Don Williams
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Time to hand Kerry the keys

I heard a funny story recently: A woman said, “We were asked to judge a little singing contest, but it was easy. After listening to the first one, we immediately chose the other one.”

So it is with George W. Bush. He's done so much wrong that someone else—maybe anyone else--should be given a chance.

Another way of putting it comes from comedian Jon Stewart, who said, if someone drives you into a ditch, then boasts how he'll drive you out, give the keys to somebody else quick.

More to the point, Bush is a lousy driver, and we hold the keys.

What I'm writing here is strictly a personal observation. This newspaper's editorial board—in a split decision--endorsed Bush last Sunday. It was disappointing to me, but it's not my call.

So, just let me say that, SPEAKING STRICTLY FOR ME, the Bush administration has failed us along a broad front, not only when it comes to the war on terror and keeping us safe, but also when it comes to the environment, corruption, the economy, world opinion and civil liberties.

Columnist Hal Crowther recently wrote that critics of Bush face an unusual problem. Our evidence is so overwhelming that just to list it sounds like we're making stuff up. The mainstream media seldom reports all the things we can document when challenged. I'll not repeat my laundry list of high crimes and misdemeanors by the Bush Administration, for time and space are limited.

Rather, let me just say that, again, SPEAKING STRICTLY FOR ME, to support Bush would be to support torture and prisoner abuse. It would be to support tearing up a dozen treaties that six presidents sweated blood to produce. It would be to support superstition and ideology over science. It would be to support dying rain forests, hurricanes, droughts and skin cancer. It would be to support higher sea levels, death to songbirds and other species. It would be to support more landmines, biological weapons, nuclear testing and new nuclear bombs that would surely be used on innocent people somewhere, someday. It would be to support federal deficits as far into the future as one can see. It would be to support selling our fiscal well being to the Japanese and Chinese, who are floating our deficits now. It would be to support giving Halliburton a pass for doing business with Iran and Iraq. It would be to support invading other countries on little more than a gut feeling. It would be to support covering up for Saudis who support terrorists. I could go on and on.

Instead, I'll answer a question I'm often challenged to answer: Do I think Kerry would do better? Yes I do. Here's why. Kerry has shown courage over and over in a world where it's in short supply. It takes little courage to stand 10,000 miles away and say, “Bomb here, invade there,” as our president did. Popularity and blind loyalty flow to leaders who say such things.

It takes more courage to ride a boat up a river halfway around the world and get shot at. Much has been made of Kerry's flesh wound to the arm, but had that piece of shrapnel been seven inches over, it might've struck him in the heart. Had it been a centimeter bigger or five miles per hour faster, it might've severed arteries. Even if you assume Kerry displayed no special valor, he showed more courage than Bush, who let someone else do his fighting, while he either did or did not fulfill his military obligation to Texas. No way does service in Texas trump Vietnam.

Kerry has shown other kinds of courage. After going to Vietnam he returned and spoke out against the war. Years later, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, he helped expose our dealings with terrorists and cocaine smugglers in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Yes, Kerry's a liberal. So were those who freed the slaves, gave women the vote, gave workers the 40-hour week, gave blacks equal rights, sent us to the moon, pushed for laws to make our earth cleaner, and much more.

Some point to Kerry's record of public service as faulty, but that's easily twisted. Ask Bob Dole. Then ask yourself what Bush was doing most of the past 35 years. We know he ran a failed business. We know he drank a lot, he's said so himself. We know he had dealings with rich Saudis and served on the board of a baseball team. Yes, he was governor of Texas, but otherwise there's no comparison to Kerry's record of public service.

Finally, Kerry has shown flexibility in a changing world. Most of Bush's top advisers and many senators, congressmen and news people have said their information was wrong about Iraq. This means we were misled. I'd be disappointed had Kerry NOT changed his position in the face of new information. There's a danger in staying the course, something you should remember come Tuesday. Maybe you've supported only one party your whole life long. Speaking strictly for me, you hold the key to changing your own mind this time around. It's never been more important to follow the dictates of your own heart and soul.


Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, as well as a freelance journalist, short story writer and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. His many writing awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, ORACLE OF THE ORCHID LOUNGE, set in his native Tennessee. His book of selected journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People by Don Williams, is now available for ordering. For more information, you may email him at Or visit the NMW website at