A Hit In Congress

Posted: July 27, 1987

Secretary of State George Shultz is knocking Congress dead with his testimony on the Iran-Contra matter.

It's little wonder. He, almost alone among witnesses, seems to be telling the truth most of the time. He is the only one not to be struck by mysterious memory lapses whenever the questions get interesting. And bless him, Shultz didn't bring along a posturing attack lawyer.

After the arrogant lying of brass hats like Oliver North and John Poindexter, this is probably refreshing. That's about it, though. In his own quiet, dogged way, Shultz is exposing the essential weakness of the Reagan administration in foreign policy.

He's part of it.

Shultz follows some pretty impressive names as secretary of state, men like Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Madison, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. His testimony hardly makes him "a hero" in that company, as one remarkably dimwitted Republican senator put it. He failed at his job, kept quiet while a band of lunatics with no official sanction pursued rock-brained and possibly illegal foreign policy initiatives, possibly against the best interests of the United States.

Some hero.

What Shultz did was have a meeting with the Leader of the Free World. Ronald Reagan, whom Shultz described as the active, conscious force behind all this lunacy - despite his frequent denials - apparently was not impressed, continuing to dream his B-movie dreams of heroic rescues, no matter what the evidence or the advice.

What did our hero do then?

Did he resign?

Did he blow the whistle on the near-certifiable plots of the bemedaled jackasses in the White House basement?

Did he threaten to hold his breath until he turned blue?

No, no and no.

He did have strong words after the fact:

The arms deal? "It galls me. Our guys . . . they got taken to the cleaners. You look at the structure of this deal - it's pathetic that anybody would agree to anything like that. It's so lopsided. It's crazy."

Not only were the guys with the neat code names lying to one another and everybody else, and misleading the befuddled boob with his finger on the nuclear trigger, they were also being skinned by a bunch of smarter guys with towels around their heads.

Our system of government was being subverted by True Believers with no sense of the law. Our government was making ill-considered moves, tossing millions around by slimy means to dubious ends and keeping it all secret - even from those who needed to know. And in the end, they were so stupid they got taken.

This is all true, no matter how much one might admire the touching little catch in Oliver North's voice as he tells another lie and claims it's noble and heroic to be a liar. Perhaps we should all be thankful that this secret government within the government ultimately failed because of its own inability to see reality. That's small comfort.

We are now paying the price of buying images. Reagan appeared to be confident, if not very bright or forthcoming on details. Shultz appears to be sincere, if not very determined. North looks nice in a uniform, even though he's probably nuts.

The end result is that the image falls away. All we're left with is incompetence and precious little respect for our great traditions.

Better we had elected Merv Griffin president. He couldn't have done much worse.

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