The dictionary defines the word nonpartisan as "objective, not taking sides," but that's not what most Democratic politicians mean when they use it.

Most Democrats believe, or affect to believe, that their motives are altruistic and that everything they do is in the public interest. They are, by definition, nonpartisan, or so they think or pretend.

Republicans, on the other hand, by Democratic lights, are always partisan, except when they agree with Democrats -- at which times they're clearly nonpartisan.

We're not suggesting that any of this makes sense, only that it's true.

Our self-proclaimed, nonpartisan state attorney general offers a perfect example of this linguistic legerdemain.

Hoping to win re-election to a sixth term in the fall and pressed by his Republican challenger to engage in a series of debates across the state, Darrell McGraw professes to find this campaign staple unbecoming of a public servant.

"In my experience as the chief legal officer of the state, there is always someone who wants to debate some issue of law enforcement," old Quick Draw McGraw avers. "You shouldn't mix law enforcement issues into partisan politics."

An interesting response. Utterly illogical, self-serving and absurd, but interesting.

Debating issues of law enforcement is exactly what two candidates for state attorney general should be doing, especially if they represent different political parties with different political philosophies that are likely to inform their performance in office.

McGraw's appeal to nonpartisanship does not resonate with Republican candidate Patrick Morrisey, who recognizes it for the claptrap it is.

"As the chief law enforcement officer of this state up for reelection, the attorney general must be prepared to be held responsible for his actions," Morrisey insists. "This is not a partisan issue. It's simple accountability."

Morrisey's right, and wrong. It's a matter of accountability and a partisan issue. That's what elections are all about.

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