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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Fess Up Karl, Learn Redemption from Your Hero, Lee Atwater
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   08/14/2007)

Dear Karl Rove,

You could learn a thing or three from Lee Atwater's deathbed confession.

Some say confession is good for the soul, and although I wouldn't be you right now for all the world, your many crimes don't place you beyond redemption's reach. After all, mitigating circumstances no doubt made your miserable life the disaster for our planet that it's turned out to be. The awful secrets you've carried--about the father who abandoned you, the gay step-dad who stuck by you, your parents' divorce, your mother's suicide, your self-acknowledged atheism--all must've created demons for you to wrestle as you promoted "family values" and otherwise courted the Christian Right in all those elections. You know many of those good Christians thought you were bound for hell even as they applauded you for getting their man (s)elected president.

The self-serving praise you heaped on George W. Bush as you announced you'd be leaving him--praise for putting the country on a military footing, for making history, for winning those suspect elections and so on--will sour the longer you utter such things. Eventually, they'll add up to an albatross around your neck. I'd wager one day you'll try and tear it off, cast it from you. Maybe as you write your memoirs, though likely it'll be later. Perhaps even as you lie dying.

Ask Lee Atwater. Oh yes, that's right, Bush the Elder's version of you--his "architect," his "brain"--the inventor of smash-mouth politics--in which the goal is to utterly destroy the reputation of the opponent--placing him beyond the pale--is no longer with us. Atwater died a miserable death to brain cancer in March 1991. Such a death isn't something I'd wish on anyone, even one who, much like you, committed horrible crimes against individuals and against humanity. Yet, in the end Atwater discovered a measure of grace. As he lay dying, he fessed up to many of his sins and repented for his misspent life. He's no longer with us, yet he left a deathbed confession that mitigates our memory of him. But he also left you, maybe his greatest admirer. Did you admire the dignity he displayed at last, while dying? I wonder. Did you learn nothing from it?

Confession is good for the soul, Karl. Only you know the full range of your sins, but for now I'll mention three you might consider repenting of.

"Run on the war," you urged Republican congressmen and would-be congressmen in 2004, advising them on how to demonize those speaking out for peace. Was it your idea to compare them to bin-Laden? To call them cowards and traitors? Even then you must've known your war was based on lies, torture, sins against the Constitution and more. And yet you helped turn our once-thoughtful intelligentsia into jingoistic sloganeers, afraid to report the simple and God-awful truth. Likely a million people have died in your war, 3 million have been made homeless, 10 million emotionally damaged. And for what?

You've been singled out as one of those who betrayed an acting CIA operative in order to promote the war. Ironically, Valerie Plame was working on maybe the most important issue of our times--controlling WMDs. Somehow you escaped prison in your smear campaign against Joseph Wilson, who was right about that yellowcake uranium. Somehow that's gone mostly unmentioned recently by our so-called "liberal" media.

You arranged for the firing of federal prosecutors for the most biased and political of reasons, then channeled your thousands of emails through the Republican National Committee, despite using your position in the White House to mastermind this campaign. Somehow you escaped jail for that as well.

Karl, I could go on and on. The lies you helped spread about Al Gore, about John McCain's alleged black love child, your tactic of "vote caging" in so many elections. Only you know the roles you've played in denying and covering up, say, global warming, in those secret energy deals, in the execution of mentally deranged Texas prisoners while serving Gov. Bush.

There'll be time to rehash those.

Catch you later.