Four days before the US presidential election, in which he is making trust and honesty a central issue, documents released in a court case contradict Mr Bush's long-standing claims to have been 'out of the loop' on Iran-Contra.
The papers, released as part of a further indictment of the former US Defence Secretary, Caspar Weinberger, included his hand- written notes of an Oval Office meeting on 7 January 1986. They state the Vice-President, then George Bush, was one of five officials who approved a plan to sell 4,000 anti-tank missiles to Iran in return for the release of five US hostages in Beirut.
Mr Bush has admitted he knew something of plans to send arms to Iran. But for the past five years he had repeatedly denied he knew the sales were part of an arms-for- hostages deal. He has said he knew nothing of the opposition to the scheme mounted by Mr Weinberger and George Shultz, then Secretary of State.
The Weinberger note, not previously published despite years of investigation of Iran-Contra, gives Bill Clinton a heaven-sent opportunity to throw Mr Bush's trust charges back in his face.
Last night Mr Bush said that the documents showed 'nothing new', but Mr Clinton declared: 'This raises the question of whether on a series of important matters he has told the truth in this campaign and over the last five years . . . This is a very, very serious piece of evidence. President Bush says this election is about trust, character, judgement. He has seriously called into question these issues and now he must answer you on all three of them. He has questioned me on these issues and now he must answer you on all three of them.'
Two new tracking polls yesterday, by CNN and ABC, show Governor Clinton's lead among likely voters down to either 1 point or
4 points. But a CBS poll of likely voters gave him a 10-point lead.
The hand-written note was released yesterday. It says: 'President decided to go with Israeli- Iranian offer to release our hostages in return for sale of 4,000 TOW's (anti-tank missiles) to Iran by Israel. George Shultz and I opposed - Bill Casey, Ed Meese, VP favoured, as did Poindexter.'
The note is the first direct, documentary contradiction of Mr Bush's account. It corroborates a memo by a Shultz aide which recounts a telephone conversation between Mr Shultz and Mr Weinberger in 1987 after the scandal broke. That memo said the two Reagan cabinet members expressed disbelief at Mr Bush's denial of all knowledge of the affair.Reuse content