With Joe Biden drawing so much attention for smiling and laughing during last night’s vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan, Week Two of POTUSongs comes to a close with a timely selection – John Prine’s Illegal Smile.
Biden could very well have been the person singing the lyrics since the day began with the Democratic ticket still suffering from President Obama’s dismal performance in the first presidential debate: “When I woke up this morning, things were lookin’ bad, seems like total silence was the only friend I had.”
And since running for office today requires massive amounts of money and the Democrats are likely to be outspent by the GOP, Biden also could have identified with the line: “I checked my bankroll; it was gettin’ thin.”
But just like the man in Prine’s song, the vice president found that the answer to his woes was right in his own face: “You may see me tonight with an illegal smile. It don’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while.”
The jury is still out over whether Biden’s facial expressions will be a plus or a minus for the Obama-Biden ticket, but what about the man in Prine’s song?
He does share several similarities with the vice president of the United States, a man who is a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Those similarities go in the plus column.
On the other hand, there is the sensitive question of just what is responsible for that illegal smile. It sure sounds like drugs, and if that’s the case, it’s one giant addition for the minus column.
Prine, in a recent interview, acknowledged that his song has become “a good anthem for dope smokers,” but he also said drugs were not what he had in mind when he wrote the lyrics. “It was more about how, ever since I was a child, I had this view of the world where I can find myself smiling at stuff nobody else was smiling at,” he told Performing Songwriter Magazine.
Some folks may have a difficult time buying Prine’s explanation, but it’s just as believable as Bill Clinton’s assertion that he never inhaled – and Bill Clinton ended up in the White House.
Final thoughts: The illegal smile strategy can be successful (See Why Joe Biden and the Dems are still smiling today. People enjoy smiling and being happy. As long as some care is taken in explaining the source of that illegal smile, there’s some potential here for a successful candidate.