Last week we brought you the saga of Douglas Kmiec, the U.S. ambassador to Malta. The U.S. State Department recently issued a 41-page report that accused Kmiec for being too outspoken about religion. The background is worth reading here. Well now we have this update from the AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Malta, an important Roman Catholic supporter of President Barack Obama, said Sunday he would resign after a State Department report criticized him for spending too much time writing and speaking about his religious beliefs.
In letters to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Douglas Kmiec said he would step down Aug. 15. He told The Associated Press that no one pressured him to leave.
Kmiec was a well-known conservative law professor and commentator before being taking the job in 2009. But a report this month by the State Department's inspector general rebuked Kmiec for concentrating too much on issues such as abortion and his faith, while neglecting his ambassadorial duties
"I doubt very much whether one could ever spend too much time on this subject," Kmiec wrote Obama in his resignation letter.
The audit was the second critical assessment of a politically appointed ambassador this year and illustrates the pitfalls that presidents can face when they appoint noncareer diplomats to ambassadorships, often as a reward for their political support.
A February report blasted the 14-month tenure of Cynthia Stroum, a big Obama donor who became ambassador to Luxembourg. It described her service as fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor. Things were so bad in the wealthy European nation that some staff requested transfers to Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said. Stroum resigned effective Jan. 31, just days before the scathing assessment was made public.
The audit of the U.S. Embassy in Malta said Kmiec's "outside activities have detracted from his attention to core mission goals" in the Mediterranean island nation, such as promoting maritime security and American business. It acknowledged the wide respect for Kmiec in the conservative, Roman Catholic country of Malta, but said his articles distracted him and embassy officials by forcing them to carefully review his writing. They upset administration officials in Washington, too, it noted.
Kmiec responded by describing the criticism of his religious views was "especially odd" because his friendship with Obama began out of a common view that "too much of politics had been used to divide us, sometimes by excluding people of faith."
Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University and a lawyer in President Ronald Reagan's administration, was targeted by conservative Catholics and denied Communion by one priest for his support for Obama during the presidential campaign.
In his letter to Clinton, Kmiec noted that he advised President George H.W. Bush in 1989 that government audits should focus on rooting out waste, fraud and abuse, and suggested that the criticism of his ambassadorship was in effect a "sting-back." He said inspectors use the audits to criticize support for Obama's policies such as his goal to promote interfaith dialogue.
The State Department declined comment on Kmiec's announcement.
The embassy in Malta has recently played an enhanced role as the nearest European country to Libya. More than 180 Americans were ferried to Malta when Moammar Gadhafi's forces violently cracked down on protesters seeking an end to his four-decade rule.
CNN looked at his resignation letter:
"With my reputation impugned by the recent ... report, I can no longer be certain that I am in a position with my government to have your needs and perspectives heard in the best possible light," Kmiec said in an e-mailed statement.
The State Department had no immediate comment Saturday on the ambassador's submitted resignation, including whether or not it had been accepted.
Kmiec, the former dean of the Catholic University of America's law school, defended his actions in his official letters and statement. He was appointed in 2009 -- a year after the "Kennedy Democrat and Reagan Republican," as he'd described himself in his letter to Clinton, spearheaded Obama's outreach to Catholic voters in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Kmiec was very critical of the report, released last week from the U.S. State Department's inspector general, which criticized him for spending so much time writing and speaking about faith-related issues.
CNN describes Kmiec's resignation letter as defiant:
In his letter to Clinton, Kmiec said the report was based on "unsupported speculation that someone doing as much writing as I have done could not have also been devoted to the embassy mission."
"The contrary proof ... is the strength of our embassy," he wrote. "Our work is careful, thorough and timely, and I am fully apprised of all of it."
The ambassador claimed, in his letter to Clinton, that the inspector general report's authors had "failed to read any of my writing or see its highly positive effect on our bilateral relations." He also said the report's assertion that faith-based writings weren't relevant to his position represented a "flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission."
The CNN article also looks at Kmiec's assertion that the criticism may be, in part, payback for something that happened in 1989 -- read that account here.
Here is a interview Kmiec did with Stephen Colbert back in 2009: