The unraveling of the Iran- contra- White House tangle is a process that must be painful to all concerned Americans, no less than to the high officials who were involved. The inevitable comparisons to Watergate create a sense of deja vu , the quality of the instant replay, the feelings that we are retracing a familiar path.
We see the investigators digging away and building their reputations, the journalists almost gleefully reporting the faintest scraps from an Administration that has evaded press confrontations with skill.
We see a President once again unable to regain his credibility with the general public, the Congress and many of his own supporters. And in carefully avoiding the topic of a President's leaving office, we emphasize by omission the outcome of Watergate, that national agony of having the highest elected official of our country leaving the White House in disgrace.
Recognizing these and many other parallels to that troubled spring of 13 years ago, we should also note the differences.
Richard M. Nixon in 1974 had Gerald R. Ford as vice president, following the forced resignation of Spiro Agnew. Ford was not tainted by the Watergate affair. How deeply Ronald Reagan's vice president, George Bush, is involved in Iran-contra-White House has yet to be revealed.
Nixon was charged by the House Judiciary Committee with three articles of impeachment: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and failure to comply with congressional subpoenas. So far President Reagan has expressed complete cooperation with Congress--aside from inability to remember when he approved sale of arms to Iran, the handicap of having his CIA chief undergo brain surgery, the attempted suicide (alleged) of one of his former close aides, the use of the Fifth Amendment by at least two others, and the claim that his notes written "on his own time" are not part of his job. It may be that the most he could be charged with is a run of bad luck, and a faulty memory.
Whatever one thought of Richard Nixon, there was never any suggestion--from either friend or foe--that he didn't at all times know what was going on. He was never accused of lacking the ability to understand the issues confronting the country, his office or himself personally. More and more we hear that the same cannot be said of President Reagan. And there's the pity.
In 1974 it was unthinkable to Americans that a President of the United States of America would resign. But Nixon did. With that precedent it now becomes difficult not to contemplate another resignation.
LACHLAN P. MacDONALD
San Luis Obispo