Fighting the good fight

We needed 535 Charlie Norwoods in Washington.


How will we do without even one?

It came as a terrible blow, though perhaps not much of a surprise, that the popular seven-term congressman from the Augusta area was forgoing further treatment for aggressive liver cancer and coming home by air ambulance, which he did this week.

In an era in which the label "beloved" doesn't often attach to our political leaders anymore, Charlie Norwood Jr. truly is that.

Norwood has always fought the good fight - for his country as an Army dentist in Vietnam, for his congressional constituents since 1995 and, in recent years, for his own health. In 2004, he battled through a lung transplant made necessary by idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He began chemotherapy for the cancer late last year - and has apparently had enough of that.

How uplifting it was to see Rep. Norwood come through that transplant, acting as if his attendant oxygen tank were a minor inconvenience.

But it is the Valdosta native's down-home plainspokenness, and his common sense and courage in a time of guarded political correctness, that has so endeared Charlie Norwood to Georgia's 10th District. He speaks his mind, and he doesn't care who's listening.

He says more worth listening to with a borrowed lung than most of Congress ever has with their original set.

Just as important, he has been a warrior for everything American. He's gone to battle for veterans' health benefits, for a Patients' Bill of Rights, for private property rights, for small business owners, for border security, for sane immigration policies and more.

The former dentist took the spirit of Hippocrates with him to Washington: Congressman Norwood is about helping, but making sure he does no harm. He understands that an even well-meaning government often does more harm than good, and has strived to limit the federal reach into our lives to every extent his one vote and power of persuasion can.

In the process, he's bedeviled leaders on both sides of the aisle - because we elected him, they didn't. He's never forgotten that.

We wish more of his colleagues would remember that too.

And we hope and pray that the homemade 10th District fried chicken he's been pining for in this difficult time will do the wonders that Washington's medical marvels have not.