John McCaslin

Furthermore, he pretends that John Wayne or Clint Eastwood is sitting beside him at his chairman's desk, insisting the "paperwork be just like their speech: clear and simple."

"Remember Clint Eastwood's classic role in 'Dirty Harry' [when] inspector Harry Callahan didn't waste words? One of the most famous scenes from the movie has the wounded bad guy trying to decide ... if Callahan might have one shot left. Harry Callahan just squints at him, steely-eyed, and says:

" 'I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clear off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?'

"Not much question that Dirty Harry got his point across," Mr. Cox said, adding that if those same lines were to appear in the typical government statement, they'd read like this:

" 'I imagine that you are harboring significant uncertainty concerning the precise number of times that the hammer of this particular multishot firearm was cocked, its cylinder was advanced, the hammer was then released at the rear of its travel, the round in the chamber was fired, and the cylinder was then advanced once again — and specifically whether the exact figure is six, or possibly only five," he said.

"Indeed, given the ambient commotion, my preoccupation with the need to make multiple, simultaneous and consequential decisions with alacrity, the surrounding high-decibel acoustic percussion, and the substantial ramifications of the firearm having already been discharged multiple times, I myself am experiencing difficulty in quantifying the discharges with exactitude ... ."

Mr. Cox continued on and on, until his "Dirty Harry" script rewrite finally concluded: "is it your considered judgment that you are more likely than not to be relatively fortunate?"

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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