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October 26, 2005
I'm Moving Off The Fence

I took what little time at work (on my lunch break) that I could to read through the speech given by Harriet Miers to the Executive Women of Dallas in 1993, and wound up re-reading three more times tonight. I would encourage everyone to read this speech carefully, as it sheds quite a bit of light onto the skills and outlook of the nominee selected by George Bush.

It's quite unsettling.

The first quality that comes across when I read this speech is its mediocrity. I assume Miers wrote it herself, because no one would pay for something written this poorly, just on a mechanical level. It's full of incomplete sentences, poor grammar, conjugation errors, and the like. I understand that this isn't an essay for print, but it is a speech that was written in a format for verbatim delivery.

"I think the last week of the Senatorial Ads with Senator Krueger's ads for the first time focused upon just Kay Hutchinson was not an accident."

"Politicians who are too concerned about maintaining their jobs."

"The public education issue is racial in overtone."

"The State's poor population grew at a rate three times the national average and in some pockets that statistic is 70% the national average."

"We undeniable still have a justice system that does not provide justice for all as provided by the Pledge of Allegiance."

"Where else do we hear a lot today about the Courts. The law and religion."

"I have enjoyed my year at the helm which is about to be over."

This speech is chock-full of clumsy, unskilled writing, and it doesn't just apply to the written form, either. Try saying these aloud, along with most of the speech, and you will quickly understand how tin-eared it truly is. Supreme Court justices need to write with clarity and precision; they need to not only explain their decisions, but the better justices write to convince others of their wisdom as well.

Mechanically, this speech reveals a mediocrity in composition that is truly disturbing. What about the content? Unfortunately, that doesn't improve the picture much at all, either. Miers wrote the speech for executive women the year before her first official campaign position with George Bush. She doesn't seem to share much of Bush's political views at this time, which belies the notion that she represents some rock, impervious to prevailing winds. For instance, on abortion, we get this declaration:

"The ongoing debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual woman's right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion."

Does that sound to anyone like someone committed to opposing abortion, or even allowing the issues to be decided by the legislatures? She gets even more incoherent on racial issues, declaring that "[t]here is no question that Dallas is basically a segregated city and that there is a great need for the development of housing around the city where amenities exist. However, the placement of low income housing around the city is very difficult." In other words, she wanted to have government force desegregation through confiscation -- think Kelo -- and the building of low-income housing. She never questions that government should force a solution on people through public takings; she merely questions whether that should be done by the legislature or the courts, but sounds as if she's prepared to have either one do it.

What about enterprise zones? What about tax breaks to get better incentives for investment in the "segregated" areas (which, while deplorable, did not come from government imposition)? What happened to market-based programs that could have not just created more racial diversity in Dallas' inner city but also could have created wealth for the minorities that remained committed to the community?

Not only that, but her other proposal to fix the racial imbalance in schools hardly measures up to the Bush philosophy; she suggested a new statewide income tax to gain control over school spending. Not a single word about school choice, voucher programs, magnet schools, or reforming tenure and demanding pay-for-performance in public schools.

That isn't centrist. That's very liberal, and it should make everyone wake up to the threat Miers represents. In fact, this speech gives so mamy reasons to oppose Miers that it's a wonder she hasn't already repudiated it as a youthful indiscretion. There's hardly a passage in here that gives any credence to the notion of Harriet Miers as an originalist, or even a conservative.

I'm off the fence for good now. I oppose the Miers nomination. I have no objection to allowing Miers her day in front of the Judiciary Committee; if the Bush adminstration wants to subject itself to that kind of political damage, let it. The quality of her prepared speech strongly suggests that the White House will deeply regret that decision, but quite frankly, that will be their problem. The Judiciary Committee should reject her, as should the Senate, once her nomination hits the floor.

But if the White House has any sense left, they'll quickly withdraw her from consideration and spare itself further embarrassment.

NOTE: Hugh points out that this was written twelve years ago. Twelve years ago, Miers was a 48-year-old woman who headed the Texas State Bar and had run a large law firm; she wasn't a twenty-something greenhorn fresh out of law school. If her views on abortion and affirmative action can change that dramatically, then that demonstrates rather clearly that a few years on the Supreme Court could just as easily find her just as flexible. While it is possible that her writing could have also improved in that period, I'd find it unlikely.

Also, based on the page numbering of the document, it looks like the White House produced this document in support of her nomination. If so, then they must not have much else to balance it out. Can they produce other speeches written by Miers herself which demonstrate (a) any skill at written communication, or (b) significant rethinking of the positions she appears to take in this paper?

Hugh wants us to rely on intangibles in the face of hard evidence. I'll trust myself to the hard evidence we have, in the absence of any that the White House has produced.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 26, 2005 9:12 PM

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