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Oliver North, American Celebrity

One of these days Oliver North is probably going to be found guilty by that Washington jury.

Once the verdict condemning the Marine war hero is reached, the battle to save him will begin in earnest.

The outcry against sending North to jail will make the abortion demonstrations seem like tea parties.

Supporting North will be a politically popular thing to do, especially here in Arizona.

On the surface, North is a genuine American hero. The CBS television movie will only add to the furor.

In a key moment of the TV drama, the actor portraying President Reagan speaks to North on the telephone.

Reagan tells North how sorry he is. The President protests that he never knew anything about the illegal diversion of arms to the contras. That's probably true. One guess is that Reagan never knew much of anything that was going on in Washington.

North replies that his only motive had been to serve his president.
We know so little about how our government works. For weeks we were entranced by the daily drama of the Iran-contra hearings, and still we don't understand what really happened.

The truth of the matter is that few really care. North's supporters will back him despite any set of facts that can be lined up against him.

G. Gordon Liddy, who was one of President Nixon's henchmen, went to jail for four years for his part in Watergate.

Today, Liddy is a member of the Paradise Valley gentry who is so proud of the crimes he committed that his personal car bears the license plates, "H2O-GATE."

Liddy was asked if it was right for North to destroy government documents with a shredder.

"Absolutely right," Liddy said in his clipped style. "After all, that's why the government gives you a shredder." A year from now, we'll forget Lieutenant Colonel North and his chain-link security fence and the embezzled money. His fans will remember only that he's a celebrity and a hero. Like Elvis Presley.

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Tom Fitzpatrick