Mr. CHENEY: Questions have been raised about why we had these committees
established. I think it was preordained that there would be such an
investigation once it became clear the administration was trading
arms to Iran. Congress clearly has a legitimate role of oversight in
reviewing the conduct of foreign policy by the administration, and
the President himself supported these activities and encouraged us
to form these Select Committees.
I also think it is important that credit be given to the President.
He has given his complete cooperation and support to our investigation throughout. He has provided administration witnesses without ever claiming executive privilege, provided thousands of pages
of documents, classified and unclassified, provided access to his
own personal diary, and given these committees and the nation an
in-depth look at some of the most sensitive and excruciatingly painful events of his administration.
I think it is also important to point out that once President
Reagan understood the serious nature of the problems associated
with these events, he moved boldly and decisively to make corrections. He reassigned the responsible individuals, created the new
NSC staff under the able leadership of Frank Carlucci and General
Powell, brought in a new White House Chief of Staff, a new Director of the CIA, appointed the Tower Commission, cooperated with
the commission's investigation and took their criticisms to heart,
supported the call for an independent counsel and, of course, gave
his complete cooperation to these committees.
It takes a strong, confident leader to subject himself and his administration to the very thorough nature of this Congressional investigation. We are here today concluding the public phase of our
hearings on time in large part because of the cooperation of the
President and his administration.
President Reagan has enjoyed many successes during his more
than 6 years in office. Clearly this was not one of them. As the
President himself has said, mistakes were made—mistakes in selling arms to Iran, allowing the transaction to become focused on releasing American hostages, diverting funds from the arms sale to
support for the Contras, misleading the Congress about the extent
of NSC staff involvement with the Contras, delaying notification of
anyone in Congress of the transactions until after the story broke
in Lebanese newspapers, and tolerating a decisionmaking process
within the upper reaches of the administration that lacked integrity and accountability for key elements of the process.
But there are some mitigating factors, factors which, while they
don't justify administration mistakes, go a long way to helping
them explain and make them understandable:
—The need is still evident today to find some way to alter our
current relationships with Iran;
—The President's compassionate concern over the fate of Americans held hostage in Lebanon, especially the fate of Mr. William
Buckley, our CIA Station Chief in Beirut;
—The vital importance of keeping the Nicaraguan Democratic
Resistance alive until Congress could reverse itself and repeal the
—The fact that for the President and most of his key advisers
these events did not loom as large at the time they occurred as
they do now;
—Congressional vacillations and uncertainty about our policies
in Central America,
—And finally, a congressional track record of leaks of sensitive
information sufficient to worry even the most apologetic advocate
of an expansive role for the Congress in foreign policymaking.
It is also, I think, important to point out what these hearings did
not show. There is no evidence that the President had any knowledge of the diversion of profits from the arms sale to the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance. In fact, all of the evidence indicates
that he had no knowledge whatsoever of the diversion.
There is also no evidence of any effort by the President or his
senior advisers to cover up these events. On the contrary, the evidence clearly shows that the President and the Attorney General
were the ones primarily responsible for bringing these events and
matters to the attention of the Nation.
In other words, these hearings have demonstrated conclusively in
my opinion that the President has indeed been telling the truth.
What does it all mean? What does it signify? These events have
been characterized by some pretty strong statements by my colleagues on the committees and by some in the press over the past 8
We have heard talk of a "grave constitutional crisis," listened to
expressions of moral indignation and outrage—and even been
treated to talk about a "coup in the White House,"—a junta run by
a lieutenant colonel and an admiral.
My own personal view is that there has been far too much apocalyptic rhetoric about these events, most of it unjustified. If there
ever was a crisis—which I doubt—it ended before these committees
were established. And to the extent that corrective action was required, the President took it unilaterally before our Committees
had taken a single word of public testimony.
Saying that the investigators have sometimes gotten carried
away in an effort to outdo one another's colorful phrase-making in
no way justifies the mistakes that were made. But what is required
here, it seems to me, is a little calm, dispassionate analysis if we
are going to learn from our study of these events.
In some respects, what we have uncovered in the course of these
hearings is just the latest chapter in an unfinished book about the
conduct of U.S. foreign policy.
The struggle between the President and the Congress for control
over policymaking and implementation continues unabated. Nor
should we be surprised that Secretaries of State and NSC Advisers
find themselves at odds over the wisdom of various policies or
engage in intense competition for the ear of the President.
Many of the substantive issues involved in the Iran-Contra affair
have challenged previous Presidents and are bound to arise again
in future administrations.
Thomas Jefferson had to cope with the problem of Americans
held hostage overseas, and certainly Ronald Reagan's successors
will confront the problem of Soviet efforts to expand their empire
by military means through the use of surrogates in third world
As these committees finish the fact-finding phase of our inquiry,
the focus must now shift to the search for ways to improve our government's capability and performance in the conduct of foreign
policy. In the final analysis, an effective foreign policy needs cooperation and commitment from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.