‘Ideological Cowboys’ and ‘Colossal Blunders’ : Congress: Reagan Must Learn From Iran Blunders
Congressional leaders said today that the Tower Commission report highlights a foreign policy blunder driven by “ideological cowboys” at the White House and called on the President to clean house.
“It’s obvious colossal blunders were made,” said Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas. He said it is clear that personnel changes will have to be made at the White House and that a prime candidate for resignation is Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan.
“If you don’t protect the President, you don’t serve the President well and you ought to move on,” Dole said.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Senate’s Iran panel, said Reagan has been too remote from Iran policy, other foreign policy and domestic policy.
“His decision-making was flawed and out of that came a flawed policy,” he said, adding he believes Reagan can and must learn to change his style.
Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), waving a copy of the thick report in a brief House floor speech, said it had all the makings of a Hollywood movie script with “spies, arms sales, a beautiful secretary and international intrigue.”
President ‘Should Learn Lesson’
He also said it “shows that the laws were ignored (by) ideological cowboys who thought their views were more important (and) took things into their own hands and messed things up.” The President, he said, should learn “the sad lesson that this story has to tell” so it will not be repeated.
Republican lawmakers, although more supportive of Reagan, said his credibility has been damaged.
Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said of the President: “He will never again be the Reagan he was before he blew it. Great Presidents coming off 49-state victories sometimes blow it. They make mistakes. He is not going to regain our trust and our faith easily.”
But he said the President “can regain our trust and our faith. I think the country wants Ronald Reagan to go back to being Ronald Reagan. The country does not want to see him destroyed.”
Democratic Candidates Critical
Two Democratic presidential candidates, Gary Hart and Bruce Babbitt, were critical of what the report pointed out.
Hart, campaigning in New York, said, “Our vital national interests have been compromised by officials who didn’t respect our law and a President sadly detached from the facts.”
Babbitt, a former Arizona governor, said in New Hampshire Reagan “sounds a little like the piano player in the bordello who says he didn’t know what was going on upstairs. To save his presidency, he must act now, he must lead, to clean up this mess and restore direction to foreign policy.”
Several other Democrats turned up the rhetorical heat.
“It’s a report about a President out of touch and a presidency out of control,” said Rep. Dennis E. Eckart (D-Ohio.).
‘Deep, Dangerous Morass’
“This report confirms our worst fears,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “The commander-in-chief allowed his underlings to lead him and the nation into a deep and dangerous morass.”
Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, said the report “presents a picture of a free-lancing, freewheeling White House that undermined our policies and ignored the advice of the cooler heads in the Cabinet.”
Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of the House’s special Iran investigating panel, said the Iran arms scandal “was an abuse of the system. I hope it was an aberration.”
“Even with the commission’s report we still have a very incomplete understanding of the events,” said Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), head of the House committee. “Until we hear from those witnesses and get those bank accounts we’re not going to understand the events.”