Friday, July 29, 2005

Elmore Leonard and the Supreme Court

I just don’t know why people don’t get it.


Read my lips folks; what an attorney argues for a client is not necessarily or even usually what he believes in his heart.


Okay, now to the Elmore Leonard link to all this and why it may serve to put the Roberts nomination in some kind of perspective.  Big disclaimer here:  I don’t know his politics and have no idea what Elmore thinks about John G. Roberts and this is in no way to be taken as any kind of endorsement.  But anyway . . .


. . . I am a great fan of Elmore Leonard’s writing and for those of you who may not have read him, you might have seen the movie Get Shorty, or that Paul Newman reputation-maker of the 60’s, Hombre, a classic.  Both films from his books. Hell of a writer.  Nice guy.  I can say that because Elmore was here in Prague a couple years back for the Prague Summer Writer’s Workshop and we chatted at a signing he was doing at the Big Ben Bookstore.  But he made a point earlier in the week, during one of the panels he was on, when the conversation turned to readers and their misperceptions of writers.  Stay with me, this all connects.


Leonard told about a complaint he’d gotten from a reader of one of his books (I’ve forgotten which).  The guy was incensed that Elmore continually referred to black people as ‘niggers.’ “I never realized you were a racist,” the man ranted, “and I will never buy another of your books.”


Elmore wrote him back that he was not a racist . . . that his character in the book was a racist and that particular prejudice was essential to an accurate literary portrait of the man. “I am not a murderer, either,” Elmore wrote him, “but there are murderers in my novels, just as there are philandering husbands, gay men, prostitutes and other social misfits, none of which I happen to be.  To insist my personal moral beliefs into my writing would be to cripple myself as an author. ” All of this is paraphrased, I didn’t have a tape-recorder.


John G. Roberts’ work for and during the Reagan administration was done for his client and his client happened to be interested in promoting certain social agendas and limiting certain others.  That was the work.  That’s what lawyers do.  Roberts is apparently a conservative guy and his personal opinions are quite likely to run along many lines, depending upon the circumstances. To insist his personal moral beliefs into his client relationships would be to cripple himself both as a lawyer and as a judge. 


He has said that repeatedly and his judicial opinions bear that out. There isn't much more one can ask of a nominee.
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See Taking My Country Personally on my personal web site.