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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UFOs? That's a good question, Tim, but I have even better ones
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   11/24/2007)

John McCain got a standing ovation during a debate recently when he said of the peace, love and music festival known as Woodstock, "I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time."

That shot across the cultural divide came as McCain was dissing Hillary Clinton's failed old attempt to fund a museum at Woodstock, New York.

The moment comes to mind when I consider the most condescending question asked in any presidential debate this year. Maybe it's because McCain's attack on Woodstock, like Tim Russert's question (I'll get to that, I swear) seems so beside the point. Maybe it's because McCain was flying high above the rice paddies of North Vietnam in what must've seemed an alien machine to the peasants below, shortly before he was shot down and taken prisoner in North Vietnam. Anyhow, the question Russert asked Dennis Kucinich during a recent Democratic debate was this:

"Shirley MacLaine writes in her new book that you sighted a UFO over her home in Washington state, that you found the encounter extremely moving, that it was a triangular craft, silent and hovering.... Now, did you see a UFO?"

An entertaining exchange ensued, but the short answer was "yes."

Never mind that it's a misleading question. (Can YOU identify everything you ever saw in the sky? If not, then you too have seen an unidentified flying object or UFO, my friend. Gee, was that a chicken-hawk shooting past my window just now?)

Never mind that 46 percent of Americans say UFOs are real, more than "believe in" the war in Iraq.

Never mind that what Dennis Kucinich saw was most likely Dick Cheney's post-apocalypse kandy-kolored tangerine-flake streamline flying getaway gizmo. (OK, I stole some of that from Tom Wolfe.)

Never mind that the question has nothing on earth to do with the mess we're facing as a species (global warming, nukes, Neocon schemes)....

It suited Russert's needs. What needs? Why, to humiliate and embarrass Kucinich, of course. Sort of like the lie repeated in our so-called "liberal media" during the 2000 campaign, that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet.

You have to wonder about Russert's motives, especially as he posed his UFO question on the eve of Kucinich's call for a vote on the House floor as to whether Russert's former neighbor, Cheney, should be impeached for lying us into war against Iraq and beating the drums for bombing Iran.

Yes, it's a funny question, but irrelevant. Here's what's relevant.

Kucinich has been right about more than all of the other candidates combined---with the possible exception of Mike Gravel, two-time Senator from Alaska---who also finds himself belittled and shunted aside by the likes of Russert. Look at all Kucinich has been right about.

No WMDs in Iraq. No ties between Hussein and al-Qaida. Torture has proven to be not only immoral, it manifestly doesn't work. (Just Google Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi.). Shock & Awe was a criminal and immoral act. Invading and occupying Iraq was a terrible idea. Global warming is real. A government agency to promote peace and conflict resolution, something Kucinich has long advocated, might've prevented several wars past, present and future. The fact that Kucinich has little or no chance of winning the presidency should not detract from his wisdom regarding the biggest issues of our times.

Yet there's Russert accusing Kucinich of consorting with little green men.

Had Russert---a journalist who allowed Cheney to hype untrue stories on his network TV show---been even-handed over the years, I'd write his performance off as one in a long line of gutsy and entertaining lines of questioning.

For instance, had Russert bothered to ask George W. Bush, just once: "As a self-proclaimed born again Christian, you've been embraced by the Christian Right. Do you believe God is using you to bring about the Rapture and other End Time events?"

A question like that, posed, say, in 2000, might've changed the sorry history of the past six years.

Or had he asked, in 2004, "Mr. Bush, just what did you mean when you said, 'We got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their, their love, with women all across the country.'"

Or, during the 2000 Gore vs Bush election debacle, had Russert asked anyone who would listen, "What about the over-votes? The ballots that include both a check mark and a written-in name? Is it true that these votes---should the Supreme Court allow them to be counted---would go three to one in Gore's favor?"

It's not too late for Russert to redeem himself. Here's what I hope he'll ask McCain if he gets a chance. "You received a standing ovation for slamming Woodstock, yet a recent online article asserts that the Woodstock sensibility saved your life by pressuring the government to end the bombing and withdraw from Vietnam (see my blog post at of Nov. 9). Which do you find more absurd? That thousands of young people who'd never even met all got high together and fell in love with humankind? Or that you flew high up in a triangular-shaped flying object spawned from the belly of the military-industrial complex and turned possibly thousands of people you'd never even met into toast?"

There are questions, and then there are questions.