Bill Murchison

Into this pattern of denial and refusal to engage, Smilin' Joe Biden slips with grand self-confidence. What's all this malarkey, huh? Transcripts of the debate read, again and again, "Crosstalk." How enlightening. How educational. "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ears?" is what Smilin' Joe might as well have said at the start, paraphrasing Groucho Marx.

So here we are anyway. The worst-form-of-government-except-all-the-others-that-have-been-tried -- democracy, that is to say -- makes room not only for the Jeffersons and Adamses but for the Smilin' Joes, always ready with sharp elbows and epithets like "malarkey" to steer the argument in a direction more favorable to their cause. Or, if all else fails, then just to drown out the objectors.

In a splendid new book, "After Tocqueville: The Promise and Failure of Democracy," Chilton Williamson Jr. submits that, in order to prosper, democracy posits a certain kind of responsible character, a certain kind of humane outlook, on its citizens' part. And on its leaders' part as well? It's the same thing, actually. You get what you vote for. You can have John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, or if you really desire it, you can have Smilin' Joe Biden, ridiculing, interrupting, shouting down, condescending, reminding us of the height and urgency of the stakes, come November.

William Murchison, author and commentator, writes from Dallas. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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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