April 23rd, 2008
09:35 AM ET
12 years ago

Charlie Wilson's peace

 Charlie Wilson, at the Los Angeles movie premiere with wife Barbara, loves the film about him.

Charlie Wilson, at the Los Angeles movie premiere with wife Barbara, loves the film about him.

(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."

Filed under: Political
soundoff (10 Responses)

    Mr. Wilson, Obama disagrees with you. Everything should be transparent and open to the press so that theycan analize it and destry it before it even gets a chance to succeed. Oh, except when Obama doesn't want to talk to the media because he was a little bruised when they asked him the tough questions.

    April 23, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  2. Mike

    That's not a smile. That's a grimace ! !!

    April 23, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. Obama O8

    All American should take the time to look at this movie and only them they may understand why people like Pastor Wright is so angry with America and why he said that American brought 911 on them self.

    April 23, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  4. Getting tired of this

    This guy had more to do with the development of al-Qaeda than any other US Congressman and yet he revels in it. Pathetic.

    April 23, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. Mark

    John McCain is the only candidate with a proven track record of bipartisanship, he's the only one we can trust to know exactly what he is doing and how to do it. There can be no CHANGE without working together and McCain is the only one who can. No Republican will be caught dead working with Democrats under a NObama administration.

    April 23, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. ***AMERICAN***

    Thank you for your service!

    April 23, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Kelley

    And how is Afghanistan now? You may have armed the rebels but you have created total chaos in the country.

    April 23, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. pc

    Just vote Obama!!!

    April 23, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. kt

    thanks, a bunch Charlie – movie was entertaining, but reality is the weapons you got for the Afghans to fight the Russians they are now using against us!!

    April 23, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. GloriafromPA

    Mark – You need not worry, because not only will Obama summarily beat McCains behind in the General, but the dems will rule both the house and the senate. We will finally be able to get the right things done in this country.

    April 23, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |