Dispatches from the Creation Wars

David Brooks on Miers

The conservative columnist David Brooks has been looking up all of Harriet Miers’ past writings and isn’t happy with what he sees:

Of all the words written about Harriet Miers, none are more disturbing than the ones she wrote herself. In the early ’90s, 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.

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.”

I don’t know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers’ 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.

Throw aside ideology. Surely the threshold skill required of a Supreme Court justice is the ability to write clearly and argue incisively.

I can’t disagree with that. And the examples he cites are truly godawful.


  1. #1 Jim Anderson
    October 17, 2005

    Should we call this the “Orwell Objection?”

  2. #2 CPT_Doom
    October 17, 2005

    These snippets sound like the worst results of a synergistic, paradigm-shifting, thinking-outside-the-box, cheese-finding offsite strategy meeting.

  3. #3 Bill Ware
    October 17, 2005

    The Air Force taught me that writing should be “clear, concise and direct.” I quess Ms. Miers was never in the Air Force.

  4. #4 Doctor_Gonzo
    October 17, 2005

    These are the writings of a politician, or a self-improvement seminar guru…not a jurist. Although we should keep well in mind that it’s likely that someone else wrote many if not all of these “President’s Opinions” for Ms. Miers, that doesn’t change the fact that we have no indication at all of her prospective competence as a constitutional analyst.

  5. #5 spyder
    October 17, 2005

    The quotes sound so vaguely like… mmmm.. i can remember someone speaking in those sorts of stilted repetitive prose recently. Oh yeah, they sound like Bush.

    “I think it’s important to bring somebody from outside the system, the judicial system, somebody that hasn’t been on the bench and, therefore, there’s not a lot of opinions for people to look at.”— Bush White House, Oct. 4, 2005

    and to meet our daily quotient of humor:
    By popular demand, the Best of DubyaSpeak. Here you will find the Top 20 all-time classic Dubya utterances, as determined by DubyaSpeak.com viewers and the editor. It’s still highly recommended that you sift through the rest of the collection{now almost 3000}, but if you’re pressed for time, get your fix here.


    10. At this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly outta Ronald Reagan Airport.
    9. Laura and I will thank them from the bottom of my heart.
    8. When you have your own money, it means you’ve got more money to spend.
    7. The benefits of helping somebody is beneficial.
    6. We’re in for a long struggle, and I think Texans understand that. And so do Americans.
    5. Sometimes when I sleep at night I think of “Hop on Pop”.
    4. I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn’t here.
    3. And one of the things we’ve got to make sure that we do is anything.
    2. We’re making the right decisions to bring the solution to an end.
    1. Border relations between Canada and Mexico have never been better.

    TOP 10 AS SELECTED BY THE EDITOR (from the remainder of the collection)

    10. I’ve been to war. I’ve raised twins. If I had a choice, I’d rather go to war.
    9. I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well.
    8. You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.
    7. No, I know all the war rhetoric, but it’s all aimed at achieving peace.
    6. My mom often used to say, “The trouble with W” — although she didn’t put that to words.
    5. In 1994, there were 67 schools in Texas that were rated “exemplorary” according to our own tests.
    4. I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe — I believe what I believe is right.
    3. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.
    2. I understand small business growth. I was one.
    1. Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.

  6. #6 decrepitoldfool
    October 17, 2005

    MrsDoF is (a returning student,) taking a composition course and complaining mightily about the workload: “Does this mean I don’t have to learn how to write so people won’t find it later?”

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