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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McCain's Heroic Story Isn't the Only Story, Questions Need Asking
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   09/04/2008)

Sen. John McCain's story is so heroic in the telling as to be almost mythic, and he shared that story Thursday night in prime time. As a brash young pilot descended from military officers, McCain found himself shot down by the North Vietnamese after arrogantly over-reaching during a flight. Suffering broken limbs, imprisonment and torture, he resisted his captors' demands that he confess to war crimes. By resisting, he brought the wrath of enemies down on body and soul. They tortured him with a vengeance, finally breaking him, so that he told them what they wanted to hear. Then they threw him, ashamed and broken, into a cell, where he was saved by tap-tap-tappings from a fellow POW.

“Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone,” McCain told delegates attending the GOP Convention as millions more watched on TV. “And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me. I fell in love with my country…”

At one point, McCain dramatically compared his own body to Barack Obama's. “I have that record and the scars to prove it,” he said pointedly. “Senator Obama does not.”

This was not a metaphor, and Americans will find it tough to resist such a comparison in coming weeks. Just watch how quickly mainstream media fall in line. After all, who can resist a hero?

Still, immediately after McCain spoke, many talking heads seemed oblivious to the dramatic story they'd just heard. Several on CNN, MS-NBC and PBS commented on how McCain had criticized his own party during the speech and spoke as if urging voters to “throw the bums out,” oblivious to his own culpability as a long-standing Republican who voted with Bush/Cheney more than 90 percent of the time.

They missed the point. If McCain were running as a critic of Bush, where was his indictment of torture, kidnapping and spying on Americans? Where was his criticism of Bush's infringements on our civil liberties? Where was his contempt for the president's cover-up of global warming and Bush's manifest disdain for every reasonable remedy? Where was McCain's contempt for the mishandling of Katrina?

No, without embracing the Bush name, it's clear McCain is running as McBush Lite-patriotic, pro-life, pro-nuclear, pro-oil and coal, pro-gun, contemptuous of those who advocate peace. Will mainstream media let him get away with it? Probably.

After all, they let Bush run in 2000 and 2004 without really plumbing his beliefs. Even during debates the questioning was hardly flesh deep. As I pointed out in my last blog, recent history would be far different had more reporters asked George W. Bush questions such as, “Do you believe America is fulfilling Biblical prophecy?” That question alone might've cost him many thousands of votes no matter how he answered, and it's a question Americans deserved having answered. It isn't too late to ask Sen. John McCain. I wonder. Are there any takers? It won't be easy to challenge this man who is rapidly becoming a living icon of military heroism. Still, here are a baker's dozen pertinent questions-plus corollaries-that should be asked before it's too late for our nation and the world.

1. Sen. McCain, you have said repeatedly the Surge succeeded in Iraq. Does it follow that the success of the Surge redeems the entire War in Iraq and the way it was initiated? If that war has worked so well, which other countries would you be inclined to bomb, invade and occupy pre-emptively? Iran? North Korea? Russia? What about Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? Do you favor a military draft?

2. Do you believe in End-Time prophecy such as that taught by your running mate Sarah Palin's former pastor? If so, which specific Biblical prophecy do you believe God intends America to fulfill in the Middle East? Do you believe in the Rapture, as many fundamentalists do? And that Jews who do not embrace Jesus are bound to spend eternity in hell?

3. Do you believe in a woman's right to choose? If so, why select a running mate who opposes such rights? Do you believe in abstinence-only sex education? If not, why would you choose a running mate who does? One who drastically reduced funding for teen moms, according to the Washington Post, as well as aid to children with special needs, according to CNN?

4. Given that you've sponsored legislation to combat climate crises, how do you explain selecting a running mate who does not believe in curbing greenhouse gases and whose energy emphasis is on drilling for and burning more fossil fuels? Why have you voted against money for windmills and other alternative fuels?

5. Do you believe other species, such as the polar bear and wolf, have a right to exist? If so, why would you select a running mate who opposes putting polar bears on the endangered species list and who advocates shooting wolves from airplanes?

6. Do you believe in talking to our enemies? If not, do you support ending negotiations with North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and other purported enemies?

7. Should we be worried that you publicly sang “Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran?” to the tune of the Beach Boys' “Barbara Ann,” and once suggested that selling cigarettes to Iranians would be a good way to kill them?

8. Should we be worried by a candidate who's developed a reputation for cussing out opponents as well as reporters who ask reasonable questions and displaying other signs of agression against the powerless?

9. Given that Russia has about 1,000 ICBMS, with enough of them pointed at us to kill most Americans in one massive strike, do you think it's wise to get involved in disputes near her border by sending ships and supplies to Georgia and, say, by installing missiles in Poland? Are you aware the Chinese have announced plans to build enough ICBMs to penetrate such a shield? Have we sparked a new nuclear global arms race?

10. Do you believe a false casus belli is ever justified to start a pre-emptive war? Do you renounce the Gulf of Tonkin Resolutions that justified American military escalation in Vietnam?

11. Do you believe you killed civilians when bombing North Vietnam? If so, do you have any regrets?

12. Do you renounce the Bush administration for building a dishonest case for the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq, including forged documents and planted stories in the media?

13. Please explain to the American people the logic by which you advocate a massive expansion of nuclear facilities while threatening to bomb other countries for doing the same on a much more modest scale? While you're at it, tell us how you will keep this technology from spreading while pouring billions into new reactors and creating a permanent class of nuclear scientists and technicians?

Obama has been clear where he stands on most such issues. If we knew where McCain stood, it might be possible to cast an intelligent vote come election day.