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McCain Camp Touts Ollie North Endorsement

Updated 2:47 p.m.
By Juliet Eilperin and Rena Kirsch
One of the key figures in the Iran-contra scandal is now endorsing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but is McCain endorsing him back?

This morning the McCain campaign helpfully circulated a column Oliver North had penned in the Washington Times, extolling the senator's virtues, under the heading "In Case You Missed It: Oliver North on John McCain." The e-mail made a point of pulling out the key laudatory quote and placing it in bold, making it even easier for reporters to read: "Neither John McCain, nor anyone in his campaign asked me to write this column. But I cannot sit silently while my fellow conservatives do to John McCain what GOP 'moderates' did to me. Today, the stakes for our country are far higher, the implications for the future far greater than who sits in one of 100 U.S. Senate seats. Now, our nation is at war against a vicious foe. We need a president who has proven how to win it."

That prompted The Trail to ponder a simple question: Is McCain pleased to receive North's endorsement, given the fact that the failed GOP senatorial candidate was convicted in 1989 of shredding documents, accepting an illegal gratuity and aiding and abetting in the obstruction of Congress? Of course, a three-judge panel vacated North's conviction the following year on a technicality, calling for proceedings to determine whether North's immunized testimony influenced witnesses in his trial. And after the Supreme Court declined to review the case, U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell -- who had earlier sentenced North to a three-year suspended prison term, two years' probation, $150,000 in fines and 1,200 hours' community service -- dismissed it. Still, McCain was serving in Congress when North was conducting the activities in question, so it seemed like a reasonable question to ask.

The McCain campaign's response? "We'll let the comments in the release stand," wrote spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker in an e-mail. "Thanks."

John McCain was also a bit player in Ollie's 1994 Senate race. In June, just after Ollie was nominated by a Republican convention to take on Chuck Robb, many Republicans balked and refused to support North. Bob Dole and John McCain were both interviewed on CBS's "Face the Nation" on June 5. Dole said he wouldn't support North and would instead meet with J. Marshall Coleman, a former Republican attorney general running as an independent. That sent huge shock waves through Virginia. McCain said he would support North but offered disparaging words about his chances of winning that were seen as an additional shot by national Republicans who clearly didn't want him. Here's what McCain said on the show:

"I know nothing illegal or unconstitutional that took place in the Virginia Republican Party's process of selecting their nominee. I'll support their nominee and it's -- clearly, it's Colonel North at this time. And by the way, I'm the person that called for the resignation of the governor of this state, who was of my party. But I don't see anything wrong with the process. I think from a clear political standpoint, our chances of winning that seat are dramatically diminished. There's no doubt about that. But I respect the views and decision of the Virginia Republican Party."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 12, 2008; 2:34 PM ET
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