Barack Obama has been ranked as the most liberal member of the United States Senate. He favors socialized health care, significant tax increases, and abortion on demand. He is supported enthusiastically by George Soros, Walter Mondale and Jimmy Carter. So, why would any thinking conservative support Sen. Obama for president in 2008? The answer, it appears, is: flowers.
In the latest issue of The New Republic, Bruce Bartlett, the author of “Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy” and a man with his own testy relationship with conservatism, attempts to chart what he describes as the “rise of the Obamacons.” If this is what passes for a political rising tide, it is a very sorry one indeed.
The conservatives Mr. Bartlett cites as supporters of Mr. Obama in 2008 include: Jeffrey Hart, the National Review Senior Editor and emphatic critic of President Bush’s foreign policy who supported John Kerry in 2004; David Friedman, who is convinced that Mr. Obama secretly favors school vouchers; and Andrew Sullivan, the brilliant blogger whose complex libertarian ideology is uniquely unfathomable (he favored Mr. Kerry in 2004 and endorsed Ron Paul for the Republican nomination this year). Yet Mr. Bartlett fails to note that this last supporter is all the more irrelevant, as Mr. Sullivan is a British citizen who could not vote for Mr. Obama even if he wanted to.
Mr. Bartlett does discover a larger portion of support for Mr. Obama among the libertarian community than in conservative circles. All tend to mention Mr. Obama’s eloquent “uplift” and “unity” rhetoric - as the cause for their endorsement. In an Australian interview, prominent neoconservative academic, Francis Fukuyama also issued a reluctant endorsement of Mr. Obama, citing the advantage of a president who “symbolizes the ability of the United States to renew itself in a very unexpected way.” Yet the most prominent advocate of the Obamacons is without question Douglas W. Kmiec, Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University, the former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is also the former brilliant legal scholar of Catholic University and Notre Dame. He is widely respected by conservatives, Catholics, and members of the Federalist Society - or at least he was, until he became an Obamacon.
Mr. Kmiec, who previously served as Mitt Romney’s co-chair on judicial politics, is a devout Catholic who is strongly opposed to the war in Iraq. Yet his justifications for supporting Mr. Obama are not tied to foreign policy - they are based on a belief in Mr. Obama’s supremacy of personality, regardless of any inconvenient facts. How else does one explain Mr. Kmiec’s odd insistence, in article after article in defense of his endorsement, that “I do not understand Senator Obama to be pro-abortion”?
How else to explain his expressed surprise “that the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) has endorsed Obama over Clinton … an endorsement that is deeply troubling”? How else to explain his continued insistence that a politician who has never shown any signs of being anything but emphatically in favor of unrestricted access to abortion - opposing the ban on Partial Birth Abortion, opposing an Illinois equivalent of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, and undisturbed by NARAL’s endorsement - is in actuality pro-life? When pressed on the matter, Mr. Kmiec actually argued that Mr. Obama would be a more pro-life president than Sen. John McCain - who has a 100 percent voting record on the pro-life issue and a lifetime of support for qualified, strictly constructionist judicial nominees.
Apparently he’ll be more supportive to crisis pregnancy programs: “If it’s a choice between giving a boost to the work of my fellow parishioners who week after week in thinly-funded, crisis pregnancy centers, open their minds and their hearts and often their homes to pregnant women (and Obama has spoken approvingly of faith-based efforts),” Mr. Kmiec writes, “and a Supreme Court Justice to be named later who may or may not toss the issue back to the states, I think I know which course is more effectively choosing life.” This leap of logic boggles the mind.
Mr. Kmiec and his small band of Obamacons are the new Lotophagi, the “Lotus Eaters” of Homer’s Odyssey. When landing on the territory of the cult-like Lotophagi, Ulysses’s crew was given a flower to eat “which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus Eaters without thinking further of their return.” Mr. Kmiec and others like him can munch on the flowery prose of Mr. Obama for as long as they want, drifting along on the wafted air of Hope and Change, fooling themselves into forgetting the principles that they once professed to believe. Don’t mourn the Obamacons in their current state, fellow conservatives: We can safely leave them to their happy way which will only bring them heartbreak when they wake up to a world with Supreme Court Justice John Edwards and a whole mouth of grass-stained teeth.
More reasonable conservatives will, I believe, follow Ulysses’s example, and head back onto the ships to go home. Home may not be perfect - Mr. McCain may not be perfect - and the rhetoric is not so flowery, not so sweet. But at the very least, we can be confident that these blunter words are meaningful and true - and not the projection of an overactive imagination.
Ben Domenech is a co-founder of RedState and the editor of The City.