To clear the air

August 06, 1991

Congressional leaders had little choice but to order a formal investigation into whether Reagan campaign operatives in 1980 cut a secret deal with the Iranians to hold American diplomatic hostages for purposes of influencing the presidential election.

By its very nature such an investigation will labor under partisan suspicion, but the designation of Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana and Sen. Terry Sanford of North Carolina will go a long way toward guaranteeing the integrity of the investigation. Both are highly respected members of Congress, not known for partisanship. Our own preference would have been to have the probe delegated to a special, bipartisan commission outside Congress. But if Congress must do the job, no better people could be found to carry out the solemn task than Hamilton and Sanford.

The White House continues to cast a cool eye on the investigation -- which is puzzling. One would think that in light of the substantial body of circumstantial evidence of secret meetings between William J. Casey and shadowy Iranian figures, President Bush and former President Reagan would be eager to clear their names.

There is no reason for this investigation to be long or complex. It is simply a matter of calling the known witnesses, placing them under oath (and hence under threat of a perjury prosecution), cross-examining each one thoroughly, then reaching a decision based on the weight of credible evidence.

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