6/CHRONICLESnThe “Contragate” hearings have beenna poor substitute for daytime soap operasnand do not begin to match thenthrills of Watergate. Perhaps it is becausenwe have heard them before:narrogantly inarticulate congressmennscoring points off frightened bureaucrats,nan administration that turns tonprivate contractors to carry on apparentlynillegal activities, and an imperialistnCongress eager to seize control ofnAmerican foreign policy.nThere were a few bright spots, notablynRichard Secord’s forthright denialsnof wrongdoing, but a new low in thenperformance art of testifying wasnreached by Robert McFarlane: quivering,nself-righteously remorseful—hencouldn’t have given a worse impressionnof the administration if he tried.nThe hearings are, first and last, anpartisan affair, one skirmish in thenlong war between populist-RepublicannPresidents and the social democratsnwho have seized control of the DemocraticnParty. Still, the whole affairnraises very serious constitutional andn— perhaps as important—ethicalnquestions. Who is responsible for thenconduct of U.S. foreign policy—thenPresident, the Congress, or private citizens?nDespite repeated alarms in the pressnover the emergence of an imperialnpresidency, the fact remains that nonPresident in the 1980’s has anythingnlike the freedom of action enjoyed bynThomas Jefferson when he authorizedna “war” against the Barbary pirates, ornJames K. Polk when he responded tonMexico’s invasion threats in then1840’s. Increasingly, Congress hasnbeen able to tie the hands of Presidentsnwith the red tape of resolutions andnamendments that have the accumulatingnforce of precedent and tradition.nWhen Presidents do attempt to breaknthrough the interference to carry out anforeign policy initiative, the result isnusually a formal inquisition staged fornthe benefit of Turner Broadcasting andnthe CBS Evening News.nCULTURAL REVOLUTIONSnThe White House, on the othernhand, is not entirely guiltless. Presidentsnand their staffs have also muddiednthe waters by presuming to negotiatenwhat are, in effect, treatiesnwithout the consent of Congress. BothnFranklin Roosevelt and John Kennedynmade secret foreign policy deals withnpotentially disastrous consequences.nFDR was so eager to drag America intonwar that he allowed British intelligencenagents to snoop on antiinterventionistncongressmen. And wenmay never know exactly what Kennedynpromised Khrushchev during thenCuban missile crisis.nMore recently. Presidents have pretendednto agree to all the restrictionsnenjoined by Congress while at thensame time authorizing secret wars andnfielding teams of semiprofessional freelancers.nIf the contras really weren”freedom fighters”—or fighters of anyndescription—and if there really werenan influential party of Iranian moderates,nthe responsible parties (whoevernthey are) could be pardoned for excessivenzeal in the national interest. Asnfailures, they will have to face thenmusic, and one of the tunes they arenliable to hear is a dirge for all thencivilian victims oicontra shenanigans.nThe decision to deal with Iranian terroristsncombined with the deliberatenprolongation of this war—not innthe expectation of victory but in an effortnto destabilize and/or democratizenthe Sandinista regime—cannot benbrushed aside as a partisan issue. Itnseems clear that some of the President’snadvisors have abused the trust henplaced in them.nThere is no easy solution to thenSandinista problem, except an invasionnin force. If they are, as theynappear to be, a Soviet and Cubannbacked dictatorship threatening regionalnsecurity and fiandamental U.S.ninterests, then the honorable coursenwould be to take TR’s big stick out ofnthe closet and use it to bludgeon thenSandinistas. Nothing less will fulfillnnnour obligahons, and anything less thannwar condemns the Niearaguan peoplento worse violence at the hands of bothnparties. That it should be done in thenname of democracy is the crudest sortnof political joke. If the cowardice ofnCongress or the American people rendersnsuch a course of action impossible,nthen we can pull in our head andnfeet within the shell of nationalnboundaries. If the national will is thatnweak, we have no business engaging innglobal adventurism. Fish or cut baitnremains the most moral as well as thenmost prudent outlook for a nationnwhose governors are responsible to thencitizenry.nInstead, senior administration officialsnhave apparently duped wellmeaningnprivate citizens into believingnthat their contributions would assistnthe President in bringing peace tonCentral America. Those who contributednmoney did so from the best andnhighest motives; government officialsnwho assisted in soliciting or acted asnbagmen owe the American people ancandid explanation.nRemember Aaron Burr? He was accusednof conspiring with a high governmentnofficial either to separate thenWest from the U.S. or at least ofnplanning an illegal expedition intonSpanish territory. Burr was acquitted,nbut went into exile to escape furthernprosecutions. In the narrowest legalnsense. Burr may not have been guiltynof treason, but when renegade bureaucratsnand private citizens—with ornwithout the President’s blessing—nundertake the conduct of foreign policy,nwhen they raise money to supportninsurrection, ship arms and ammunition,nand provide every type of advicenand support (including volunteers),nthey expose themselves to very seriousncharges. Considering the almost criminalnmisbehavior of Congress, a privatizednforeign policy may seem a temptingnprospect to the journalists andnacademic Metternichs who have beennadvising the President. Now they haven