(CNN) - candidates saying they'll bring more openness and responsibility to the federal government.
But ask former Democratic Texas congressman Charlie Wilson about transparency, and he chuckles.
"You can't do everything transparently," Wilson told CNN in a phone interview, and he should know: his determination to fund Afghan rebels against the Soviet invasion was made into the book and movie "Charlie Wilson's War." (The DVD of the film, which starred Tom Hanks as Wilson, comes out Tuesday.) Wilson's effort was covert: He set about increasing funding for CIA operations in Afghanistan, helped convince disparate groups such as the Israelis and Saudis to cooperate, and did it all with almost no coverage in the press.
"This was opaque and it had to be opaque, and had it not been, it wouldn't have succeeded," he continues. "But to be opaque, it had to have bipartisan support. It had to have enthusiastic bipartisan support - but bipartisan support that didn't go to the press, and try to take credit."
He doubts that kind of effort can still be done. The government is too partisan now, he says, and even the slightest leak - dribbled to any number of blogs - ends up flooding the Internet and cable news networks.
The man once known as "Good Time Charlie" for his freewheeling, flirtatious ways has slowed down in many respects. Now 74, he's been married to the former Barbara Alberstadt since 1999 and underwent heart-transplant surgery last September. After a few years as a Washington lobbyist, he's now back in east Texas, enjoying a quiet life away from politics.
"I'm just kind of a private citizen now," he says, allowing that he voted for Barack Obama in the Texas primary and he "look[s] forward to voting for him in November."
He told CNN his recovery is coming along, though his determination to attend the "Charlie Wilson's War" Los Angeles premiere - which he did with his doctor as well as his wife - set him back a bit. Indeed, his physician "wouldn't let me stay for the party afterwards. He was watching me close," Wilson says.
Does that mean there's still some of "Good Time Charlie" left?
"Well," says Wilson, "I have a lot of the instincts but I'm not fulfilling them right now."