Harriet Miers: Can She Write a Clear Court Decision? Can We Confirm a Ghost Writer?


David Brooks asks a very good question about Harriet Miers in his New York Times column this morning: Can Harriet Miers write a lucid Court decision?
Did Bush ask for a writing example? Did he ask Laura to review it?
While I think it’s useful to have fundamentalists and establishment Republicans divide over Harrier Miers, her appointment is still not a net gain for the nation. If she has difficulty writing and communicating her positions on important judicial decisions (perhaps we could get her a legaleze ghost writer?!), she won’t be perceived as a force of her own but rather as a stooge of the President, even after he has left office.
Brooks offers tidbits of her fuzzy, uncompelling prose:

Of all the words written about Harriet Miers, none are more disturbing than the ones she wrote herself. In the early 90’s, while she was president of the Texas bar association, Miers wrote a column called ”President’s Opinion” for The Texas Bar Journal. It is the largest body of public writing we have from her, and sad to say, the quality of thought and writing doesn’t even rise to the level of pedestrian.
Of course, we have to make allowances for the fact that the first job of any association president is to not offend her members. Still, nothing excuses sentences like this:
”More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems.”
Or this: ”We must end collective acceptance of inappropriate conduct and increase education in professionalism.”
Or this: ”When consensus of diverse leadership can be achieved on issues of importance, the greatest impact can be achieved.”
Or passages like this: ”An organization must also implement programs to fulfill strategies established through its goals and mission. Methods for evaluation of these strategies are a necessity. With the framework of mission, goals, strategies, programs, and methods for evaluation in place, a meaningful budgeting process can begin.”
Or, finally, this: ”We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support.”
I don’t know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers’s prose. Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided.
It’s not that Miers didn’t attempt to tackle interesting subjects. She wrote about unequal access to the justice system, about the underrepresentation of minorities in the law and about whether pro bono work should be mandatory. But she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of good will come together to eliminate bad things.

Maybe a soccer mom type is the right choice for the next slot on the Supreme Court, but there seem to be numerous people out there who are not part of the “judicial monastery” but can still communicate their views in a way that adds to rather than blurs America’s legal infrastructure.
— Steve Clemons