Did key figures in the 1980 Reagan-Bush presidential campaign cut a secret deal with the Iranians to extend the captivity of American hostages in order to manipulate the election?
We do not know the answer to that deeply troubling question but, as is indicated in an article today on the opposite page, the evidence continues to fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle that such a cynical pact might indeed have been reached. The latest piece comes from the ABC television news program "Nightline," working in conjunction with London's prestigious newspaper, the Financial Times. The two news organizations have turned up a witness who states flatly that he was present when Reagan campaign director William J. Casey agreed to deliver arms and spare parts to Iran if the hostages' release were withheld until after the election. The witness is an international arms dealer whose credibility is open to question. But the ABC-Financial Times investigation also discovered unexplained gaps in Casey's schedule -- a little like the missing sections of tape in the Watergate scandal -- which coincide precisely with the alleged meeting dates.
Congressional Democrats are understandably skittish about plunging recklessly into an investigation. If such a probe were launched and proved to be baseless, the Democrats could be accused of having staged an election-year witch hunt.