Commenters claimed it was unfair for me to juxtapose Harriet Miers' fawning letters to George W. Bush with the legal writings of Antonin Scalia. So let's offer her a fairer playing field and consider her published writing instead. Take it away, David Brooks:
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.
Or as she puts it, "There is always a necessity to tend to a myriad of responsibilities on a number of cases as well as matters not directly related to the practice of law." And yet, "Disciplining ourselves to provide the opportunity for thought and analysis has to rise again to a high priority."
Throw aside ideology. Surely the threshold skill required of a Supreme Court justice is the ability to write clearly and argue incisively. Miers's columns provide no evidence of that.
With conservative discontent over Miers showing no signs of relenting, pundits are already proposing exit strategies. For instance, Mickey Kaus suggests that Bush nominate Miers for a federal appeals court instead. But let me offer a different alternative. Bush's PR machine is falling apart. Scott McClellan lacks Ari Fleischer's talent for "[fastening] together clumps of non sequiturs into an elaborate web of obfuscation." And there's a desperate need for more "empty banality" at the White House after the departure of deputy press secretary Claire Buchan. Given Miers' ability to produce large amounts of vacuous verbiage, it's clear that Bush can put her unique talents to better use at the White House podium. Miers for press secretary!