I hope those lacking a little heart, a little goodness, a little brotherhood, will find some inside themselves.
When Lee Atwater was dying in 1991, he undertook a self-accounting and delivered a remarkable public report. “I committed myself to the Golden Rule,” he told Life magazine, “. . . and that meant coming to terms with some less than virtuous acts in my life.” Atwater apologized to old adversaries, including Michael Dukakis, whom he had injured with his harshly negative style of politics. He expressed gratitude to old enemies, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, for the human comfort they extended in his hour of crisis.
Atwater’s most touching regret, however, was about the spirit of the Republican era he had worked to create. “My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a little brotherhood,” he wrote. “The ’80s were about acquiring–acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. . .
“It took a deadly disease to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”
(Excerpt is from William “Dollar Bill”* Greider’s Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy Touchstone books, 1993. Lee Atwater quotes are taken from “Lee Atwater’s Last Campaign from Life magazine, Feb 1991)
Karl Rove was a “disciple” of Atwater pre-illness, during his less-than-virtuous days. Hopefully it won’t take something as final, at fatal, as brain cancer for Rove–and Cheney, and Limbaugh, and Hannity, and O’Reilly, and Malkin, and Bush 43, and Bush 41, and Ollie North, and Rumsfeld, and on and on–to have a “Lee Atwater moment” and recommit their lives to something decent.
*Hunter S. Thompson’s nickname for William Greider was “Dollar Bill”. I’m not sure why. HST probably didn’t know why, either.