Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Doug Kmiec has had an amazing political journey. Today a chaired professor at Pepperdine Law School, Kmiec has traveled nearly the full gamut of public life: He worked in the Office of Legal Counsel under both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and pursued an active career teaching law, at Notre Dame and Catholic University. He was thought, for a time, to be one of the leading lights in conservative Catholic legal circles.
Of course, conservative Catholic legal circles being what they are, you probably never heard of Kmiec, and if you did, it’s because, in 2008, Kmiec very ostentatiously endorsed Barack Obama for president. At the time, this was taken as yet one more example of Obama’s bipartisan appeal. In retrospect, it was probably a sign of something else.
Last week, Kmiec took to his Facebook page (where all the old folks go on the Internet these days) and announced that he’s running for Congress. Kmiec has targeted California’s 26th district, where freshman Democrat Julia Brownley won a reasonably narrow victory in 2012. The district had been represented by David Dreier for the preceeding decade, so it’s not crazy for Kmiec to think a Republican might have a shot to unseat her. But Kmiec isn’t running as a Republican. He’s running as an independent. Still, not entirely crazy. This is California, after all. Stranger things have happened.
No, the crazy comes when Kmiec explained to the Pepperdine student newspaper exactly why he’s running. He was inspired to run, he said, by Pope Francis. But don’t worry, his candidacy won’t make him some kind of congressional holy roller. Because, as he further explained, he merely sees the House of Representatives as a stepping stone to, well, let’s let Kmiec explain:
But is it ready for Kmiec, a Reagan Republican turned Obama booster who’s running for Congress as an independent so he can be Hillary Clinton’s running mate and then—fiat voluntas tua!—be ready for even greater responsibility should, you know, anything happen to Madam President?
The full scale of Kmiec’s ambitions suddenly comes clear. And they also cast into new light some of his other political decisions.
For instance, in 2007 and early 2008, Kmiec was actually on board the Mitt Romney campaign, serving as a member of Romney’s advisory committee. But that didn’t work out—Romney dropped out of the race on February 14, 2008, turning his delegates over to the more moderate John McCain. Five weeks later, on March 23, Kmiec endorsed . . . Obama. A year later, in April 2009, Kmiec re-endorsed Obama. Or, as he put it, “Today I reaffirm my endorsement of Barack Obama as president of the United States.” Which was a little strange, since there was no election and Obama had been in the White House for 12 weeks already. But a few weeks later, Kmiec’s re-endorsement paid off, and Obama appointed him ambassador to Malta. (Kmiec was a prodigious blogger then at Slate, and now at the Huffington Post, so it’s easy to keep track of these things.)
Alas, the relationship was fated to end poorly. In 2011, an inspector general’s report suggested that Kmiec was shirking the grueling ambassadorial duties in Valletta and instead spending his time writing and giving speeches. He resigned. And in 2012 he lamented that he could not re-re-endorse Obama because of the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate, which had left him “without a candidate.” Obama somehow muddled through without him.
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