Ronald Reagan - The Bonzo Years


NBC reports that John Poindexter told Donald Regan he'd condoned the diversion of funds because he "felt sorry for the contras."

The White House releases the finding - signed by President Reagan on January 17, 1986 - authorizing the sale of arms to Iran and ordering the CIA not to tell Congress. Also released is the 2 1/2 page memo justifying the policy, which the President had not read.

The White House announces that George Bush's press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, will replace Larry Speakes.

George Bush says President Reagan "is certain to this very day that he did not authorize arms-for-hostages." Contra Arms Crew Said To Smuggle Drugs - The New York Times

Four university professors are kidnapped in Beirut, bringing to 14 the number of Americans taken hostage under President Reagan, who once promised "swift and effective retribution" for such incidents. Several hostages have actually been in captivity longer than any under President Carter, who President Reagan frequently criticizes.

The Tower Commission interviews President Reagan about the Iran-contra scandal. Though he is said by a source to lack a "highly detailed recollection," he acknowledges having authorized the arms sale to Iran in August 1985. This corroborates Robert McFarlane's testimony and directly contradicts Donald Regan's.

"On the surface, selling arms to a country that sponsors terrorism, of course, clearly, you'd have to argue it's wrong, but it's the exception sometimes that proves the rule." - George Bush on Good Morning America.

President Reagan tells the Tower Commission that after discussing it with Don Regan, he now remembers that he did not authorize the arms sale in advance. Commission members are disheartened when, while reciting his recollection from a staff-supplied memo, he mistakenly reads his stage instructions aloud.

Retrieved computer messages show that Oliver North shared secret information with the Iranians. Says a source, "Ollie was running his own covert operation within the authorized covert operation."

"The simple truth is, 'I don't remember - period'" - President Reagan writing to the Tower Commission to set the record straight about whether he authorized the arms shipment in advance.

Oliver North's secretary, Fawn Hall - who has been granted immunity - admits helping her boss destroy documents last November.

Pledging to "carefully study" it over the next several days, the President accepts his copy of the Tower Commission Report, which:
· Blames Regan for "the chaos that descended upon the White House"
· Says Shultz and Weinberger "simply distanced themselves from the program"
· Concludes that Casey "appears to have been informed in considerable detail"
· Euphemistically attacks Reagan's ignorance and sloth by faulting his "personal management style."
The paperback edition is an instant best seller.

Donald Regan storms out of the White House after hearing on CNN that Howard Baker is replacing him. It is the culmination of the escalating feud between Nancy Reagan and himself.

"The record is that he was either absent or silent. I don't know what that does for him." - Senator Bob Dole attacking presidential rival George Bush's ineffectiveness in the Iran-contra scandal.

President Reagan responds to the Tower Commission with a 12-minute speech in which he:
· Acknowledges that the Iran-contra affair "happened on my watch"
· Says nobler aims of long-term peace "deteriorated...into trading arms for hostages"
· Calls the deal "a mistake"
As for his "management style", the problem was that "no one kept proper records of meetings or decisions," which led to his inability to recall approving the arms shipment. "I did approve it," says the President. "I just can't say specifically when." He adds, "Rest assured, there's plenty of record-keeping going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
Says Indiana senator Dan Quayle after the speech, "The Gipper's back."

Michael Deaver is indicted on five counts of perjury. He is the seventh senior administration official to be indicted, and the first under the provisions of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act.

A White House official admits that President Reagan has never discussed AIDS with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and has yet to read Koop's six-month--old report, which predicted 180,000 deaths from the disease by 1991.

Meese Acknowledges Interceding For Wedtech - The Washington Post

Ed Meese, whose ties to the principals in the growing Wedtech scandal have become public, removes himself from the investigation.

President Reagan tells reporters the Soviet bugging of the US embassy in Moscow was "outrageous". When asked about the US bugging of the Soviet embassy in Washington, the President says further discussion "wouldn't be useful."

Benjamin Linder, an American volunteer working in Nicaragua, is shot to death by the contras.

The Iran-contra hearings get underway in Washington. The first witness, arms profiteer Gen. Richard Secord, claims the administration approved his pro-contra activities with Oliver North, who stood at attention while talking to the President on the phone. "I hope I'm finally going to hear some of the things I'm still waiting to learn," said President Reagan.

Less than 24 hours after Richard Secord implicates him in the Iran-contra scandal, William Casey, 74, dies of pneumonia.

Senate counsel Arthur Liman questions Robert McFarlane about Oliver North's destruction of documents as the Iran-contra scandal unraveled. "What did he tell you abut a 'shredding party'?" Liman asks. "Well," says McFarlane, "just that there had to be one."

Investigators discover that the $10 million solicited for the contras by Elliott Abrams from the Sultan of Brunei - which had been missing for nine months - was mistakenly deposited to the account of a Swiss businessman after Oliver North transposed two digits in his arms network's secret account.

President Reagan says he was "very definitely involved in the decisions about support to the freedom fighters. It was my idea to begin with." Asked about the conflict between this statement and previous claims of abject ignorance, Marlin Fitzwater says, "They're going to stay in conflict."

Thirty-seven sailors are killed aboard the USS Stark when the ship - in the Persian Gulf to protect Iraq's ally Kuwait's oil tankers from Iranian attack - is hit by an Exocet missile fired (accidentally) by an Iraqi fighter jet.

CIA operative Felix Rodriguez (aka Max Gomez) testifies that Oliver North once said of a congressional investigating committee, "These people want me, but they cannot touch me because the old man loves my ass."

Washington police don large yellow rubber gloves to arrest 64 demonstrators protesting Reagan AIDS policies, while at an international AIDS conference, George Bush is booed by several scientists when he endorses increased AIDS testing.

Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams acknowledges to the Iran-contra committee that it was "a mistake" for him to have misled Congress in earlier testimony. He explains that he answered "No" when asked if he'd discussed contra fund-raising because he had been involved in fund-raising for the contras, not by them.

Describing Oliver North as "every secretary's dream of a boss," Fawn Hall defends him against charges of illegality. "Sometimes," she observes, "you have to go above the written law, I believe."

Lt. Col. Oliver North begins six nationally televised days of testimony before the Iran-contra committee.

Oliver North testifies that the late William Casey helped run the secret contra program.

On his third day of testimony, Oliver North states that he shredded documents in the presence of Justice Department officials.

Manucher Ghorbanifar denies Oliver North's story that they negotiated the Iran arms deal in a men's room.

John Poindexter claims that he kept the President uninformed of the fund diversion - though he was sure he would "approve if asked" - in order to "provide some future deniability." He adds, "On this whole issue, you know, the buck stops here with me."

John Poindexter is reported to have used the phrase "I can't recall" (or some variation thereof) 184 times during his five days of testimony.

During two days of testimony, Ed Meese used the phrase "I can't recall" (or some variation thereof) 340 times.

The Iran-contra hearing close.

President Reagan complains to the Washington Times that a Soviet "disinformation campaign" has made anti-Communism in the US "unfashionable." He speaks nostalgically of the good old days when Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee would investigate suspected subversives. "They've done away with those committees," says the President. "That shows the success of what the Soviets were able to do in this country."

With Robert Bork being rejected for the Supreme Court by the largest Senate margin ever (58-42), his replacement nominee Douglas Ginsburg admits that "once as a student in the 1960s and on a few occasions in the '70s", while he was a Harvard law professor, he smoked marijuana. He calls it a "mistake."

With Ginsburg's survival as a candidate in jeopardy (it was already in trouble before the pot-smoking revelation), conservative try to downplay his admitted drug use. "He was not an addict," says President Reagan, not previously known for condoning recreational usage. "He was nothing of that kind." Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich admits that he smoked marijuana once, 19 years ago, but it had no effect on him.

Douglas Ginsburg asks President Reagan to withdraw his nomination.

Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) tells a reporter he smoked marijuana "more than once,, but not often" when he was in his 30's, "but I have not done it in years.

President Reagan, in a show of support, embraces his embattled Attorney General just before Meese returns to the US Courthouse to resume his sixth appearance before a federal grand jury.

The Iran-contra committee's final report says President Reagan bears ultimate responsibility for the scandal because he failed to carry out his oath to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Ed Meese is singled out for having "poorly served" the President - first, with his advice on the legality of the arms deal, and then when he "departed from standard investigative techniques" in conducting his probe.

The administration announces and immigration agreement that will send more than 2,500 Cuban prisoners in US jails home against their wishes. Ed Meese fails to anticipate prisoner reaction, and inmates in Atlanta and Louisiana seize hostages. Meese agrees to a moratorium on deportations.

President Reagan, in an interview with four news anchors, criticizes opponents of the arms treaty he is about to sign, although their objections are similar to the ones he himself raised against previous treaties. Far-right activist Howard Phillips denounces him as a "useful idiot for Soviet propaganda."

Before signing the arms treaty, President Reagan once again cites his favorite Russian proverb, "Doveryai, no proveryai - trust, but verify." An exasperated Mikhail Gorbachev says, "You repeat that at every meeting!"

Describing the difference between his relationship with President Reagan and George Bush's, Al Haig says, "When I disagreed with him he heard it from me. I didn't sit there at his side to say 'yeah' to every cockamamie idea that came before the President and then claim I didn't know about it afterwards unless it was a winner."


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