I was going through my old files and I came across this oddity from 1989, about Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal …
This is odd because I didn’t have a job as a political cartoonist until 1996, seven years later. I was a toy inventor and designer back in 1989 and I don’t remember drawing this; I remember the news, though.
Colonel Oliver North, the Fox News pundit and the new president of the NRA, was convicted for his role in secretly selling arms to Iran (which was under an arms embargo) to fund the “Contra” rebels in Nicaragua. There was a lot of speculation about Reagan pardoning North and others involved at the very end of his term in January 1998, but in the end North got a light sentence with no jail time and Reagan was off the hook on the politically difficult “pocket pardon” decision. The next president, George H. W. Bush handed out a handful of pardons, including one to frequent cable news pundit Elliot Abrams – the faces in the news don’t change much.
According to Wikipedia: In the end, fourteen administration officials were indicted, including then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Eleven convictions resulted, some of which were vacated on appeal. The rest of those indicted or convicted were all pardoned in the final days of the presidency of George H. W. Bush, who had been Vice President at the time of the affair.
President Reagan was off the political hook because people thought he didn’t know what was going on, in other words “no collusion,” at least not on the part of the president. Reagan, and then George H.W. Bush, refused to declassify documents, making prosecutions difficult. Presidents are in a powerful position to stymie investigations into their own government officials.
All of this is to say that the past looks a lot like the present. Nicaragua and Iran are still ugly messes. Our president, who may be as clueless as Reagan was, is making investigations difficult and threatening pardons.
I like drawing Reagan; maybe I came to this profession a few years too late.