Conclusory statements are the kiss of death: Alberto Gonzales, case in point

From this AP news article, regarding the upcoming continuation of the congressional hearings on the firing of U.S. attorneys:

In an op-ed Sunday in the Washington Post, [U.S. Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales apologized for the handling of the matter, including a series of misstatements about his exact role that he acknowledged “created confusion.” But Gonzales maintained that “nothing improper” occurred.

“Those statements are very conclusory,” said Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “He’s got a steep hill to climb. He’s going to be successful only if he deals with the facts.”

It took me a long time to understand what my law school professors wanted when they said that they didn’t want any conclusory answers and that giving conclusory answers would earn students Fs. But, during the first year of law school, the metalanguage of law works to brand onto the law student the emptiness of conclusory statements or arguments.


Because conclusory statements have no heft, no depth and no meaning except as being conclusions. What the law wants, what the law professors want, and what Arlen Spector wants, is the explanation that comes before the conclusion.

Sad thing is, so much discourse today accepts conclusions – people’s individual conclusions – as being good enough explanations, because conclusions are easy to spout and a lot shorter than explanations. Woohoo – brevity. Brevity is overrated – not that it isn’t useful and I should practice it more often, but even so, in the heart of political issue- and candidate-focused conversation and debate, there is no room for conclusory conversation.

Because I said so doesn’t work and neither should Gonzales’ assertion that “nothing improper” happened. It’s not his role now to conclude whether something was improper or not. That’s what the hearings are for – to hear the evidence and then draw conclusions.

Bravado – that’s also part of what gives way to people offering their conclusions first, as though they are, in and of themselves, the explanation.

Big, emphatic, not.

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