Bill Murchison

How political, would be more like it. How characteristic of the moral depths to which politics has plunged in the last few years. Our exalted representatives get more joy, it seems, from punching the president in the eye than they would from working out with him, patiently, patriotically, some approach to ending the war that honors American and Iraqi sacrifices alike, and that soothes in some measure the nation's frazzled nerves.

You have to wonder: Do Democratic leaders ever reflect that chickens come home eventually to roost, that careless words and actions give birth to dangerous, sometimes fatal, consequences?

Possibly they do so reflect. You just can't always tell by watching.

The problem, a deliciously human one, lies at the heart of our constitutional arrangements. It is that few people, including politicians, can handle enormous power. The second that power comes to them, they start throwing their weight around. They've got it, and you haven't. "Which is to be master?" -- Humpty Dumpty's famous question in "Through the Looking Glass" -- is the constant study of too many public men and women. Who's in charge? Who runs the place? You? Me? Who? The founding fathers, keenly understanding the problem, tried to restrict and offset the exercise of political power, but would-be masters don't give up easily.

It's nice enough, perhaps, to hear from presidential candidates earnest talk of medicating our political dysfunction. With the acrid smoke of the Iraq debate still filling nostrils, one has still to wonder: How many of them mean a word they're saying?

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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