December 22, 2007
For my entire childhood in Texas Charlie Wilson was my congressman. I have yet to see the movie in which he is portrayed by Tom Hanks but I can heartily recommend the book on which the movie is based. It's the story of how one congressman from a district of no special importance managed to get the United States involved in a covert war that played a major part in bringing down the USSR and how that involvement ultimately gave rise to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden's brand of fundamentalism. My guess is that at each step from which the story is removed from the man, the story is diminished, although perhaps these versions are more believable than the truth which is outrageous enough to seem fictional.
Wilson lived down the road from my first childhood home, and although he was rarely around, he was hard to miss when he was in town. He often held court on Saturday mornings at local breakfast spots like the Hot Biscuit and the Holiday Inn and if you were anywhere in earshot of his table you would inevitably catch loud profane tales of Washington skullduggery... And then there were always whispers about his various girlfriends around town. If you're curious about the man, he's profiled in today's Washington Post in an article titled "Charlie Wilson Sticks to His Guns". A football coach in Lufkin once said of Wilson, "You either love the fella or you hate him, he'll be re-elected unless he kills someone so you might as well love him. Hell, he might have already killed someone, with Charlie you never know."
Sidenote: The Post article mentions his campaign ads, which I remember fondly for their pure outlandishness. This is a somewhat tame selection. I hope someone digs up some of his earlier ads.