- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

‘A valuable lesson in critical listening’

I hope Star Parker will be considered for a Cabinet post in the next administration or, better yet, for a position in the current administration if a vacancy occurs. In reading her Monday Commentary column, “Word flames,” I found it a refreshing reminder that this is the kind of reasoned and rational thinking we need from our politicians — and from the media and public in general.

Her analysis of the Bill Bennett brouhaha is contrary to that of many of the reactionist talking heads, political sycophants and media sensationalists who would rather create a firestorm than think through and present a logical and well-thought-out explanation of what obviously were misunderstood and misinterpreted comments taken out of context.

Miss Parker gave us a valuable lesson in critical listening as well as how to comprehend the message behind what appeared to be, in this case, an inappropriate and racist comment.

The facts Miss Parker presented toward the end of her column about Mr. Bennett’s wife, Elayne, regarding her endeavors with the Best Friends Foundation are further evidence that this is not about racism. This is really about two people who are very concerned about the many people in this country who are in crisis, and, more important, it is about two people who are actually doing something about it.

Good for you, Miss Parker, for setting the record straight, and I hope to see you in a position of authority where you can lend your clearheaded thinking to so many overreactive people out there who truly need it.


U.S. Air Force (retired)

Dale City, Va.

How to judge Harriet Miers

Much has been written about Harriet Miers’ supposed lack of qualifications (“Critics target Miers’ intellect,” Nation, Saturday). Whether she is, as President Bush asserts, “the right woman for the job” remains to be seen, but the argument, made implicitly and explicitly, that federal appeals court judges and academics are better qualified for the nation’s highest court is incorrect.

Supposing that the gravitas and serious constitutional thinking expected of a Supreme Court justice can be cultivated only behind the bench or within the padded walls of academia requires the same type of intellectual hubris necessary to create abstract, multifactor tests and a penumbra of implied rights. The typical pedigree of a Supreme Court nominee — Ivy League law school, Supreme Court clerk, federal appellate judge, legal academic — tends to divorce a person from the very real effects of law, which, in turn, causes the court to overreach and issue boneheaded decisions such as Kelo v. City of New London. Again, whether Miss Miers ought to be confirmed is far from clear, but one thing is certain: We will all benefit from Supreme Court jurisprudence informed by a little “dirt wisdom.”



I am more ambivalent than most archconservatives about the Miers nomination. I am not as sure as some conservatives are that it takes nothing less than child-prodigy genius and a lifetime of enthusiastic study and passion to be able to interpret the Constitution well enough to sit on the supreme bench. If that were so, few of the Supreme Court justices in all its history would qualify. So this is a new standard, created to justify a political argument. Also, in a perfect world, what agent is competent to vet the next nominee? Certainly not the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose deliberations are almost entirely driven by political, not judiciary, concerns.

I suspect that what the court needs most right now is some plain common-horse sense. A simple-speaking, pragmatic Texan with a generous portion of work ethic may be just the ticket at this point. She is no slouch intellectually, even if she may not be imbued with all the intricacies of advanced constitutional nitpicking that has been plaguing the court. We need Supreme Court justices who can see the big picture clearly, not ones who are buried in the weeds, producing opinions that are theoretically intriguing but also just plain dumb. Recent Supreme Court rulings have been confusing. The court frequently has issued separate and conflicting written opinions on the same side of a decision. For years, the net product of the Supreme Court has been obfuscation, not clarification of the law — which is the Supreme Court’s purpose. It is the result of too much “lawyering,” too many clerks sitting around arguing about how many angels fit on the head of a pin. The Supreme Court needs to get back to the basics. Miss Miers’ contribution to the court is likely to be just that — overarching direction and vision that is unburdened by the double-thinking, microscopic examination of legalistic trivia that no common man can understand.

I do have one objection to the choice of Miss Miers. It is one I have not yet seen discussed, and it is the only one of which I am sure. It is her age. She is 60. If confirmed, I think she will provide exactly the kind of votes we need throughout her entire tenure. I just wish her tenure would be longer.



I am a tad perplexed by all the Sturm und Drang surrounding the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I suspect that the hand-wringing in the conservative camp may be misplaced. Of course, the liberals are keeping their powder dry; they will have ample opportunity to fire at will during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

As any student of the Supreme Court knows, many a presidential crony has warmed a high-court chair, some in a distinguished manner, others less so. The pejorative charge of cronyism fails on the merits, and at any rate, it pales in comparison with the more substantive charge that Miss Miers is a legal cipher, a blank page yet to forge a coherent legal philosophy with which to judge. We really don’t know yet just how blank she is. This is why the Judiciary Committee sessions will be so important.

Let us hope that the Democratic members of the committee will elevate their game above the showboating that characterized their performance at the confirmation hearings for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. If both sides do their jobs well, we will know when the hearings conclude whether to cheer or jeer the nomination and the president who made it.



India, Pakistan and counterterrorism

The discussion on relations between India and Pakistan (“The Indian-Pakistani thaw,” Editorial, Sunday) rightly notes the importance of the peace process underway to the United States and to global counterterrorism efforts.

However, there is little point in asking for further impetus from the United States without addressing the democratic deficit in Pakistan. In the aftermath of September 11, the United States succeeded in averting a war and a potential nuclear showdown between the two countries.

However, if a permanent peace is to ensue, there is little point in shoring up the military regime in Pakistan, which has shown no inclination to restore democratic processes. It was the military, beginning with a previous army ruler, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, and not a cold war, as claimed in the editorial, that gave rise to and has, since, actively fostered Islamic radicalism. History has shown repeatedly that any military regime anywhere will likely seek its sustenance from war, not peace.

For a lasting solution to the global terrorist problem, the Bush administration should be urged to unlock its Faustian embrace of dictators. Marriages of convenience are certain to unravel, as the world saw in the case of Pakistan in the 1980s. The Reagan administration embarked on a similar alliance with a former Pakistani military regime to take on another mortal enemy, the Soviets.

While the communists were defeated, it spawned today’s terrorists, the Islamic radicals. Arguably, the latter-day enemy is capable of far more existential harm.


New York

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