My other great friend of longstanding, is Bill Bass, a former attorney, legislator and appeals court judge. If this sounds a bit stuffy, then know that he is a one-time victim of the notorious White Rock Lake "Love Bandit," was known to his college pals as the "Crockett Rocket," sometime known to others as "One-Beer Bass," was fished out of the Colorado River by Ann Richards, survived an assassination hit on him by the "Canton, Texas Mafia" and found himself holed-up in an underground bunker during the siege and bombing of Vukovar during the Serbo-Croatian war--and that's just for starters.
Bill, in turn, is one of the oldest friends of Charlie Wilson, who is, of course, the subject of highly acclaimed Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile, as well the just released Tom Hanks film. My only connection is that Bill surprised me with an autographed copy of the book when it was first released.
Anyway, the headlines in today's Dallas Morning News showcases the movie, and more importantly, Charlie Wilson. Bill was invited by the News to an advanced screening, and is quoted extensively in the piece, here.
Bill Bass, a state appeals court judge from Tyler, is sitting in a dark theater, having just watched Charlie Wilson's War. As the credits roll, he wants to speak but can't. He's crying.
The real Charlie Wilson is one of Judge Bass' dearest friends. To see him portrayed by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks has reduced him to tears.
"I was very moved by it," he says. "I remember Charlie's efforts, and his efforts did change the world. Charlie is one of a handful of people who made a difference in the history of the 20th century. ... I'm so proud to have known him."
From 20 years of friendship with Bill, I have heard a lot of Charlie Wilson stories, and feel I know him a bit, as well--even though we've never met. A political career such as Wilson's--honest, passionate, devoid of cant--is a rarity, particularly in today's climate. I look forward to seeing the movie depiction.
For Judge Bass, the movie's legacy will be its "accurate depiction of a very good man, warts and all."
He loves the scenes that show the interior of Mr. Wilson's Arlington, Va., apartment, "where Charlie loved looking down on the Marine Corps monument. He was a true patriot. He loved women and whiskey, but he was like his idol, Winston Churchill.
"As Charlie always said, Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize for literature. He was in the last cavalry charge in modern history. He was a great writer who, in his spare time, managed to save Western civilization," Judge Bass says.
"But then Charlie would look you in the eye and say, 'And he still drank, didn't he?' And, of course, he did. What both men have in common is greatness and the fact that each made a lasting imprint on history."
Of course, for those who are too young to remember, Charlie Wilson was instrumental---crucial, really--in supplying arms to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, fighting the Russian Communist occupation during the 1980s. It seemed like a noble endevour (they all do at the time), and its success played no small part in the fall of Communism itself. The rest, as they say, is history. But events of the 21st century certainly show how the chickens of our foreign adventurism have come home to roost. But Wilson does not see a straight line connection between the fall of the Russians in Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban there.
"No one had heard of the Taliban," he says. "They didn't exist until 11 years after the Russians were defeated. What happened was, by not pursuing the end game as we should have, we let chaos develop in Afghanistan. I tried hard to pull the other way, but my colleagues were tired of listening to me."