- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2011

TOO MUCH RELIGION?

The U.S. ambassador to Malta denounced State Department bureaucrats who accused him of spending too much time on religious issues, as he submitted his resignation to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec, a devout conservative Catholic, praised Mr. Obama’s “personal faith” in a resignation letter sent to the White House last week.

Responding to a report earlier this month from the State Department’s inspector general, Mr. Kmiec added, “I doubt very much whether one could ever spend too much time on this subject [religion].”

In a letter to Mrs. Clinton on Saturday, Mr. Kmiec sounded more defiant toward the inspector general’s “flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission” and complained that bureaucrats of the “middle ranks … have seen it as their calling to strictly enforce” the inspector general’s report.

“As a consequence, my voice has been prevented from speaking; my pen has been enjoined from writing; and my actions have been confined to the ministerial,” the ambassador said.

“You deserve better; but until these rigid, and rigidly narrow, perspectives are overcome, you and the president are being deprived of the intelligent insight of much of your embassy’s work.”

The State Department internal report, leaked to the Associated Press on April 8, criticized Mr. Kmiec for devoting “considerable time” to writing about religious issues, even though Malta is a deeply Catholic nation.

“Based on a belief that he was given a special mandate to promote President Obama’s interfaith initiatives, he [Mr. Kmiec] has devoted considerable time to writing articles for publication in the United States as well as Malta and to presenting his views on subjects outside the bilateral portfolio,” said the report.

In his letter to Mrs. Clinton, the ambassador dismissed the criticism, saying, “The OIG [Office of Inspector General] failed to read any of my writing or see its highly positive effect on our bilateral relations.”

One of his articles posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website (malta.usembassy.gov) was co-authored by Maltese President George H. Abela.

Mr. Kmiec accused the inspector general’s office of petty politics and suggested the report was payback for his criticism of the office in 1989 when he served as a legal counsel to then-President George H.W. Bush. He said at the time that the OIG should stick to “rooting out waste, fraud and abuse” and avoid issuing reports on policy matters.

“That opinion stung the OIG, and I suspect I have just experienced a ‘sting-back,’” he said.

Mr. Kmiec, who described himself as a “Kennedy Democrat and Reagan Republican,” endorsed Mr. Obama at a critical time in the 2008 presidential campaign, when many Catholics were questioning whether they could support the Democratic candidate because of his strong support for abortion.

Mr. Kmiec, a constitutional legal scholar, most recently taught law at Pepperdine University in California.

He asked Mr. Obama to make his resignation effective Aug. 15, which he noted in his letter is the Catholic holy day of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Catholic doctrine holds that Mary, the mother of Christ, was raised to Heaven in both body and soul.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tuesday

• Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa of Bahrain, who addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

May Kassir of Iraq’s University of Technology and Mais Mohammed and Rawia Salih of the University of Baghdad. They discuss the contributions of female engineers and scientists to the development of Iraq at a forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Thursday

Shirin Ebadi, a major Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She discusses her new book, “The Golden Cage: Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny,” at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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