Thursday, February 11, 2010

R.I.P., Charlie Wilson: 1933-2010

By Manifesto Joe

U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Lufkin, couldn't be elected now in the Texas district he represented for 24 years in the U.S. House, and that's a shame.

One could argue that "Good Time Charlie" wasn't quite a role model. Near the end of his time in the House, the Republicans launched a series of campaign ads with a Robin Leach Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous sound-alike chronicling all the swell junkets and such that Charlie had racked up. He lived the high life of a freewheeling old-style politico, and he wasn't ashamed of it.

And, on foreign affairs, Charlie had a hawkish streak that ended up yielding very mixed fruits, to say the least. As was said in the Los Angeles Times obit, Charlie's legacy of getting money for the mujahedin fighters in Afghanistan "grew more complicated as the Muslim freedom fighters that Wilson tirelessly championed evolved into the Taliban, which would ultimately give haven to Al Qaeda." He didn't necessarily have the best judgment, in hindsight.

But on domestic issues, Charlie was a courageous progressive. He even used the word "liberal" in self-description, and did so unabashedly. I would trade in the sober reactionary Republicans who represent most of this state, any day you name, for a slightly whiskey-buzzed Charlie Wilson, any old time.

He had the reputation of a shameless playboy who invited scandal repeatedly during his political career. His congressional office was staffed by a bevy of women obviously hired at least as much for their looks as for their competence. But even the late Molly Ivins commented that, for all those bimbo trappings, Charlie's office was run about as well as anybody's on the Hill.

The public image of Charlie was not accurate, according to one of his closest friends. Again, from the L.A. Times obit:

Wilson's friend of 45 years, Buddy Temple, said the figure presented in the film (Charlie Wilson's War) failed to replicate the man he knew.

"Charlie was a go-to guy in Congress," Temple said at a news conference in Lufkin shortly after Wilson's death Wednesday. "The whole idea that he was this playboy who never paid attention to business was just as wrong as it could be."

This is not the time, but I'll eventually raise a glass of Mr. Jack Daniels to you, Charlie. We could use a few more like you, and a few less like, say, Tom DeLay.

Here's the full L.A. Times obit here.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

No comments: