Picks and Pans Review: The Iran-Contra Hearings

updated 05/25/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/25/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CNN, PBS (times vary)

A-

True, Iran-Contra is not quite as sizzling, simple to follow and sodden with scandal as Watergate was. But sequels are like that—Lace II was a disappointment after Lace I. In their first few hours these hearings looked like they'd be too confusing and boring to bother with. But then, suddenly, I was addicted. The hearings became video potato chips that I couldn't stop gobbling. It's fascinating hearing how government really works—for instance, witness Robert McFarlane telling how the President meets some foreign leaders in his private quarters just to make them feel wanted and special. It's delightful watching politicians making fools of themselves, not listening and then repeating questions that already have been asked. The pols should pay more attention and then maybe they'd learn something—especially from Richard Secord, the retired general who supplied weapons to Iran and the Contras, the man who stole this TV show. You may not like or believe what Secord said, but you have to like the way he said it. He answered most every question directly, simply and quickly. After calling the money he made "surplus," one of Secord's interrogators jumped on him, asking why he didn't say "profit." Do you have something against the word "profit"? the questioner asked slyly. Yes, Secord answered, he didn't like the word "profit" because he didn't like being called a profiteer, so he decided to use a nicer word instead. Secord disarmed his attacker by confessing. With his candor in scores of small, unimportant moments like that, Secord lent an appearance of honesty to some of the important things he said, made himself look sympathetic and almost won away Ronald Reagan's mantle as TV's Great Communicator. Secord found a new way to use TV, a trick you can expect smart politicians to steal.

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