Everywhere I have traveled in recent weeks, people have been asking me what I think of American’s number one folk hero, Oliver North.

The questions are understandable; 15 years ago I sat (figuratively speaking) in the same seat. It can be intimidating to confront some of the most powerful personages in government under the glare of television lights in that grand, high-ceilinged caucus room. (Testifying can be more than just psychologically intimidating; in the less-civil Watergate era, one committee member threatened to break my nose.)

But North was not intimidated, charging up the Hill the way he led his combat platoon in Vietnam. He wrestled his congressional tormentors to the ground in a swashbuckling performance; they, in turn, fought their way to the microphones to praise him.

And I was on my feet, shouting, “Get em, Ollie! You tell em!”

There were some parochial reasons for my undignified conduct. As an ex-marine, I was proud that the honor of the corps, tarnished in the Moscow embassy scandal, was being regained. And I was not unmindful that North is a Christian; he attends church with several of my friends. And I had to admire his chutzpah, secretly wishing I had dared to do the same thing during Watergate.

But there were other, more significant reasons that I and millions of Americans cheered Ollie North.

For one, we’ve needed a hero. These have been lean times for national honor—spy scandals, Wall Street insider trading, double-dealing political leaders, and ministers betraying their most sacred trust.

So along comes a decorated marine who loves God and country. Abandoned by his superiors, pilloried in the press, he comes bounding back—and with bravado and pure grit, he wins the day.

A second reason for North’s popularity ...

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