A speech Reagan could make

THE commission President Reagan appointed to investigate his National Security Council is due to issue its report next week. All the indications are that the report is going to be very tough and critical. The President's spokesman says that will be fine, because the President wants the chips to fall where they may.

Though the report may produce yet another embarrassment for the administration, it also offers an opportunity - an opportunity for the President to speak to the American people with the candor and directness for which he is known, but which has not so far characterized the White House's handling of the Iran debacle.

It may be the President's last opportunity. Other investigations are going on - one by the special prosecutor, which may result in criminal charges, and those in Congress. They will drag on for months.

The President has said he is eager for investigators in the House and Senate to tell him what they have found out about wrongdoing in his own establishment. But that is not a very credible position among critics who think the President ought himself to be able to find out about wrongdoing in his own establishment. The commission that is about to report, headed by former Sen. John G. Tower, is the President's own commission.

Here is an opportunity for the President to take its findings, comment upon them, and offer the American people a franker exposition of what he tried to do, and what went wrong, than he has to date.

Here is what he might say:

``My fellow Americans,

``The intent, in my dealings with Iran, was honorable, but the policy was badly flawed.

``It was not, and is not, wrong to try to identify those in Iran with whom we can deal. Neither is it unworthy to try to get our hostages freed. But it was a mistake to send weapons to a regime that sponsors terrorism, and I apologize for that error in judgment.

``My motives, once the initiative became public, were misunderstood, and I should have perceived that they would be.

``That serious misjudgment was mine.

``As for the diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan contras, that was an act by some on my staff designed to thwart the law and the will of Congress. I did not agree with Congress's position at that time, but the strength of our society is based on adherence to the rule of law and democratic principles.

``Those on my staff who sought to short-circuit the law may have been well-meaning, but they abandoned these principles, and it is proper that they should face the penalty the law imposes.

``It would be wrong for a president to pardon them. That would condone what they have done and send a signal to others who follow that the ends justify any means, even illegal, that they care to use.

``But when the courts decide punishment for any crimes that may have been committed, I hope they will take into account the shame and anguish that these individuals have already endured.

``We treasure our democratic way of life in this country, and we use our influence, whenever we can, to see that this precious gift of liberty is given to others throughout the world.

``Our efforts abroad are diminished when we fail to observe our own principles at home; similarly our efforts on behalf of others are strengthened when we demand of ourselves adherence to law, principle, integrity.

``This has been an unhappy chapter for us, but one from which we can learn. ``My hope is that after this diversion from the principles we cherish, we can now go forward together in compliance with, and in pursuit of, those ideals that endure.''

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