Unfortunately, "bipartisan" is not the same as "non-partisan" - let alone "independent" – as the families had sought.
And it turns out that Lee Hamilton has a history of being the Republican’s favorite Democrat. This is not the first time he has relinquished the truth for the sake of bipartisanship.
In 1987, then Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN) was Chairman of the House Select Committee investigating the Iran-Contra affair. A brief history reminder: Undermining both the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, members of the Reagan/Bush National Security Council were caught covertly selling arms to Iran (for its war with Iraq, where Saddam Hussein had just received U.S. arms, helicopters and biological weapons, personally delivered by Donald Rumsfeld [but that’s another story – see Know Bush Fact #5]) and diverting the proceeds to the Contra rebels in their fight to bring down the leftist but democratically-elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
Sitting on the Committee with Lee Hamilton was the Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, Representative Dick Cheney (R-WY).
Knowing George H. W. Bush was at last perched for the Presidency, Cheney was determined to block the Democrats from bringing Vice President Bush before the Committee to testify about his Iran-Contra knowledge. Aware of Hamilton's weak spot, the intimidating Cheney pushed on his pride in his bipartisanship, and Hamilton folded. Bush never testified.
In 1992, at the end of his only term as President, George H. W. Bush pardoned five of the Iran-Contra criminals. Now many of those convicted and/or involved have at last been rewarded in his son's administration:
• John Negroponte - U.S. representative to the United Nations & U.S. Ambassador in Iraq
• Richard Armitage - Deputy Secretary of State
• Elliott Abrams - Special White House Assistant for Democracy and Human Rights
• John M. Poindexter - Director, The Information Awareness Office.
Lee Hamilton did another huge favor for George H.W. Bush five years later, in 1992, when he was Chair of the House Select Committee investigating the "October Surprise" of 1980.
This time, a book entitled October Surprise: America’s Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan, written by former National Security Council desk officer Gary Sick, and published just after the 1991 Gulf War, revealed the 1980 plot to undermine President Carter’s negotiations for the release of the 52 American hostages held in Iran, and specifically accused Vice Presidential candidate and former CIA Director George H. W. Bush and William Casey, Reagan’s presidential campaign manager, of meeting with Iranian Prime Minister Bani-sadr in Paris in October 1980, only weeks before the election. There they allegedly cut a deal where they would provide Iran with weapons for its war against Iraq (sound familiar?), and in exchange, Iran would refuse to release the hostages to President Carter, and instead wait until Carter was out and Reagan was in to let them go.
And so it went. Weapons were delivered, Carter’s failures cost him the election, and the hostages were released during Reagan’s Inauguration.
In a strangely irresponsible move, Hamilton publicly announced prematurely that there was no proof to the charges, even though he had not yet begun to review the evidence. Eventually, Hamilton would again save Bush from scandal and possible charges by denouncing the witnesses as untrustworthy, but by then the people had Bush out. The case, and the Bush Presidency, quietly closed in January 1993.
So, here we are again. Bush heading into a Presidential election, questions about what he knew and did, and Lee Hamilton co-leading an investigation.