Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Clear Writing = Clear Thinking

It's a maxim that every writer learns early on, and one that most spend a lifetime working toward, and while it's generally true of all writing, it's triply true of opinion writing. When you read the work of a great opinion writer--say, a George Will, a David Frum, a Charles Krauthammer--what you are admiring is the expression of a well-organized mind. These fellows aren't stupendous stylists the way, say, Anthony Lane is. They're thinkers. And because they think clearly, they write clearly.

That's one of the reasons that Patterico's post on the writings of Harriet Miers (which is an amplification of what David Brooks wrote last week) is so particularly troubling. To quote Brooks again, the written word of Harriet Miers is a "relentless march of vapid abstractions."

It's no surprise, then, to seen this post from Ed Morrissey about the "misunderstandings" Miers has been conveying to senators.

She told Chuck Schumer that:
she had never discussed the Supreme Court case that struck down anti-abortion laws, Roe v. Wade, with anyone in a three-decade legal career. He said she told him that she will have to think about whether she supports Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 privacy case that established the legal groundwork for the later abortion ruling.
Then this exchange followed her meeting with Arlen Specter:
After their meeting, Specter told reporters that Miers told him she believed the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut -- a landmark ruling establishing the right to privacy -- was "rightly decided."

But when the White House took exception to Specter's comments, the Pennsylvania Republican released a statement saying Miers later called him to tell him that he had "misunderstood" her answer.

Specter said she told him she had not taken a position on either Griswold or the right to privacy, the legal underpinning for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Specter's statement did not withdraw his comments about Miers discussing Griswold with him, nor did it offer a correction. But the statement said the chairman accepted Miers contention "that he misunderstood what she said."

It is possible that Specter and Schumer are trying to make trouble for the nominee. It is possible that Miers is trying to game the senators.

But it is also possible that Harriet Miers talks the way she writes. If she's speaking to senators in vapid abstractions, that would explain how Schumer, Specter, and the White House can all come to such totally different conclusions about what she's saying.

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