U.S. Ambassador to Malta, Accused of Ignoring Responsibilities, Resigns: Who is Douglas Kmiec?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Douglas Kmiec has resigned his post as U.S. ambassador to Malta after the State Department’s inspector general criticized him for spending too much time on “outside activities, including writing and speaking engagements that do not pertain directly to strengthening maritime security, promoting U.S. trade and investment, and other mission goals.”
The IG’s report said Kmiec had an “unconventional approach to his role” as ambassador and that “His official schedule has been uncharacteristically light for an ambassador at a post of this size, and on average he spends several hours of each work day in the residence, much of which appears to be devoted to his nonofficial writings.”
Kmiec devoted much of his time to writing about President Barack Obama’s “interfaith initiative” and trying to bridge differences between religions.
Kmiec, a Catholic in overwhelmingly Catholic Malta, rejected the criticism, saying in a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the IG had a “flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission.”
“My voice has been prevented from speaking; my pen has been enjoined from writing; and my actions have been confined to the ministerial,” he wrote in explaining his resignation.
Although Malta has a population of only 412,000, its location in the Mediterranean between Europe and Africa has made it a hotbed for spy agencies. In addition, its proximity to Tunisia and Libya has increased the importance of the U.S. presence there in light of the upheavals in these and other nearby nations.
Kmiec was born September 24, 1951, in Chicago. He earned a B.A. from Northwestern University in 1973 and a J.D. from the University of Southern California in 1976. He was a member of the law faculty at the University of Notre Dame from 1980 to 1999, including director of the Thomas J. White Center on Law and Government from 1987 to 1988. During those years, he received leaves of absence to serve in the Reagan administration. He served as Special Assistant to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1982 to 1983. He worked in the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel from 1985 to 1989, first as Deputy Assistant Attorney General from 1985 to 1987, and then as Assistant Attorney General from 1988 to 1989. From 2001 to 2003, he was Dean and St. Thomas More Professor of Law at The Catholic University of America School of Law in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 2003, he taught constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law, which is well known as a center of conservative legal thought. 
Although previously a conservative Republican and an ardent opponent of abortion rights, in 2008 Kmiec surprised many by announcing his support for the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. He wrote in March 2008 that he believed that Obama respected opposing opinions on life issues, and that the damage done to the presidency by the George W. Bush administration demanded a change of course. As a direct result, a Catholic priest denied communion to Kmiec in May 2008, although the archbishop of Los Angeles later repudiated this conduct. About a year after his Obama endorsement, Kmiec again surprised his friends on the religious right when he publicly criticized efforts to limit marriage to heterosexuals; instead, he argued that state governments should offer civil unions to all regardless of sexuality. 
Kmiec is married to Carolyn Keenan, with whom he has five children. In 2000 Kmiec donated $250 to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush. 
Nominated to be ambassador to Malta on July 2, 2009, Kmiec was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on August 7, and sworn in September 2, 2009. 
On August 25, 2010, Kmiec was driving in the hills in Southern California when he lost control of his car, veered off the road and landed in a drainage ditch. Both of his passengers, Monsignor John Sheridan and Sister Mary Campbell, died as a result of the accident.
Kmiec has agreed to resign effective August 15, the day of the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
-Matt Bewig, David Wallechinsky
Douglas Kmiec Resigns as U.S. Ambassador to Malta (by Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times)
Inspection of Embassy Malta (State Department Inspector General) (pdf)


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