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Fess Up, Karl, Like Atwater Before You--An Open Letter

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Dear Karl Rove,

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

Like humility, grace, dignity. Some say confession is good for the soul, and although I wouldn't be you just 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 to tear it off and 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. Atwatermost famous for the Willie Horton smear campaign against Michael Dukaks, died of 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 think about.

"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 forced to flee, 10 million emotionally damaged. 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, those secret energy deals, the execution of mentally deranged Texas prisoners while serving Gov. Bush.

There'll be time to rehash those.

Catch you later.



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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer, freelancer, and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the (more...)
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