Los Angeles.--"I want to take back government from the insiders," began Oliver North's entry speech into partisan politics.
Whatever you think of his record of lying and secrecy, you have to admire the man's bravado. Or, perhaps it is just that he has a great sense of humor.
The ultimate insider has decided to run for the U.S. Senate as "The Outsider"!
In true flag-waving style, Colonel North became famous and rich enough to bankroll a campaign by revealing himself as the secret agent at the secret heart of a secret policy, supposedly kept secret even from the nation's elected policy makers.
Deep inside. Unless you think the 40th and 41st presidents, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, were lying when they said they never ordered the colonel's secret doings in Iran and Nicaragua, Colonel North was so inside that only he in the entire United States government had the secret power to make and execute policy without going outside his little office deep inside the White House -- or going beyond the fantasies swirling inside his classified, deep-background head.
The inside hole Oliver North came out of was, in fact, so deep that when reporters even found out his name, they would receive calls from close to the "highest sources," whispering that if Colonel North's name was published or uttered on the public airwaves, he would be assassinated by minions of evil empires.
Being a true American, the truest he says, it turned out that what the colonel wanted all along was just to be well-known as the hero who saved the country from dark forces only he understood. He wanted to be a celebrity, that's all.
It was he himself, after all, who boasted of exploits real and imagined until his name finally popped into the public prints and onto the home screens, and he was electronically transported to stardom in America's greatest amusement park: Celebrityland U.S.A.
The new American Dream: name recognition. And now he is ready for the next step, the modern equivalent of a star and handprints on Hollywood Boulevard. Though fingerprints are more his style, his felony convictions have been overturned on procedural grounds and he is eligible for membership in the insiders' non-secret society. He can join the astronauts and athletes, sons-in-law of past presidents and just plain folks who happen to have pre-sold rich names in the U.S. Senate.
Colonel North was not supposed to leave his fingerprints on his work, but he did, on papers inside the cubbies of government secrets, on weapons illegally distributed to thugs around the world, any place and every place until he was recognized as our very whacked-out Agent 007.
Colonel North, in the words of Sid Zion of the New York Times, describing a secretive deputy mayor of New York, inside the inside, is: "A man who tells you he had a ham sandwich for lunch when he had tuna -- just to keep in practice."
But, hey, it's a free country,right? -- even if I'm not sure Colonel North thinks that's a good idea. If he wins the Republican nomination in Virginia, the Old Dominion, he will be running against Charles Robb, another former Marine, who won his name recognition by marrying a daughter of President Lyndon Johnson.
I am not now nor have I ever been a Virginian, a fact I never celebrated until now. What Virginians do is their business. I suspect they will laugh at the colonel and turn him into a true outsider, but if they want Ollie, by golly, they can have him.
I am now a Californian. Proud of it. If Virginia chooses to send Colonel North to the Senate, we have our own man in uniform ready. Secret, famous and rich.
Only in America! Is this a great country or what?
Richard Reeves is a syndicated columnist.