empire State, those of us on the West Coast have always noticed a certain—well, curt efficiency—in the New York personality. This is not likely to play as well as the bon vivant boyish charm of John Roberts, but hey, we can’t all smile pretty. And as we say in Malibu, Have a Nice Day!

“At the risk of enormous stereotype”? He sounds drunk. And what’s with the “Have a Nice Day!”? What does that have to do with anything? He really sounds like he’s gone mad.

That’s a very sad thing. I heard Kmiec speak at the Rose Dinner after the 2004 March for Life and was impressed. Along with the whole pro-life movement, I was dismayed when Kmiec came out in favor of Obama. “What can he be thinking?” we all asked.

Now it’s looking more and more like he isn’t thinking at all.

But don’t take my word for it. Kmiec will debate Robert George at the National Press Club this evening at 5 p.m. EDT on the topic “The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life: Is There a Common Ground on Life Issues? What is the Right Response by Pro-Life Citizens?”

The event is being hosted by the Catholic University of America and will be  moderated by, of all people, Mary Ann Glendon, the Harvard professor who declined to accept Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal this year in protest of the honors being confered on Barack Obama.

Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek is attending the debate and will be live-blogging it, as so will Thomas Peters of American Papist. Afterwards the video will be posted on the CUA website, here.

I’ve never seen Robert George speak, but I’ve read his stuff in First Things. Smart guy. Should be an interesting debate.

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7 Responses to “Has Doug Kmiec Truly Lost His Mind?”

  1. Dutchman says:

    What is Doug Kmiec thinking? Probably just about the same thing that Scott P. Richert write in the Wanderer:

    Why aren’t we winning? Why isn’t abortion under steady attack, and Roe v. Wade on its last legs?

    Because pro-life candidates know that we have nowhere else to go. We cannot, will not, should not vote for candidates who support abortion. Yet we are convinced that it is our civic duty always to case a vote, and some Catholics even argue (with sum justification, based on a passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) that it is our moral duty as well.

    Which means that, in a race between a putatively pro-life Republican and a pro-abortion Democrat, we cannot vote for the Democrat, so we must vote for the Republican.

    And the Republican knows it. And he knows that we’ll vote for him again when he comes up for re-election, whether he follows through on his pro-life promises or not. So the temptation is there to take the easy way out — to campaign as a pro-lifer every two or four or six years, but to govern as someone for whom abortion is a non-issue.

    Thus pro-life voters have become for the Republican Party what black voters are for the Democratic Party — a block of “sure votes” that can be appeased by words and ignored in action.

    And if you think that has worked out well for blacks, I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.

    Comment posted May 28th, 2009 at 4:35 pm
  2. Daniella Alejandro says:

    Yep. He has lost his mind.

    Comment posted May 28th, 2009 at 4:35 pm
  3. Eric says:

    Dutchman—I see your point, but I’m not sure what the alternative is. If we want any kind of place at the political table, we have to help elect people to office, even if they are far from ideal.

    What would be the result of withholding our votes from the nominally pro-life candidate? Would we suddenly find that we have more committed pro-lifers to vote for? Or would be instead get to be represented by pro-choice lawmakers who won because we sat out the election?

    I don’t think the comparison with blacks is particularly apt, either. Pro-lifers vote for pro-life candidates because they’re pro-life, not because they’re Republican. Most of the pro-lifers I know wouldn’t think twice before voting for a pro-life Democrat; I’ve done so several times.

    Comment posted May 28th, 2009 at 5:03 pm
  4. bob says:

    “If we want any kind of place at the political table, we have to help elect people to office, even if they are far from ideal.”

    That’s exactly what lots of us who voted for Obama think, and yet for some reason you seem to think that the idea is unavailable to us. Well, my friend, if it’s unavailable to us, it’s unavailable to you. If you actually think that the Republican party platform is commendable on any issue other than abortion, then we have a different argument to have. If you, like many of us, think that the Republican party is something of a mixture between a joke and a force of evil, and that quite a bit of the Democratic party’s platform is worthy of support, then the question becomes whether or not Democratic support for Roe v. Wade should be enough to keep you from voting. I, for one, think that democratic politics simply has to be about getting things done. Since the Republicans themselves won’t overturn Roe v. Wade, and won’t have any success in making abortion illegal or less prevalent elsewhere even they do, and since the Republicans will go on supporting disastrous policies in just about every other area imaginable, I will vote for Democrats in good conscience.

    If you’re really troubled by abortion, stop complaining about it on blogs and in your living room and in your church and get out there and do something to help people deal with the problems that lead them to seek abortions. We will need to do that whether or not abortion is legal (and we’ll need to do it even more if it’s illegal). If we pretend that we have done enough because we have voted to make a law, we’re fools at least two times over.

    Comment posted July 14th, 2009 at 5:40 pm
  5. susie says:

    Assuming he had a mind to lose… yep, I’d say he’s lost it.

    Comment posted July 28th, 2009 at 12:50 am
  6. Joseph Woodard says:

    We can also have conversations with them in their offices, and maybe yell and scream outside their legislatures, and otherwise badger them until they vote how we want. That might help.
    But I think it will be best to re-think our approach to pro-life legislation, so that they simply cannot vote “No”. Any ideas? I’m at josephwoodard@gmail.com.

    Comment posted October 30th, 2009 at 11:09 am
  7. Naturallawyer says:

    Bob: I have to assume that you believe unborn humans are less than human. If you believed that unborn humans were as human as, say, newborn infants, think about what you are saying. It’s something along the lines of “who cares that they want to slaughter children? They want to get things done politically! And Republicans are evil for other reasons [which presumably do not include slaughtering children].”

    Republicans and Democrats often agree about the ends but disagree about the means, and it’s easy to claim that the other side is evil as though they oppose your stated end rather than means (e.g., Republicans aren’t opposed to everyone being able to get healthcare; they just think that government involvement isn’t the best means to having the most effective healthcare system; they aren’t trying to kill off poor people, even if their views on healthcare may in fact be wrong). In any event, please explain to me which issue could possibly outweigh the *intentional* slaughtering of children. The Dems may have commendable views on ways to alleviate poverty and prevent the conditions that motivate some toward abortions, but you are kidding yourself if you think many abortions are anything more than excuses for irresponsible sex. And the Dems are often the ones championing the right to exterminate these innocent human beings in the name of uninhibited sexual activity.

    Fighting to end the abortion regime isn’t just about preventing abortions. It’s about justice. And justice demands that murder be punished, whether the murderer could have been better deterred or not. If we want to fight for justice (and some of us do), we must fight for the punishment of abortionists, just as we would for rapists. If someone suggested to you that you shouldn’t try to make rape illegal because we can prevent it by handing out free porn to men to alleviate their urges, I suspect (and hope) that you’d find that quite unsatisfactory. Rapists, like abortionists, must be punished. That’s what the criminal law is for.

    Comment posted December 9th, 2009 at 7:56 pm