WASHINGTON — Robert C. McFarlane said today he did not have the "guts" to tell President Reagan his contra policy was an ineffective way to fight Soviet influence in Central America because he feared he would be called "some kind of a commie."
In response to questioning from Rep. Michael DeWine (R-Ohio) in his fourth and final day of testimony in the Iran-contra hearings, the former national security adviser expanded on his contention that U.S. Central America policy was important to battle the growing Soviet influence on the continent.
He acknowledged he made mistakes in at least "a dozen places" in his position as Reagan's national security adviser but said his greatest error may have been not taking a strong enough stand within the Administration.
Chose Wrong Instrument
"I felt that this was a very important issue, that is, showing the Russians that we can deal with this phenomenon, but we didn't choose the right instrument to do it," McFarlane said.
"Succinctly put, where I went wrong was not having the guts to stand up and tell the President that. To tell you the truth, probably the reason I didn't is because if I'd done that, (CIA Director) Bill Casey, (U.N. Ambassador) Jeane Kirkpatrick and (Defense Secretary) Cap Weinberger would have said I was some kind of a commie, you know."
McFarlane ended four days of trying, sometimes-emotional testimony to Congress today offering "no rebuttal" to charges the Reagan Administration misled Congress over the Iran-contra connection.
Saudi Role Denied
He also said he did not remember soliciting Saudi Arabian officials for help to the Nicaraguan contra rebels at a time when a congressional ban on U.S. military aid to the rebels was in effect.
Nonetheless, a source close to the Saudis said McFarlane did make such appeals.
The source, commenting only on condition he remain anonymous, said McFarlane met with the king at the Saudi ambassador's house outside Washington and asked for money for the contras at a time when the ban on U.S. aid to the contras was in effect.
McFarlane told Fahd, "We will fall on our swords before we let this become public," the source said.
"I remember no such meeting, sir," McFarlane responded under questioning today.
Poor Record With Congress
Just before the conclusion of McFarlane's nationally televised appearance, Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), chairman of the House committee, sternly admonished him about the Administration's record in dealing with Congress.
He cited McFarlane's own testimony this week about having given Congress "some tortured language," "too categorical" answers and "incomplete statements" in previous years about Administration activities toward Nicaragua.
McFarlane responded quietly, "There is no rebuttal."
Repeatedly during his testimony, McFarlane said he was generally responsible for what had happened.
Hamilton said that was not good enough.
Can't Absolve President
"You cannot, it seems to me, accept responsibility for mistakes, as admirable as that may be, and thereby absolve the President of responsibility," he said.
In other developments:
--White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the Administration feels that nothing in the congressional ban, known as the Boland Amendment, prohibited the solicitation of aid for the contras from third countries, whether for military or humanitarian assistance.
--Some new details emerged of possible CIA involvement in a plan to use Drug Enforcement Administration officials to ransom American hostages held in Lebanon.