Douglas Kmiec was an unlikely supporter of Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign, but a valuable one. A devout Catholic, he briefly served as director of the office of legal counsel in Reagan’s Justice Department and held a chaired professorship at the conservative Pepperdine Law School. His backing of Obama was rewarded by the president with the Ambassadorship to Malta.
There, however, he has spent much of his time holed up in the residence writing for outside publication and appearing at public events not related to embassy business. As the State department Inspector General described it in a report (pdf) released last week:
Based on a belief that he was given a special mandate to promote President Obama’s interfaith initiatives, he has devoted considerable time to writing articles for publication in the United States as well as in Malta, and to presenting his views on subjects outside the bilateral portfolio. He has been inconsistent in observance of clearance procedures required for publication. He also looks well beyond the bilateral relationship when considering possible events for the mission to host in Malta. His approach has required Department principals, as well as some embassy staff, to spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing his writings, speeches, and other initiatives. 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.
There can only be one reason for such a critical assessment by an independent and professional inspector general: hostility to religious expression. Kmiec told the AP in response to the report, “I am troubled and saddened that a handful of individuals within my department in Washington seem to manifest a hostility to expressions of faith and efforts to promote better interfaith understanding.”
According to the report, after the IG inspectors questioned him about his outside work, Kmiec told them
“he intended to discontinue his outside writings and focus on matters that directly pertain to the embassy and priorities outlined in the Mission Strategic and Resource Plan (MSRP). Within weeks of the team’s departure, however, he resumed drafting public essays that addressed subjects outside his purview as Ambassador to Malta and detracted from his core responsibilities. These activities also detracted from the core responsibilities of embassy staff members who devoted time and effort to reviewing and editing the ambassador’s drafts and seeking approvals occasionally after the writings had been submitted for publication from Department officials.”
Don’t expect relations between Kmiec and the Department to get much better. The IG’s first recommendation was that the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, which has been locked in battle with Kmiec over publication clearance and his general conduct at the embassy, “require the Ambassador to report on his efforts to refocus attention on mission priorities and eliminate his use of embassy and Department resources on nonofficial writings.”