The sun still rises in the east and the force of gravity still applies. And when they want to sound tough on Iran, would-be Republican presidential candidates still cite Ronald Reagan as their role model. So following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted a picture of Ronald Reagan's 1981 inauguration 33 years ago and declared, "Now there is a man who knew how to deal with the Iranians."
Unfortunately for Cruz and his ilk, President Ronald Reagan dealt with the Iranians all right, by sending them a cake, a Bible and American weapons.
The Iran-Contra scandal, as you'll recall, almost laid waste to the Reagan presidency. Desperate to free U.S. hostages held by Iranian proxies in Lebanon, President Reagan provided weapons Tehran badly needed in its long war with Saddam Hussein (who, of course, was backed by the United States). In a clumsy and illegal attempt to skirt U.S. law, the proceeds of those sales were then funneled to the contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And as the New York Times recalled, Reagan's fiasco started with an emissary bearing gifts from the Gipper himself:
A retired Central Intelligence Agency official has confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that on the secret mission to Teheran last May, Robert C. McFarlane and his party carried a Bible with a handwritten verse from President Reagan for Iranian leaders.Please read below the fold for more on Iran-Contra.
According to a person who has read the committee's draft report, the retired C.I.A. official, George W. Cave, an Iran expert who was part of the mission, said the group had 10 falsified passports, believed to be Irish, and a key-shaped cake to symbolize the anticipated ''opening'' to Iran.
The rest, as they say, is history. After the revelations regarding his trip to Tehran and the Iran-Contra scheme, a disgraced McFarlane attempted suicide. (That would be the same Bud McFarlane whose endorsement Newt Gingrich touted during a 2012 GOP presidential debate.) After his initial denials, President Reagan was forced to address the nation on March 4, 1987, and acknowledge he indeed swapped arms for hostages:
"A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages."(For more background, read the The Reagan Diaries, starting with the part in which he admits in 1986, "I agreed to sell TOWs to Iran.")
Of course, the sad saga didn't end there. Then Lt. Colonel and now Fox News commentator Oliver North saw his Iran-Contra conviction overturned by an appellate court led by faithful Republican partisan and later Iraq WMD commissioner Laurence Silberman. And in December 1992, outgoing President George H.W. Bush offered Christmas pardons to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other Iran-Contra scandal figures. Among them were John Poindexter and Elliott Abrams, men who eight years later reprised their roles in the administration of George W. Bush. (As it turns out, Abrams—one of the people who brought you the Iraq War—also served as an adviser for Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign. In that capacity, he argued that Congress should give the president the authorization to use force against Iran for a preventive war to destroy Tehran's nuclear program.)
We haven't seen the last of Iran-Contrarian Elliott Abrams. He's doubtlessly dusting off his resume again to serve President Cruz or whichever other Reagan hagiographer the GOP next puts in the White House. Like the earth orbiting the sun.