Coddling Crooks, Missile Envy

CRACKER CRUMBS

WHEN I was six, I learned that it is wrong to do something bad. When I was 14, I learned that it's okay to do something wrong, as long as you don't get caught. Recently I learned from the Senate that it's okay to do something wrong and it's okay to get caught, as long as the prosecutors think you have someone else to incriminate.

The Senate agreed not to prosecute Admiral John Poindexter for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair. The Senators decided that letting a guilty man go was the price for finding out the truth. But will the Senate get the truth out of Poindexter? Probably not. He has no incentive to tell the truth. In fact, now that he has nothing to worry about, he may take full responsibility for the entire crime.

Letting political criminals off the hook is becoming an American addiction. In Watergate the prosecution offered soft plea bargains in return for the truth. It never got the truth. Poindexter has gotten full immunity. If the Senate doesn't get the truth, we should learn our lesson: Don't ask the guilty to tell the truth; send them to jail.

ONCE UPON a time the USSR put new kinds of missiles in Eastern Europe to point at Western Europe. A President, who ate quiche, came up with a plan: NATO would put new missiles in Western Europe. If the Soviets would remove their missiles pointed at Western Europe, NATO would remove the missiles in Western Europe. A President with a cowboy fixation got tough with the evil empire. His PR men changed the plan's name. "Two track" became "Zero Option," and the quiche-eater was pushed out of the spotlight.

The problem with "Zero Option" was that some people in Western Europe were more worried about their own missiles than the ones that were pointed at them. But the cowboy stuck to his guns.

It took eight years for the Soviets to realize that they had screwed-up. They had forced NATO to pull together and point even more missiles at Moscow. The new Soviet king of the hill, Mike, got a sensational new idea. He offered to remove the missiles pointed at Western Europe if NATO would remove the missiles in Western Europe. Mike's PR men pushed the cowboy out of the spotlight and took the credit.

Few things in life go according to plan, but the cowboy and the quiche-eater hung tough and made their plan work. Of course, those who deserve the credit rarely get it. Those with the best PR men do.