Back in college, I took a couple creative writing classes. I learned a HELL of a lot from the experience, and became a much better writer because of it. The teacher’s technique was incredibly simple: each class we would bring copies of something we had written, pass the copies around to the class, read the piece, and then SIT THERE AND SHUT UP AND LISTEN while the rest of the class kicked around the piece. The idea was that once something is written and published, it had to stand on it’s own — the author could NOT go around and defend and explain it to readers. It taught me just how pieces could be misconstrued or points missed, and how those errors are entirely the author’s fault.
(Ironically enough, with WizBang, I’ve found a forum for my writings where I can do exactly that, but I digress…)
There was one young lady in that class who, after a couple sessions, decided she did not like me. Nothing I wrote escaped her wrath, and she disagreed with every single comment I made. She had two friends who sat beside her who assisted, but she was my main antagonist. It reached its epitome when I said that one particular piece had a certain problem. I forget the precise details, but I remember almost verbatim her answer:
“No. No, Jay, you’re wrong. There’s no problem there. If you just change X and Y, there’s no problem.”
I stared at her in disbelief. She had agreed with me, shown how to fix the problem I’d addressed, but still insisted I was wrong. That was her key point.
(I made a point of not giving her pieces any special scrutiny, and refrained from ripping her pieces to shreds, as a matter of principle, but I digress again.)
I hadn’t thought about that incident for years, until last Friday’s presidential debate. John Kerry IS that young woman. Whatever the issue is, all he can focus on is “George Bush was wrong” or “I would’ve done the same, but better.” He has plans to do everything, probably including curing the common cold and ending the heartbreak of psoriasis, but won’t tell us what those plans are. It’s Richard Nixon’s “secret plan to end the war” writ large, and we all know how well THAT turned out.
It would be different if Kerry had a record of some kind of accomplishments. Then he could say “I have a plan, trust me” with some shreds of credibility. But I’ve repeatedly challenged people (including the Kerry campaign worker who called me just before the Cow Hampshire primary) to come up with three major accomplishments from John Kerry’s nearly 20 years in the Senate, and nobody has come up with anything beyond a long laundry list of “awards and honors” people have given him in exchange for showing up and speaking. (Well, that’s not fair. Apparently Kerry was a big force behind uncovering the BCCI scandal, and THAT is the sort of thing I was hoping to hear. Alas and alack, it seems to stand alone.)
I didn’t like that woman at the time, and found myself discounting her opinions once I realized that they all boiled down to the same old tired argument. John Kerry is doing the exact same thing. And for that, he’s not losing my vote (he lost that a long time ago), but any respect I might’ve had for him. And I WANTED to respect him. I don’t like the fact that THIS is the face we’re putting before the world as a worthy challenger to President Bush, and representing the notion of representative democracy to places where we’re trying to BRING democracy.