While Rep. Lee Hamilton, the Democrat who chaired the Iran-Contra hearings in the House, made passing reference in a television interview to the possibility of impeachment if it turned out President Reagan knew funds were being diverted to fund the Contras, but it was an offhand remark from which he quickly pulled back. In fact, Hamilton told veteran reporter David Broder that he would not join those Democrats who say, ''a president should not conduct a covert action without approval of Congress. I think a president has to have authority to conduct secret operations, so long as Congress is notified.''
Reagan was never in danger of being impeached, and Iran-Contra did not define his presidency. An ABC/Washington Post poll taken in July 1987, during the height of the controversy and following the televised hearings into the matter, showed that only 40 percent of Americans believed Reagan had made "major mistakes" in the affair, and nearly two-thirds believed that the president should use his pardon authority to prevent prosecution of Ollie North, the White House aide who was at the center of the scandal.
As for President Reagan's putative indifference to the AIDS crisis, it's hard to know exactly what the film's creators believe the president could have done to stop the spread of AIDS. Could he have allocated more money to research? Sure, but we've spent billions in research in the intervening years, with no cure yet in sight. What's more, President Reagan's insistence on faster approval for AIDS drugs from the Food and Drug Administration helped usher in a new era of treatment that has kept many HIV sufferers alive and relatively healthy for years.
Could the president have argued from his bully pulpit for "safe sex"? Yes, but nearly 20 years of constant hammering away on this theme still goes ignored by many gay men. The Center for Disease Control reported this week that new HIV infections among gay men were up 17 percent between 1999 and 2002. Perhaps the makers of "The Reagans" will figure out a way to blame this on President Bush in some future made-for-TV fantasy.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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