Office -- seekers find Iran is good campaign ammunition

With emotions running high and an election year dawning, American politicians are beginning to try to make political capital out of the hostage crisis in Iran.

The political exploitation -- or accusations of it -- are surfacing all along the 1980 campaign trail, from the presidential race to congressional contests across the country.

President Carter is accused by rivals in both parties of "cynical" and "shocking" use of the crisis to profit his reelection drive.

Others, meanwhile, running either from the Whie House or from seats in Congress, appear to be cashing in electorally in a variety of enterprising ways.

Iranian students are a popular mark.

One Republican presidential challenger, Senate minority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, is blitzing Iowa with television commercials showing him outshouting an Iranian student in a confrontation at the state university.

The ad is being aired in five Iowa cities during the weeks preceding the Jan. 21 precinct caucuses, the first formal test for the nation's presidential candidates, at a cost of $36,000.

Rep. Thomas Evans Jr. (R) of Delaware distributed to radio stations in his state tape recordings of his speech in the House of Representatives introducing legislation to expedite the deportaton of foreign students who participate in violent or illegal demonstrations.

A colleague, Rep. William Boner (D) of Tennessee, has dramatized his concern over events in Iran by helping resettle in his country former Iranian officials opposed to the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and by gaining political asylum for anti-Khomeini Iranian students.

Other lawmakers are mailing to constituents reminders of their contributions to the national debate.

Rep. Les Aspin (D) of Wisconsin reissued a statement he made two months ago warning that US sale of heating oil to Iran could be interpreted there as a dangerous sign of American weakness.

A Pennsylvania Republican is reprinting a newspaper article crediting him with helping originate the idea of creating a rapid-deployment force of US marines to respond to any future Iran-style emergency -- a proposal later adopted by the Carter administration.

Then there is the congressman who gained public attention during the Vietnam war as the inventor of ID bracelets, each bearing the name of a US prisoner of war, eventually worn by 5 million Americans. Rep. Robert Dornan (R) of California vows to revive the idea for the hostages if they remain unreleased when Congress reconvenes Jan. 22.

But the goundswell of emotion over Iran cuts two ways. While it offers a political opportunity to some, it poses a threat to others.

The contradictory role in the hostage crisis played by the Palestine Liberation Organization is stirring up what may be his sternest electoral test in 19 years in Congress for Rep. Paul Findley (R) of Illinois, perhaps the PLO's leading advocate on Capitol Hill.

At his suggestion, the PLO sought unsuccessfully to negotiate the release of the hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran, but later pledged its paramilitary support for the Iranian militants.

The PLO issue has attracted challengers to Representative Findley from both parties.

The cooling political climate for military spending cuts and arms control -- resulting from the crises in Iran and Afghanistan -- also may foreshadow trouble for some Senate champions of these causes.

The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee expects attacks along these lines to soon begin taking shape against such Democratic incumbents as Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota and Sen. John Culver of Iowa.

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