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You have an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Paul Rosenzweig
Washington, DC

Paul Rosenzweig

I'm a former senior federal policy maker, with a wide-ranging knowledge of issues involving homeland security, national security, intelligence and law enforcement.

The angel is in the details

Editor's note: For Thursday morning's post, the contestants were asked to revisit one of their earlier posts and respond to a commenter.

In reviewing my blog on GPS tracking  one of the judges said it had "a nice top," (thanks!) but was "a bit long."  One commenter had the same thought: "too long; too many details."   Another commenter had the same reaction to my piece on Don't Ask; Don't Tell, recommending a "long walk" followed by an "edit."

I plead guilty, as charged.  Don't get me wrong - I understand the impulse. Shakespeare was speaking for many when he said "brevity is the soul of wit" and in this world where so many attractions compete for our attention, it's important to be pithy when you can.

But in my view the problem with discourse today is that we are too enamored of the sound bit and superficial analysis.  That's a mistake.  The policy and legal issues facing the world are more complex and more daunting because of their complexity.   Policy decisions are hard ones and can't be reduced to ideology or sloganeering.

So, if it takes 780 words to describe developments of Fourth Amendment law and GPS technology that seem obscure but will effect almost every American, that does not seem over long.  And if it requires 510 words to explain why important process issues of governance lie behind the decision to appeal Don't Ask; Don't Tell, perhaps that isn't over long either.

So I plead guilty, as charged.  With understanding, but no apology.  As former Deputy Attorney General James Comey has said: "The angel is in the details."

There.  That took only 252 words.

Read more entries from this round. See what the judges think. And cast your vote on Friday.

By Paul Rosenzweig  |  October 21, 2010; 8:43 AM ET  | Category:  Blogging Challenge , response to readers
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Comments

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Yes, sound bites are part of the problem. Long talk is also a part of the problem. Length is not the issue, clarity and good writing are.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 22, 2010 10:05 AM
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For goodness' sake, what do you expect from a Federal Policy Maker??? I was actually impressed with the brevity overall!

Posted by: realitybased1 | October 21, 2010 12:48 PM
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How about "exegesis" and "semiotics"? hehe.

Seriously though, I don't want to whine about your not responding to ME (okay, who am I kidding, clearly that is what I want to do!), but somehow I think that misleading people with social science (http://views.washingtonpost.com/pundits2010/contestants/paul.rosenzweig/2010/10/no_wonder_the_french_are_crazy.html) is a little bit more concerning than your tendency towards verbosity.

Especially given the fact that I just noticed that the NYTimes article you linked to actually makes most, if not all, of the points I raised. You didn't even have to read the actual paper!

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 21, 2010 11:29 AM
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One of the judges commented that he wants the finalists both to find their voices and
make their posts sing.

I think this author feels he has found his voice. Thing is, for some of us anyway, the blogposts don't pop with it.

Length doesn't always equate with complex reasoning and brevity doesn't always mean the point's been dumbed down.

Posted by: MsJS | October 21, 2010 11:11 AM
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Well, since nobody else is responding, let me.

"the problem with discourse today is that we are too enamored of the sound bit and superficial analysis"

Bubeleh. This is your problem. Too many GRE words in your writing. "Discourse", "enamored", "superficial"--all deployed to make a point no more sophisticated than a tenth grader writing about how "Society today doesn't like complexity."

Eschew superfluous verbiage. Use good Anglo-Saxon words, as Churchill would say. Then your argument will be crystal clear.

Posted by: JackRyan82 | October 21, 2010 10:52 AM
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