Thursday, October 27, 2005

Kicking Miers While She's Down

This probably seems gratuitous given Miers’s just-announced withdrawal of her Supreme Court bid, but my inner language critic can’t resist. According to this morning’s L.A. Times (printed pre-withdrawal), a Christian advocacy group called Concerned Women for America opposes Miers because she expressed support for abortion rights during a speech in the early 1990s. Well, that doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is the wording she used to express her support:
"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," Miers told the group.

She added: "The underlying theme in most of these cases is the insistence of more self-determination. And the more I think about these issues, the more self-determination makes the most sense. Legislating religion or morality we gave up on a long time ago." [Emphasis added.]
Good god, did we need any further evidence of Miers’s inarticulateness? The “freedom of the individual woman’s right”? People have freedom; rights instantiate it. “The insistence of more self-determination”? Most native speakers of English would refer to the insistence on self-determination.

Granted, a lower standard of correctness applies to the spoken word than to the written. On the other hand, the speech was very likely written out beforehand. And the errors in question aren’t the typical spoken-word errors that result from, for instance, starting a sentence and then realizing there’s no good way to end it. They are errors in basic idiomatic usage. In the context of other evidence of Miers’s poor language skills, these errors bolster the case that she simply was not qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice.

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