Kmiec Explains His Support for Obama

, Legal Times

Not long ago, Douglas Kmiec was an active campaigner for Mitt Romney for president -- a plausible fit for the conservative Pepperdine law professor who once served in the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

But on Sunday, the former dean of Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law made a surprising switch. He wrote in Slate that he had switched to none other than Sen. Barack Obama.

Kmiec says he is not abandoning his conservative principles. He recited his continued support for traditional marriage and his opposition to abortion, big government, judicial activism and excessive separation of church and state. Kmiec wrote, "I am convinced, based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing, that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view and, as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them."

We caught up with Kmiec to explore his decision more fully, and he answered questions about it by e-mail:

BLT: How did you come to this decision? Was there a triggering event -- such as Obama's speech on race last week?

Kmiec: "It was a long period of prayer and discernment. I was of course impressed by the race speech, and I've been using it in class as we have made our way through Brown v Board of Education and subsequent cases on school desegregation, affirmative action and the equal protection clause.

"But it was more than that. Even before Senator Obama began his quest for the presidency in earnest, it came to my attention that he had spoken with considerable sensitivity to the issues of church and state. Obama called for 'a sense of proportion to guide those who police the boundaries between church and state.' And he specifically called for an end of the politics of division where Republicans would allege that Democrats have nothing but hostility for people of faith and Democrats would understate the importance of faith in America's history and in the life of everyday Americans. He seems to grasp that not every mention of God in public is a breach of the wall of separation -- that context matters. Most of all, he understood that 'people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool to attack and belittle and divide.'"

BLT: How do you square this decision with your past support for President Reagan and your opposition to abortion, for example?

Kmiec: "The search for common ground, to build bridges, and to lift us up to our better nature is very much in the vein of Ronald Reagan as I remember him. Obama has indicated that he says a prayer each day for America that our profound disagreements 'will not prevent us from living with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.'

"Well, I do have profound disagreements with Senator Obama, most notably on abortion -- a practice that I cannot characterize as anything other than a grave moral evil. He is tolerant of the practice, though importantly, not approving of it. Quite the contrary, as he has stated, 'there's a moral component to prevention [of pregnancy outside of marriage]. And we shouldn't be shy about acknowledging it. As parents, as family members, we need to encourage young people to show reverence towards sexuality and intimacy. We need to teach that not just to the young girls, we need to teach it to those young boys.'