Congressman has key role, veteran insight

Aug 14, 2003
A <u>Times and Democrat</u> newspaper editorial
The late Congressman Floyd Spence would be proud of his successor, Joe Wilson. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which Spence chaired the better part of the 1990s, Wilson is staying abreast of U.S. military needs. In less than two years in Congress, he's traveled extensively. He's been to the front in the war on terrorism. He's been to Kuwait before the war in Iraq. He's even been to North Korea as part of a delegation. Wilson, with longtime personal military connections of his own, is proud of the role of the military. He is aware of its importance not only to his district but to the nation in this time of great concern about security. During a visit to Orangeburg this week, Wilson detailed his travels. His insight into weaponry and policy illustrates why he is the choice for such high-profile missions even as a relative newcomer to Congress. Wilson is a quick study and a man with whom Spence's association over many years helped produce insight into the military and foreign affairs. His assessment of the North Korean situation includes praise for the Bush administration position on no negotiations between the hard-line communist state and the United States that don't include other regional powers. He also says China and the United States have more in common than reports indicate, notably a desire by both that North Korea not have nuclear weapons. It was in the North Korean capital that Wilson says he cautioned leaders that Sept. 11, 2001, has caused a new world psychology of great concern over weapons of mass destruction. "I explained it would be mutually beneficial for the North and the United States to reach an agreement to preserve the North's defense needs but do away with nuclear weapons.'' He said the response was civil. Of the home front, however, Wilson indicates "civil'' may not be the word for Washington politics. He says ideological extremes in Washington are something with which he's had to become accustomed. That's believable even for a man who remembers when "Republican" was not a popular political word in South Carolina. He is among those deserving credit for today's GOP dominance in the state. Joe Wilson was a Republican when Republicans weren't cool. He spent nights helping organize. He was there when Floyd Spence won for the first time in 1970, when the nearly even split of Orangeburg County enabled the Lexington Republican to launch a 30-year congressional career. Political divisions then were not so divisive -- or at least on the surface. And Wilson spent years working with Democrats in the Legislature, calling by name this week the late veteran Orangeburg Sen. Marshall B. Williams and then turning around to note an association with Williams' successor, Democrat Brad Hutto. He tells stories of Orangeburg friends, many involved in forming a GOP here and others longtime Democrats with whom he's been associated politically, professionally and personally. Listening to Joe Wilson work a crowd brings back memories of a different kind of political world, one that despite differences seemed more civil -- even sane. His is a Republican approach more akin to the type of relationship that existed between GOP Sen. Strom Thurmond and Democrat Fritz Hollings than to today's attack-at-all-times partisanship. Wilson knows what it is like to be in the political minority and he appears not to be forgetting old lessons now that he's in the majority. --- The Times and Democrat is published by Lee Publications, Inc., a subsidiary of Lee Enterprises, Incorporated. ©Copyright © 2003, The Times and Democrat All rights reserved