Barack Obama's speech on race relations played well in many circles and helped secure him the endorsement of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson last Friday. On Sunday, Mr. Obama was also endorsed by a lesser-known but more surprising figure -- a constitutional law professor who headed the Office of Legal Counsel for both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Doug Kmiec is a respected professor at Pepperdine Law School, where Ken Starr serves as dean. He certainly hasn't shown much previous inclination towards political apostasy -- earlier this month he was still serving as co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign's Committee on the Courts and the Constitution.
Mr. Kmiec made his endorsement known in a blog posting on Slate.com so he clearly wasn't looking for too big a splash. But while he is unlikely to be joined by a posse of other Reaganites, his reasoning deserves some attention.
He begins by acknowledging that Mr. Obama holds views far more liberal than his on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. However, he apparently has embraced the "audacity of hope" in those areas: "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."
Then he moves to the crux of his decision, which comes down to the Iraq War: "Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen."
Mr. Kmiec then goes on to assert: "The office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend... has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment."
Supporters of the Iraq War have every reason to question why Mr. Kmiec would endorse someone who favors a withdrawal within 16 months, with potentially devastating consequences. However, his apostasy is a sign that the Bush administration's intelligence blunders on Iraq, its refusal to consider seeking a Constitutional declaration of war against Saddam Hussein and its shifting justifications for the conflict may be starting to cost Republicans some traditional support they've long enjoyed on the right.
-- John Fund