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North's Trial in Iran-Contra Fiasco

April 15, 1989

President Reagan's refusal to testify at North's trial is noteworthy for his lack of forthrightness. He claims he does not want to set a precedent for other Presidents (Part I, April 1). Where have we heard that before? President Nixon unsuccessfully hid behind his claim of "executive privilege" in refusing to release the damaging Watergate tapes.

For his part, Reagan urged full disclosure of his Administration's activities in the Iran-Contra debacle. Ostensibly, this is why he called for the congressional hearings and supported the Tower Commission investigation into his conduct. But his actions belie his pledge to the American public "to clear the air." His reluctance to testify is especially ironic considering he defiantly proclaimed North to be "a national hero," when the first details of the illegal transfer of funds to the Contras leaked out.

Reagan's refusal to testify also calls into question his judgment while in office. His loyalty to friends and staff is legendary, witnessed by his refusal to dismiss former Atty. Gen. Ed Meese when the morale plummeted in the Justice Department.

Why then does he refuse to take the stand in support of his trusted aide North? His testimony at North's trial can only enhance the administration of justice and truth finding. It would also encourage respect for our judicial process and serve as a shining example that no one is above the law. Given this opportunity to exercise his professed loyalty to North in a positive fashion, Reagan's refusal raises even more questions about this affair.

DENNIS LEADER

San Francisco

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