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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Lipstick on a Pig and the Sad Legacy of 9/11
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   09/11/2008)

So many pigs, so much lipstick.

Here's what we in the reality-based community are up against.

Two wars, tropical storms, climate crises, nuclear proliferation, a face-off with Russia, missiles in Poland, energy depletion, a nuclear arms race, holes in our constitution, a ruined reputation, broken homes, broken healthcare, broken banks, schools and elections….

All these are on the table, yet here on the most solemn day of the year as I write this—the anniversary of 9/11-we're treated to phony outrage over “lipstick on a pig.”

Barack Obama is angered by McCain and Palin's phony outrage. We all should be.

It takes serious mud-wallowing to twist Obama's use of an old cliche into an assault on Palin.

Talking heads on the right cite loud laughter attending Obama's remark—a saying he used long before Palin came on the scene-but what kind of evidence is that? “Lipstick on a pig” ALWAYS draws a laugh. It's a funny image. That's why politicians use it. Click on to watch McCain use the expression in reference to Hillary Clinton's warmed over healthcare plan, yet no one accuses him of calling her a pig. Politicians trot out such cartoon imagery for the purpose of getting a laugh or to sell a book, including one called “Lipstick On A Pig,” by Torie Clarke, McCain's former press secretary. It's a primer on political spin. You can't make this stuff up.

To learn whether Obama was calling Palin a pig or not, look at Obama's actual remarks, widely available at Youtube:

“John McCain says he's about change too. Except-and so I guess his whole angle is, `Watch out, George Bush, except for economic policy, health-care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics, we're really gonna shake things up in Washington.' That's not change. That's just calling some-the same thing something different. But you know, you can-you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink….”

For McCain to spin this into a disgusting comment on Palin is itself disgusting. When did we start letting the political right get away with it?

Long before 9/11, certainly. When Wolf Blitzer took his lead from right-wing bloggers and accused Al Gore of claiming he invented the Internet, Gore should've bristled with indignation, then run down the list of other seeds Blitzer and others planted in order to grow a narrative of Gore as a self-promoting liar. This is NOT journalism. This is slander and mockery and outright lying. It reduces serious issues affecting billions of lives to a sideshow at a county fair.

Lipstick on a pig says it succinctly.

It goes back farther than that, of course. Ken Starr's investigation into Bill Clinton's sex life was another freak show served up by the right. Here was a successful presidency, by most standards, dragged into the slime of a tawdry impeachment because Clinton tried to keep his private life private. Yes he lied in a tawdry civil case drummed up by political enemies. Scores if not thousands lie about sex every year in one courtroom or another, and they're almost never prosecuted because it's an all too understandable lie. Call it “defending the Constitution” if you like, but Clinton's impeachment was nothing more than cruel mockery.

Lipstick on a pig, yes.

It sure didn't add up to “high crimes and misdemeanors” of the sort George W. Bush keeps committing.

Which brings us to 9/11.

Each year we trot out that anniversary dressed in red, white and blue. We hold candlelight vigils, processions, wallow in excruciating video, and each year such shows become less meaningful to those in the reality-based community. We know all too well how much evil our so-called leaders perpetrated in the name of 9/11.

Dress the sad legacy of 9/11 up in honor, vengeance, “war on terror,” if you want to, but the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, millions of wounded civilians, amputees, mental breakdowns, theft of artistic and archaeological treasures, the depletion of our treasury and a long list of other atrocities. It's arrogance, exploitation, violence and graft posing as missionary work.

Lipstick on a pig.

Moreover, Republicans like Bush, mostly with McCain's support, used 9/11 as pretext to dress up many another slimy policy in the garb of righteousness. Look at the tax breaks—amounting to tens of billions of dollars for oil companies already rolling in record profits—posing as an energy policy.

Lipstick on a pig.

Look at torture, kidnapping and murder to obtain information or intimidate enemies. Call it “refined interrogation techniques” or other euphemisms, it's still…

Lipstick on a pig.

Look at the way Bush dressed up the climate crisis as just another cyclical phenomenon of nature, suppressing findings of his own government's studies.

Lipstick on a pig.

Look at rampant cronyism, most succinctly summed up by, “Brownie, you're doin' a heckuva job.”

Lipstick on a pig.

Look at censorship and namecalling in the name of patriotism.

Lipstick on a pig.

Some say Obama should move on, and maybe he has, by the time you read this, but I hope it's not before he draws a line in the mud and dares McCain to step over. Otherwise millions of Americans may wake up come 2009 with yet another monster hangover, wondering how they could've been stupid enough to vote for yet another advocate of war, fossil fuels and new nukes.

It's time someone took the lipstick off McCain's campaign, because such freak shows as this pervert democracy. Not to say McCain's a pig—I would never sink so low-but when he wallows in mud and swill served up by the likes of Karl Rove, well-meaning folks understandably get confused.