Interviewers' Names: Paul J. P. Sandul, M. Scott Sosebee, and Laura Blackburn
Interview Date and Location: The interview was conducted on March 15th, 2012, at the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C.
Context Notes: Interview and transcription completed in conjunction with the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
Tapes and Interview Record: The original recordings of the interview and a full transcript are held by the East Texas Research Center, R. W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
Transcription Notes: The policy of the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project has been to eliminate false starts and crutch words from transcriptions when determined not to affect the meaning and flow of the spoken word. Obviously, and admittedly, this is a subjective endeavor and all care was taken to maintain the integrity of the interview.
The interviewers Paul J. P. Sandul, M. Scott Sosebee, and Laura Blackburn are identified as SANDUL, SOSEBEE, and BLACKBURN, respectively. Kathleen Murphy is identified as MURPHY.
SANDUL: This is Paul Sandul, Assistant Professor of History at Stephen F. Austin State University and director of the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project. I am here with my colleague Scott Sosebee and graduate student Laura Blackburn. Today we are at the Russell Senate Building. It is March 14, 2012 and we're here to interview with Kathleen Murphy. Kathleen, I know you go onto work with Charlie in the later '80s with defense . . .
SANDUL: '93 with defense. Before we get to some of your time with Charlie, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and give us an idea of what took you to Charlie.
MURPHY: Well what took me to Charlie was when I met him in 1972 when he was running for congress. I was married to a congressman from New York and we went to a fundraiser for Charlie and that's the first time I met Charlie. After he was elected, he and Jerry, his wife at the time, became very good friend of ours. We traveled with them, which was really fun, I promise you it was really fun. So, I knew him as a friend for many years before I worked for him. I went to work for him in 1993 after I was divorced, technically I was really just separated, but I had come back to Washington to work for the Clinton administration, which was not an easy thing to do I found out. I had been writing and doing TV out in Los Angeles, and I came back because Tipper [Gore; Vice President Al Gore's Wife] asked me too. I went to work over in her office and had lunch with Charlie one day, he brought Jerry along, and we reminisced and had a hoot of a time. Then he and I talked again several times, and he asked me how it was going with Tipper, he thought I must be having a great time. I said, well, if I didn't get a job soon I would be the only volunteer at the White House who was going to go on welfare. It was an off the cuff remark, but he took it very seriously. A few days later he called me and said, "I have an opening in my office to do defense," and he asked me if I knew what a markup was. I said, "Of course not, [Sandul and Murphy laugh] you must be kidding." I was married to a member of congress, I have no idea how this works, but I knew all of the people. He looked at me and said, "Take the job, you're a smart chick, and you'll learn." And that's how I went to work for Charlie.
SANDUL: That's how you went to work for Charlie. Well, tell us a little bit about what you did for Charlie, working defense. And this is post-Afghanistan?
MURPHY: It is post-Afghan, but what isn't post-Afghanistan was the need for assistance. The trouble is, there was nobody to receive that assistance in the country. So, whatever money was earmarked for them, there was no catcher on the other end and that made it very difficult.
SANDUL: Did he speak of much frustration about that? You have that famous line from the movie, for example. You have that famous on fold line at the end about the end game. Did he speak much about that?
MURPHY: Well, he looked for ways to get the job done. That was very typical of Charlie. There really wasn't "we can't do this." It's "how can we do this?" Which is very much kind of the way I think as well. And so, we looked at USAID [United States Agency for International Development] programs, we looked at the State Department. We looked to see how it was we could help with basic education and especially women's health, and there just wasn't any way to do it. No way to get someone on the inside who would be allowed to deliver the services and that was very frustrating.
SANDUL: Now, what were some of the major or any other issues you worked on for him with defense?
MURPHY: With defense, it's the same issues all of the time. I mean, at the time we looked at ongoing programs for Lockheed [Specializes in global aerospace, defense, security, and other advanced technologies.], any company that did significant work or insignificant work in Texas, we tried to help them. We did a lot of programs with Zvi Rafiah with defense in Israel. [Zvi Rafiah was the Minister-Counselor for the Israeli Embassy in the United States, 1973-1979. He was also a liaison between the Embassy and Congress. Rafiah developed a close working relationship with Charlie.] We did, you know Charlie at the time became ranking on foreign ops subcommittee, so that was a huge deal, and constant negotiations over what could and would be done, everywhere. He knew all the players. The great thing about Charlie was that you thought he was being very causal about something, but he never was. He knew it inside out, he knew every living, breathing detail, and he expected me to know it too and in defense that was not possible. He'd been at it for so long and I'd used to tease him and say he had to have a token non-Texas and a token pacifist on his office staff. [Sandul, Sosebee, and Murphy laugh] It only served him right that it was me, but we had a different kind of relationship because we had known each other for so long.
SANDUL: Well, tell us about that. What was it like then saying here's my buddy and now he's my boss?
MURPHY: Honestly he told me many times I was not his mother.
SANDUL: [Sandul and Sosebee laugh] Why would he say that?
MURPHY: Well because I'd known him a long time and I was very blunt. I'd say, "Charlie you need to look at this," or "Charlie we need to attend to that." And he'd say, "Kathy Anne, you are not my mother." And I'd say, "Oh well, maybe it would be better if I was." [Sandul, Sosebee, and Murphy laugh] We had a very good, and very close and very long time relationship. I would tell you a story, which I should probably never tell for the record, but Charlie and my ex-husband and Jerry and I went to a Paris air show, this was in the '70s.
MURPHY: Charlie didn't like to be tied down and they took us, unfortunately, out on one of those boats that was in the [unknown] and its going down river and he looked at me and he said, "Kathy Anne, do you think I could swim to shore if I dived in?" [Sandul, Sosebee and Murphy laugh] and I thought, "Oh my God, this is going to be a national incident." So, I ran up and convinced the captain to please let us off the boat and he did. Then we had a great evening wondering around Pairs. We went to some discos and got in at four in the morning. But, he really, he was always thinking about something. He always loved to help people. Oh my god, he loved to help people.
SOSEBEE: Where do you think that came from?
MURPHY: I don't know. Maybe his growing up in Texas the way that he did. But, he certainly had a really clear sense of right and wrong, and I'm not talking about, you know, womanizing. I'm really talking about right and wrong in the broader sense. [Murphy's cell phone goes off] I'm sorry that's my phone.
SANDUL: Oh, no problem. No problem, no problem.
MURPHY: I just need to turn it off for you. I forgot about that part.
SANDUL: No problem.
MURPHY: Anyway, sorry for that interruption.
SANDUL: No, no, no.
MURPHY: But he did. Even when I came to Washington, I liked to look at the reason that he hired me was that I was his friend and I needed help. He didn't see how it couldn't happen, he only saw how it could happen, and he was right.
SOSEBEE: We have a recurrent theme that comes up in interview after interview after interview, of how Charlie always says, "We're going to look out for the underdog."
MURPHY: Well yeah, I was a pretty, big underdog. [Sandul and Murphy laugh.]
SOSEBEE: [Slightly talks over Murphy] Did you hear him repeated that at any time?
MURPHY: Well, the little guy.
SOSEBEE: The little guy.
MURPHY: The little guy. He was a little guy when he grew up in Lufkin, Texas. But you know, there are a lot of really good stories about Charlie, especially how he got even with the guy who killed his dog. I think that's my favorite story of all. [Sandul and Sosebee laugh and mutter back and forth to each other.] Yeah.
SANDUL: [Laughs] Watching out for the little guy. Now, you're friends with Jerry as well?
SANDUL: What was that relationship like? Did he, of course, strike up a friendship with y'all because of your husband at first and then that's how you got to know each other?
MURPHY: I don't think I ever go that sense that it was ever, it was just we all hit it off. Charlie was certainly not a social climber.
SANDUL: Uh-huh, okay.
MURPHY: He was very content and very secure in who he was and loved who he was. He liked to think of himself as Flashman [A novel written by George Macdonald Frasier in 1969.] You know, the guy that did good, but who couldn't keep out of trouble. [Murphy laughs.] He made me read the books, Flashman. Have you ever read them?
SANDUL: I have not.
SOSEBEE: No, I have too now because you're not the first one to say that. That, that was something he really identified with. [Laughs.]
MURPHY: The person who did good while sort of, you know, getting in trouble. [Sosebee laughs.]
SANDUL: Well, having known him for so long, how much of Good Time Charlie is media versus reality?
MURPHY: Well, don't you think that you're always framed in some way by the media? They frame you, no matter if you were to save the world or invent a cure for cancer. You'd still be Good Time Charlie invents a cure for cancer. They don't let you walk away from how they frame you. That's just a fact.
SOSEBEE: But, he seemed to embrace it.
MURPHY: Yeah of course. Why not? Why not? It was a pretty good frame. Well, I mean, some of it. But, no I mean, Charlie loved to have fun and he was happy. And, I mean, he had moments when he wasn't happy, but he tried to embrace life and he did a really good job of it. In the meantime, he knew exactly when he had to attend to business, and when it was time for business, it was time for business. He was very respectful of my opinion and others in that office. Especially Elaine and, and as he called her, Little Laura.
SANDUL: Little Laura?
MURPHY: Little Laura. We all had two names, really.
SANDUL: Did you? [Sosebee laughs.]
SANDUL: Why did everybody have two? I thought she was . . .
MURPHY: Except for Elaine, because Elaine was way to elegant to have two names.
MURPHY: It was like, what was Sue's? I can't remember everybody's name.
SANDUL: But everybody would have . . . Why the two names?
MURPHY: That's Texas! [Sandul laughs.]
SOSEBEE: He's from California, he doesn't quite understand.
MURPHY: He does not get that.
SOSEBEE: We give nicknames to people.
MURPHY: There are things I learned to say working for Charlie like, "We might could do that."
SOSEBEE: He [referring to Sandul] makes fun of me when I say that.
MURPHY: No no, really. [Sosebee laughs.]
SANDUL: Mighta coulda or I might could do this. [Sandul laughs.]
MURPHY: I might could do that. [Laughs.] I had to learn that, that meant we would.
SOSEBEE: Since you were personal-friends, and this is something that is intriguing to someone who particularly wants to know more about Charlie, is his relationship with Jerry stayed very cordial.
SOSEBEE: Even, everybody said, all the way through the end of his life stayed very cordial.
MURPHY: I think he loved her very much.
SOSEBEE: So, maybe I just [trails off], how did he pull that off?
MURPHY: Because Charlie was in his heart a very good man and was very honest and he just said, "I can't be faithful," and I'm not telling you more than that. But, that was the bottom line and so, it was better to be divorced then to go through and have him be unfaithful to her, you know? That was the bottom line.
SOSEBEE: No one's told us that before; not that part of it, really.
SOSEBEE: Interesting. Very interesting. That says a lot about him as well.
MURPHY: He was very honest.
SOSEBEE: Do you think that was his most distinguishing characteristic?
MURPHY: Oh no, no.
SOSEBEE: His honesty?
MURPHY: Oh his honesty, his bluntness, sure. But, I think the most distinguishing characteristic about Charlie was his loyalty. I mean, he was, unendingly loyal to his friends, without question. If they needed him, he was there. When his really close and dear friend Jim Rooney was sick, Charlie took him down to MD Anderson and got treatment for cancer. He was with him all the way. And you saw this time and time again, loyalty.
SOSEBEE: It's also, to some extent that and this goes with it in the loyalty, his relationship with other people in congress. Now you came on later, but you knew him for a long time, so you could speak of before.
MURPHY: My relationship was with those people too. Don't forget that. [Murphy laughs.]
SOSEBEE: [Talks over Murphy] Now this is something I think we really want to get into. But, who in congress was his strongest allies that he could go to time and again or were there any?
SANDUL: Yeah, because you said he knew the players and how did that . . . did he have a covert he worked with a lot? How was he as a politician?
MURPHY: He was brilliant. But he didn't, you know Charlie, would do favors for people. You know, he interacted back and forth with people and was always very friendly, and he always right there. He was a good old boy. But, when there was something important to discuss he went directly to them and sat down with them. Congress is about cutting deals and that's what they did.
SOSEBEE: How did he . . . having been around congress a lot yourself, you know there are different ways congressmen exercise powers in various ways. To use another Texas politician, [former US Representative, Senator, Vice-President, and President] Lyndon Johnson could give you the Johnson treatment, this intense smile at you while he's twisting your arm. Dan Rostenkowski [Democratic Representative from Illinois, 1959-1993] was famous for trading everything in the world. How did Charlie exercise power?
MURPHY: Dan was a friend of mine too. [Murphy laughs.] My son worked for actually worked for Dan.
[Sosebee talks over Murphy.]
SOSEBEE: Which I'm sure that was no secret, he traded powers to exercise powers.
MURPHY: Well, of course they all did.
SOSEBEE: But Charlie seemed to exercise his power a little differently.
MURPHY: See, I don't really know what you mean by that because I've watched congress since I was twenty years old and came to Washington, D.C. I got married at 21, my whole, you know, first almost 15 years of my adult life was spent being married to a member of congress. So, everyone thought everything I had to say was brilliant. They thought I was the most charming, fabulous person on the face of the earth until my husband got in trouble and lost. And then, of course, they had no use for me. Congress is a different kind of a place, and I don't think Charlie ever diluted himself into thinking that people who were his allies were also his friends. They were his congressional friends. As you learn this and he knew who he could count on and he could count on Jack Murtha [John "Jack" Murtha; Democratic Representative for Pennsylvania, 1974- 2010] for sure. I mean, he could count on Kay Bailey Hutchinson [Republican Senator from Texas, 1993- Present]; he could count on people if he really needed them because he didn't ask when he didn't. He didn't ask for stupid things. He saved those asks for when it was big. He could get the other stuff done by charming a staff person you know, and he did.
SANDUL: Were there any, particular, so called big things? What were some of those big things outside of perhaps Afghanistan?
MURPHY: Well, I think that's obviously the best example. But, I think in any defense bill, when you're . . . the way the defense bill works essentially, and it shouldn't but it does, is that each member on the subcommittee, on the defense subcommittee is given an allocation, are you aware of this?
MURPHY: Okay, so if your allocation, this year is sixty million dollars, you get to allocate that towards anything that you want.
MURPHY: And I would bring projects that people proposed and Charlie would look at me and he'd say, "Please don't bring to me another manicure, let's see, military soldiers to manicure its program. [Sandul, Sosebee, Murphy laugh.] I don't want to hear about it." But, people would ask for really bizarre things and you had to know how to say no. But, if somebody came in, we really supported, what is it when you use, you know long distance medicine, they called it something?
SANDUL: Telemedicine? [Using modern communication technologies to provide health care to those who could not otherwise receive medical care]
MURPHY: Telemedicine. Thank you. It's been awhile. But, telemedicine programs and looking into how that could be used, but also tying it back into the Brooke Army Medical Center and something that had to do with Texas and he was really good at that. But, he also had a really great ability. He was smart. He had a really great ability to understand the real details of something.
SOSEBEE: Famously, at one time the Texas first congressional district was one of only three congressional districts in the entire country that has no defense contractors in the district, no military installation in the district. But, Charlie used that position to trade off? Is that what he did? "We don't need anything for the district so I can trade you some things?"
MURPHY: Well, but it was Texas. You see Texas while, the district didn't perhaps have that role, Texas had that role. Texas is one of the most important states as far as defense, with Lockheed in particular and Bell Textron [Creates helicopters and other aircraft.], and all these other companies that were there. Huge. Hugely important and all of the military bases. So to be on the defense appropriations committee and from Texas, was, there was just nothing better.
SOSEBEE: Of course he had affection for the military as well.
MURPHY: Well he was an Annapolis graduate.
MURPHY: I went on an aircraft carrier with Charlie [Sosebee laughs].
SANDUL: What was that like?
MURPHY: Well that was fun. To stand there and look at these little bunks, and I stood there and I thought and I said, "Charlie I do not know how you fit. How did you squeeze your long self in this little short person?" [Sandul, Sosebee, and Murphy laugh.] And he says, "Well I just sort of, I had to bend over a lot."
SOSEBEE: I see. I've been on submarines and I still don't know how people ever fit in a submarine.
MURPHY: Well . . .
MURPHY: I would be too claustrophobic.
SOSEBEE: I just couldn't imagine. I want to go back and this is a question that we had. Was he a powerful congressman?
SOSEBEE: Would you call him a power congressman?
MURPHY: Absolutely. Absolutely. No doubt, that when Charlie knew something was right and he knew it needed to get done, it was going to get done. In that way, he was powerful. He wasn't Jack Murtha who made people start companies in his district. He [Charlie] saw it in the larger picture always, always. If something was good, you know, for the country and good internationally, and then he paid really close attention to it.
SOSEBEE: Well, since you were on his staff towards the latter part of his career and as his career dwindled down [Murphy talks over Sosebee].
MURPHY: It didn't dwindle.
SOSEBEE: Well why did he retire. Why did Charlie decide to retire?
MURPHY: Because he got tired of it.
SOSEBEE: And why was he tired of it?
MURPHY: Well, because you have to look at what happen in 1994 with Newt Gingrich [Republican Speaker of the House from 1995-1999] and the Contract on [with] American [Document released by the Republican party during the 1994 campaign that detailed what the Republican party would change if they finally gained the majority the Congress], that the whole attitude in congress changed and it became a very hostile place. It wasn't fun anymore and it certainly wasn't collegial, and that really was the beginning of the, of the, you know, the continuing non-collegiality you see in congress today. Only it's rabid partisanship today. In all the years that we were in congress, there was always blue dog democrats, they called them of which Charlie was kind of one, who could look at both sides of any issue. There was no straight line. There certainly was no straight line for Charlie.
SANDUL: So, with the Gingrich run over the Republic revolution at the time, and I love the phrase Contract on American, I'm going to steal that. [Laughs.]
MURPHY: It's true.
SANDUL: I love that. Was he deflated at all with those Peterson campaigns, the Donna Peterson campaign against him? [Donna Peterson brought about allegations against Charlie Wilson, accusing him of over drafting the House of Representatives bank account eighty-one times. Francis X. Clines].
SANDUL: He didn't?
MURPHY: Deflated? Why?
SANDUL: Well, I guess she was such a… [Murphy talks over Sandul]
MURPHY: The poor woman was a joke and lied all the time. Why would you be deflated over someone like that?
SANDUL: Well she was very much an attack dog against him.
MURPHY: And he was used to that.
SANDUL: He was used to that?
SANDUL: So, that didn't faze him at all?
MURPHY: Nope. He was more concerned about Bubba Groce [Congressional Candidate and Texas Lottery winner who was accused of running a theft ring on his property.] who won the lottery. He said he would trade places with him. [Laughs.]
SOSEBEE: So, he was never worried that he was going to lose an election?
MURPHY: Well, I think there's a difference. You know he fought hard every time. He never took it lightly. But, at the same time there's no personal anecdote. The staff hated her [laughs], but he never hated anybody.
SOSEBEE: Well I want to get into something, Laura I know wants to ask, he's a democratic congressmen.
SOSEBEE: In, of course when he started, [Texas] is a completely democratic state, but a very conservative state.
SOSEBEE: By the time the time he ends, it's an increasingly republican state, but he is surviving to some, I mean, he probably could have continued to win elections in that district.
MURPHY: Yes, I believe he could have.
SOSEBEE: So, what was the secret to Charlie's political survival, if you will?
MURPHY: Well, the secret to Charlie's political survival I think is quite clear actually. It was called, customer service. He treated his constituents like gold, and so they voted for him. People who I doubt today with the mentality of voters wanting to control whether woman can have access to family planning, that he could survive in this attitude. But back then, he used to say, "My constituents know who I am. They know who I am, they know what they're getting." And as someone who worked very, very hard for them and he'd go out and play very hard at night.
SOSEBEE: As a person who has been observing congress for a long time, in our current environment, do you see that as the biggest change, constituent service doesn't count anymore?
MURPHY: Oh, I think every office, you know, attends to constituent services. I think what doesn't count anymore is what is good for America. It only counts on what get's the republicans or the democrats reelected. I cite the Democrats too, but they aren't as hideous at it as the Republicans.
SOSEBEE: Charlie hated that?
MURPHY: Well everybody hates that.
SOSEBEE: I'm not going to say everybody hated it, because I think some love it. [Laughs.]
MURPHY: Well, I don't think it's good for the country.
SOSEBEE: Oh, I don't either.
MURPHY: And I don't think he [Charlie] did either.
SANDUL: You referenced [Murphy cuts in] . . .
MURPHY: But when Newt Gingrich took over the first thing he did was throw me out of the garage [Laughs].
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SOSEBEE: What do you mean, he took your parking place away?
MURPHY: He did. He took my parking place.
SANDUL: Really? [Laughs.]
SOSEBEE: Does he have a spine?
MURPHY: No actually, see for forty years the democrats have ruled, so what do we know about not having inside parking? [Laughs.] We had inside parking; we thought it was just a rule.
SOSEBEE: A birthright?
SANDUL: Everybody has this. [Laughs.]
MURPHY: So the Republicans took over and the first thing Democratic staff learned was that it wasn't a birthright and you had to park down the road.
SOSEBEE: So, his is moniker, the Liberal from Lufkin.
SOSEBEE: And he got that when he was in the Texas Senate. Was he? Does that fit?
MURPHY: Oh yeah. If you're looking at Charlie on social issues, how really it is an anomaly, how someone who was pro-choice and pro-women's rights and pro-civil rights, the way he was, ever got elected in a conservative district.
SOSEBEE: Well, how do you think it happened?
MURPHY: Because people liked Charlie, because you had to like Charlie.
SANDUL: Well, did he represent any other base beliefs that would be in tune with his constituents? If I were to cornered you and say, "Tell me what Charlie's political philosophy is," what is the answer, generally?
MURPHY: Well, I mean, I think it's a complex question. Charlie always thought about the little guy and Charlie was always going stand up for you. And if you were going to lose your social security, you were not getting Medicare, or you weren't able to go on Medicaid, he would take care of it. That kind of attention to the little guy made him a liberal with a conservative heart, I guess. I don't know what they would say because I would say a liberal, with a liberal heart. People saw him as someone who related to them on their level. He was one of them. He could talk to them. He knew what they needed, he knew what they were thinking, and he attended to it. He focused on it. So, he didn't come to Washington thinking he was going to run for president.
SANDUL: Did he ever have any other aspirations that you were aware of?
MURPHY: Not that I was aware of.
SOSEBEE: He liked being a congressman.
MURPHY: Well, he liked, yeah, he liked going home to Lufkin, too.
SANDUL: Okay. Not even the senate?
MURPHY: I never talked to him about that so, if he talked to someone else about that, it isn't something I ever, I ever . . .
SANDUL: It's never come up.
SOSEBEE: You never heard.
MURPHY: Not that, not that, no. I think that Charlie believed that, he was really part of the people he represented, and I'm not so sure he was foolish enough to believe that would apply across the entire state of Texas. [Laughs.]
SANDUL: Uh-huh, fair enough. Okay. So, not to belabor the political philosophy point, but he's also very famously pro-gun.
MURPHY: He and I differed on that issue.
SANDUL: [laughs] I've heard a lot. I heard his sister say the same.
SOSEBEE: In his sister's interview, she said that also. [Laughs]
SANDUL: She said it just about as you did. "We disagreed on this issue." [Laughs]
SANDUL: So, he's also very forward about being pro gun, so not the most liberal of positions.
MURPHY: No, I think you need to look at something a little more realistically. If you're a politician and you're from Lufkin, Texas, and you aren't pro-gun, you won't get elected. So, you're pro-gun. I think if you had Charlie sitting here where I am sitting and you said, "Do you think there are irrational gun laws I this country?" he would say, "No.'" And he and I had that conversation many times. He would say, "Kathy Anne, I'm from Lufkin, Texas, and people there love their guns." He was not stupid. He was not going to go running around saying, "We need new laws against hand guns." Although, I believe if you asked him he would tell you that he thought that there was nothing wrong with having people have to be licensed to carry a weapon. But, he voted the way he needed to vote to win in that district, on guns.
SANDUL: Is there other things that you think he took a position for, specifically because of the constituency?
MURPHY: Not that I know of.
SANDUL: Because on the flip side of the coin, is then, his constituency with the women's rights issue and the civil rights issue.
MURPHY: But guns are different. The NRA [National Rifle Association] would slaughter you. I mean, the NRA gets even.
MURPHY: It does and you don't have Southern Baptists or whoever down there that are anti, let's say, abortion going after you for a pro choice stand in the same way the NRA would go after you.
MURPHY: But, I don't think that would change Charlie. I think if you talked to Sharon and asked her, he was thoroughly committed to women's issues.
SANDUL: She says that. She did share a fun story of a conversation she had, something to the affect that her and Charlie made a deal. "I [Charlie] would support women's rights, especially with her on Planned Parenthood, and you leave me alone about the guns."
MURPHY: Yeah, I'm sure they did. See, there was a trade off wasn't there?
SOSEBEE: It's true. It's true.
SANDUL: Very much so. Very much so. Well, again what was it like to work in his office? Not necessarily just with him, but what was your interaction with other people in the office at all, or were you very autonomous?
MURPHY: Well, certainly we're autonomous because in every office you're assigned your issues. You have to sort of break it down that way. But if somebody was overwhelmed with whatever was going on, for instances, when it was mark up time and I had the book and all those things to deal with, if a letter came in that had to do with defense, someone else answered it, I didn't. So I mean, we traded off. But, it was a very friendly office. We went to lunch a lot together. We had a good close relationship.
SOSEBEE: Is that normal in a congressional office, the relationship?
MURPHY: That's the only congressional office I ever worked in, so it . . .
SOSEBEE: But, you were around some?
MURPHY: Oh, I was around a lot of them, but I never worked in one. And in my ex husband's office, I don't recall that kind of collegiality, and yet today they still all get together, so it must have existed.
SOSEBEE: So something was there.
MURPHY: They don't include me, however.
SANDUL: [Laughs.] Well, a lot of this has been made and again you being over a long duration of relationship of friend to co-worker, did you become part of the so-called Charlie's Angels?
MURPHY: Well I was a Charlie's Angel. [Sandul laughs.] I mean you don't work for Charlie and not be a Charlie's Angel. My contention was that Charlie liked attractive women around because we diverted attention and gave him the upper hand. You know, people were very busy looking at a few of the women that worked for him. [Laughs.]
SANDUL: Okay, are you saying he did this very methodically, purposely, saying I can as a political strategy or another strategy to get the upper hand?
MURPHY: Oh, I wouldn't go that far, but I would tell you Charlie was very blunt. He liked looking at good-looking women and so he surrounded himself with them, but they were smart good-looking women. They were smart women.
SANDUL: How was the reaction too, how did that come about, the Charlie's Angels moniker? Obviously, it's named after Kate Jackson and Farah Fawcett, after the TV show. Do you know what was the genesis of that?
MURPHY: No. Because I wasn't around when it started.
MURPHY: I know that when I first came to his office, somebody would call me a Charlie's Angel and I would say, "If you want to live a long and fruitful life you will not do that." [Murphy, Sandul, Sosebee laugh.]
SANDUL: So what was the reaction? On one hand, you can say it's very demeaning; on the other hand, it's very proud. It's a name people were attached too.
MURPHY: It was but it wasn't. It was demeaning if you just thought of us as airheads, but if you really look at the context of Charlie's Angels, we're very tough women. The women who worked in Charlie's office were a very strong crew of women and very capable. But, the thing about all of us that I think was clear was that Charlie never disrespected us in any way. He would have never made a pass at us, he would have never said anything that would have been inappropriate, and I can't say that about all members.
SOSEBEE: I bet not.
MURPHY: But you know he knew what are capabilities were and he trusted us. So, if we were his fighter's then the name fits doesn't it?
MURPHY: And we got things done for him. So, he'd send us out on our job and we did it very affectively.
SANDUL: Now as you mentioned still hanging out, are the Angel's still a solid group that gets together or communicates with each other?
MURPHY: We did. We communicate with each other all the time. We had a little Charlie's Angel lunch last week. You should have been there. [Laughs.]
SANDUL: I would have loved to. [Laughs.]
SOSEBEE: If I didn't have to teach my class I'd have been here in a minute. [Laughs.]
SANDUL: Well why is that? What all keeps you together? Was it just that fact that, "We were all coworkers?"
MURPHY: No. I mean, I have a lot of coworkers I don't talk to. I think because in that office we really became friends. We could trust each other and we could count on each other and we . . .
SANDUL: And did Charlie have a role in that?
MURPHY: Sure he did. Sure he did. He treated us like we were friends.
MURPHY: He did not, he never assigned us that, "I am the ruling government body around here." I think he would have had needed to, but he didn't need to. He treated us all like we had value and not one over the other because we all had our role.
SOSEBEE: And you worked with Peyton Walters [Charlie's third and last Administrative Assistant] quite often?
MURPHY: Oh yes.
SOSEBEE: Did that extend to Peyton, as far as he was like just an extension of Charlie in the office?
MURPHY: No. No, no, no, no. Peyton was his own, sort of quiet guy. Who, if you had problem you went to Peyton and you talked it over with him and you said, "Okay this is what I need from Charlie, and I know that he's busy. What do you think?" And he'd say, "Well if you can handle it, it might be better." And you'd think about it and you'd think, "Okay can I, and how can I?" It saved Charlie a lot of time if he didn't have to get wrapped up in some of the things we dealt with on committees.
SANDUL: What was it like then, not only to work for Charlie, but was it like to work for Peyton?
MURPHY: Peyton was the best man ever.
SANDUL: What do you mean by that?
MURPHY: Just because he's such a kind, thoughtful, and gentle soul. There is never an unkind moment, ever with Peyton. He's a prince and you never run into people like that really.
SOSEBEE: When we were doing this project and putting things together, you'd say to Peyton, "This is what we would like to happen," and he'd say, "Okay we'll make it happen."
MURPHY: Well I think the other thing, too, that I would say about Peyton is that if you did something and you helped him in some way, he never failed to say thank you. A lot of people will let you help them, but they never remember that you helped them and Peyton always says thank you.
SOSEBEE: As we say in Texas, he's good people [Laughs].
MURPHY: Very good people. He is.
SANDUL: Very much so. Do you have a favorite memory, a fondest memory you are willing to share with you and Charlie?
MURPHY: Well my favorite memory of Charlie was really talking him out of diving into the Seine River, I have to be honest, and that has been something that has just stuck with me my entire life. I can tell you that at committee meetings, I would be sitting behind him and he'd be sitting there and pretty soon would write something and he would pass me a note and keep in mind that we're friends, now.
MURPHY: So he'd say, "Girl in green, on left, great gams." Yes of course [laughter].
MURPHY: Then I would say, "Prefer chicken blue, look left" [laughter]. I mean you had to break these meetings up. They were endlessly long. So, that's one of my favorite memories of Charlie.
SOSEBEE: Is there something you always wanted to ask Charlie, that you never did?
MURPHY: No. Anything I wanted to ask Charlie, I asked him.
SOSEBEE: What would you say to him today?
MURPHY: And none of your business! [Everyone Laughs.]
SANDUL: Fair enough [laughs].
MURPHY: Charlie and I were friends. You have to keep that in mind. There was very little I didn't say to him. Which is when he would tell me I wasn't his mother.
SOSEBEE: Since you were, and you did have a relationship, but nobody could put their fingers on this. Charlie was an acknowledged expert. I mean you have to say so, in the Afghanistan situation.
SOSEBEE: With everything he'd been through.
MURPHY: Well, on a lot of things.
SOSEBEE: Even though he was out of congress.
MURPHY: On Pakistan as well.
SOSEBEE: Yeah. And we're going through all of this situation in the same area after 9/11. Did anyone from the Bush administration ever reach out to him?
MURPHY: As far as I know, yes.
SOSEBEE: They did?
SANDUL: Oh, they did?
MURPHY: Well, as far as I understand, he was reached out to and I don't right now, remember who it was.
SOSEBEE: But somebody did? They were asking for his counsel?
MURPHY: Yes, I [pauses], yes.
SOSEBEE: Well they obviously didn't take it.
MURPHY: No. [Sosebee and Sandul laugh.] No they didn't and I know Garner, Jay [Army Lieutenant General, who was heavily involved in Iraq] Garner, spoke with him.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
MURPHY: Yes. When he was going over to Iraq, he spoke with General Garner.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SOSEBEE: Well we'd all like to be privy to that conversation.
MURPHY: You should talk to General Garner.
SOSEBEE: I don't know if he would tell us, he might.
MURPHY: I don't know that.
SOSEBEE: Well, I don't know if he would tell us, but he might.
SANDUL: What was Charlie's take on events going on in Afghanistan? We ask about this, but when you read some of the media attention about Charlie and you forget how much he wanted to get aid to Afghanistan, but you get these crazy attacks that seem to attack Charlie for what blew up after 9/11 or took place after 9/11.
MURPHY: Well, I think that's because some people, without having any historical context to draw on, forget that the Mujahideen at that time were not Al-Qaeda [the Mujahideen fought against the Soviet Army between 1979-1989. They were know as freedom fighters and were independent from the government].
MURPHY: And they now equate them as being the same, when in fact they were not.
MURPHY: Some became Al-Qaeda I'm sure, but that was an easy way to say there was a democrat who gave them stinger missiles, so know let's blame it all on Charlie. I mean, how ignorant do you have to be?
SANDUL: How did he react? Did he ever say anything to you about that? On a very similar level, I would think it would just hurt.
MURPHY: I don't think so. I mean I don't think so. I don't think you can go back and relive those moments. He did a very good thing. He did a varied thing and he knew he did a good thing. To always be able to predict if you gave your sixteen year old a car for his birthday and two years later he drove it into a river, doesn't mean you could have predicted that and you shouldn't have given him a car for his birthday.
SANDUL: As his friends during all those years, did you know what he was doing, what was going on? Did he ever talk to you about it?
MURPHY: Are you talking in the '80s?
SANDUL: In the '80s when it's going on?
SANDUL: Did you have a sense something that was going on?
MURPHY: I didn't live here.
MURPHY: I did not live here.
MURPHY: I left. I was in New York and then LA. So when I talked to him it was just friendly, it wasn't about, you know, are you saving the world this week. Had I known he was saving the world I would have asked him. [Everyone laughs.]
SANDUL: Hey. [Laughs.]
MURPHY: Why don't you fill me in on the saving of the world? [Laughs.]
SANDUL: So he was very good about then not speaking about this?
MURPHY: Well, you have to understand that, if something is top secret its top secret. You just don't discuss it, even if you read it in the New York Times, you don't discuss it. That's got to be the way it is.
SANDUL: Now going from the relationship from Jerry and then before Barbara. What was his relationship like with Joanne Herring?
MURPHY: Again, he thought a lot of her. He really liked her, but I was not around for that part of his, I wasn't around as frequently on that part of this adventure. So I don't really know. When I spoke to him about her, he was very fond of her, very fond of her.
SANDUL: Okay, okay.
SOSEBEE: You never met her?
MURPHY: Oh sure.
SOSEBEE: Oh you did?
MURPHY: Of course.
SOSEBEE: What's your impression? We interviewed her, so.
MURPHY: Well, I don't know her [pauses]. The way I would see her wouldn't reflect probably accurately on Joanna because I didn't know her. I only know this role and her relationship with him in a very peripheral way.
SANDUL: Is there something we haven't asked you?
MURPHY: There are a lot of things you haven't asked me.
SANDUL: What have we not asked that we should have asked?
SANDUL: And answer. [Laughs.]
MURPHY: Yeah. That's an interesting question really. I don't know, but there are things that come to me.
MURPHY: Charlie, Charlie knew the importance of what he did. He knew, and he treated it reverently, even though he behaved irreverently. It really was something that was so important to him and he never took it quietly.
SOSEBEE: Do you think he was ever, I can never think of Charlie, and I never met him just from listening to people talk about him I can never imagine him being afraid. Did he ever have some trepidation that sometimes some of the behavior would over shadow and keep him from accomplishing what he thought was so very important.
MURPHY: I'm certain that he must have had those moments, but Charlie was a survivor. He would pick himself up and just keep moving. I think all of us have seen Charlie in contemplative moments. There are just things that are too personal, that I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about with you, but certainly he assessed himself. Then he'd laugh about it and say, "But you know."
SOSEBEE: Some people that we interviewed suggested that he could get down on himself and actually get, if not morose, really close to it. Did you ever observe that at all?
MURPHY: Again, you've talked to other people about that and I think they told you what you needed to hear.
SOSEBEE: Okay. That's fair.
MURPHY: Yeah, Charlie was in every way just a genuinely good friend. He really was and he was so smart that it was a little scary sometimes and exhausting, exhausting. I didn't want to have to know that much about an apache helicopter, you know? [Everyone laughs] I didn't. And he loved Diana Tindle [phonetic spelling?] who had worked for him and he kept saying, 'she knew everything about that Apache helicopter, why can't you?' And I had a terrible way of saying to these people that would come in to brief me, could you not tell me that it could kill anybody, but just tell me what it's deterrent ratio is and then we'll [laughs].
SOSEBEE: I was going to ask you, how did you deflect or reconcile yourself to doing this job when, given that you said you're a committed pacifist?
MURPHY: Well I'm a military brat, number one.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
MURPHY: I have an enormous and deep respect for our military, but I never want anyone to get killed either. No, truthfully, I sort of, I don't want to say a game. But, in a way I really would say, "Please don't want to know how many people this can kill, would you just tell me it's determent factor and then let's talk about how much funding it needs." [Everyone laughs.] Don't tell me the other stuff. We would go up into the Capital in the big room with the big thick door, and the code to get in and boy, what a place. And then they would say, "Okay, now this is a need to know." And I would say, "Then can I be excused because I don't want to know this. I promise you I don't need to know." [Everyone laughs.] And they would say, "Kathleen sit down, sit down." But, you know I did this too because Charlie thought it was charming. I mean he let me get away with it. [Laughs.]
SOSEBEE: Sure, sure.
MURPHY: He only got mad at me once.
SOSEBEE: What was that over?
MURPHY: Well, I didn't come into this knowing the protocol. I came into knowing the people. So, if I wanted to call over to D.O.D [Department of Defense], I called the Secretary of Defense, [laughs].
MURPHY: Because I knew him. And then, that would present problems because you would get a call back and they would say, "We're the Office of Legislative Affairs, you're suppose to call us." And then I would say, "I don't know her, and I do know him, so why would I call you?" And he finally said to me one day, "Kathy Anne, you have got to do this in an orderly way." And I would think, "I'm just not built that way Charlie." [Everyone laughs.]
SOSEBEE: Well it worked.
MURPHY: I did. We worked. We worked. We did. We were a good team. When he would tell me he wanted something done, I would try to get it done, however. The way that I met Jay Garner was that I was at a hearing with Charlie. We were talking about upgrading HUEYs and the army wanted Black Hawks and when it was over, I looked at Charlie and said, "How many HUEY do you want upgraded?" and he said, "Six." So I went over to Garner and said, "How about we make trade? I'll give you a black hawk if you'll upgrade six HUEYs for me." Garner looked at me and says, "Who are you?" I said, "I work for Charlie Wilson." And he said, "That explains a lot." I had to learn, I had to learn. He was very tolerant, he really was. SANDEL: If you were to describe Charlie in just a word or two, what would it be?
MURPHY: He was a good friend. He was a really true-blue good friend and we miss him.
SOSEBEE: He seemed to inspire a great deal of loyalty in everybody around him as well.
MURPHY: He was loyal to you. You were loyal to him. In addition, you knew you could count on him. Honestly you did, you did.
SOSEBEE: I think sometime we don't realize how rare that is.
MURPHY: I think you're right there. It's been ten years ago that my brother was murdered and one of the first people who called me, after this happened was Charlie. He called. I mean he knew. And I got cancer. One of the first people who called me was Charlie. Then throughout my treatment, he called every week. He would call. "How are you doing? I know this is hard. How are you doing? Is there anything you need?" So, he just had such a good heart. He had a true blue, good heart. He was just a really good person, and a lot of fun.
SOSEBEE: Yeah, that's apparent as well. I wish I would have met him. I liked to have had fun with him.
MURPHY: Well, I'm sorry you didn't meet him.
SOSEBEE: I am, too. We just came along too late.
SANDUL: Well, not to prematurely end this, but we're about at the point where we should logically wrap up. We have another interview coming.
MURPHY: Well go for it.
SANDUL: Thank you so much.
MURPHY: Well, this has been fun.
SOSEBEE: This has been great. It's been insightful.
SANDUL: This has been very insightful.
SOSEBEE: If we think of anything else, is it okay to call you?
[END PART 1 AUDIO]
[BEGIN PART 2 AUDIO]
SANDUL: At least I got this.
BLACKBURN: Okay. Um, I'll turn this back on.
SANDUL: Tape two.
MURPHY: Tape two, right.
BLACKBURN: Well, we kind of asked about his political philosophy. There have been others that we've interviewed that have wanted have put him on either side, either conservative or liberal. I just wondered if that's more of current label people are putting back on him, I mean if he was actually one or the other? You kind of touched on it a little bit.
MURPHY: I think if you described Charlie, he's a Democrat as we used to know them, when the party allowed both teams to play on the same field.
SANDUL: So is he sort of the last true Texas Democrat?
MURPHY: Well I don't know any other Texas Democrats.
BLACKBURN: But he was pretty much, typical of a congressman then, now it is bipartisan.
MURPHY: No, you couldn't say typical because I would tell you that probably the leadership would have looked at him as more what they call a blue dog Democrat, which is more on the conservative side, but if it was a social vote that they could count on him. I don't know why they wouldn't have called Jack Murtha a blue dog Democrat, because if it was anything to do with defense or anything like that and they were one side. But, it used to be allowable and it isn't anymore.
BLACKBURN: Yeah. I don't know. [Laughs.] Those were pretty much my basic questions.
MURPHY: Those were your basic questions?
BLACKBURN: So, sorry. [Laughs.]
MURPHY: That's okay.
SANDUL: Thank you so much.