There are three issues in the Arizona situation. In order of importance they are: a state’s right to act without permission from the federal government, chronic federal incompetence and mismanagement and the third: Is the controversial Arizona plan a good and workable solution for controlling the border? I was struck by the clarity of Morgan Elizabeth Woolard’s — Miss Oklahoma’s — “simple declarative sentence” — Hemingway’s model for emphatic prose — and her grace under pressure (more Hemingway) in answering the question on these issues by Oscar Nunez. “I’m a huge believer in states’ rights,” she said.

She is against illegal immigration, but she is also against racial profiling. But because her first premise is states’ rights, she thinks it is therefore allowable for Arizona to create that law even though it may not be a great law. She did not say it was a good law. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, it is not. But compared to recent comments by Attorney General Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, Woolard’s was a pretty good answer.

Napolitano and Holder responded in interviews to the first issue: states’ rights. States should not be allowed to act on their own. But their commentary gave more evidence to the second issue, federal incompetence.

As the Manchester, N.H., Union Leader reports, Holder has publicly worried that Arizona’s new immigration law will lead to racial profiling and is unconstitutional. He even suggested that the Justice Department might sue Arizona to overturn the law. But, as the Washington Times reported, Mr. Holder acknowledged to the congressional panel he hadn’t read the law he was criticizing, and he gave conflicting accounts of whether he had talked to the team that was reviewing it.

Napolitano’s prose was more elliptical than Miss Oklahoma’s. She said the Arizona law “was not a law I would have signed.” For what reason, asked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)? Because “It’s a bad law enforcement law,” she said. (Say what?) She said she was familiar with laws “of that ilk.” But also admitted to McCain that she had not read the law.

PJ Crowley, the assistant secretary of State for public affairs, criticizing the Arizona law on national TV, also admitted that he had not read the 17-page law.

Woolard was absolutely ready for the question, she said. “I just spoke from my heart and I believe what I said was well-said and I feel strongly about that and I’m proud of my answer.” As well she should be. In a political season of intentional misspeaks, official deception and outright lies, her candid and forthright delivery was a simple, declarative delight.

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