Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North, former aide to former National Security Adviser John Poindexter, is sworn in July 7, 1987 before the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on arms sales to Iran and diversion of profits to Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images

Despite his criminal scandal, Oliver North to lead the NRA

In 1994, then-Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.) offered a famous description of his Republican rival, Oliver North.

“My opponent is a document-shredding, Constitution-trashing, commander-in-chief-bashing, Ayatollah-loving, arms-dealing, criminal-protecting, resume-enhancing, Noriega-coddling, Swiss-banking, law-breaking, letter-faking, self-serving, snake-oil salesman who can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie,” Robb said.

North went on to narrowly lose that race – then Republican Sen. John Warner (R) endorsed the Democrat, and North was denounced by Ronald Reagan – but he nevertheless cemented his role as a far-right celebrity and conservative media personality. Today, he landed a notable new gig.

Oliver North, the retired U.S. Marine who was at the center of the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal, will become the president of the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun rights group announced on Monday.

North will take over the post within a few weeks, the NRA said in a statement…. North, 74, was a key figure in the national controversy over the sale of arms to Iran and the funneling of proceeds to the rebel Contras in Nicaragua. The ensuing political drama dominated headlines during President Ronald Reagan’s second term.

In case anyone’s forgotten, North was a central figure in a scandal in which a Republican administration illegally sold weapons to Iranians in order to secure the release of American prisoners, then used the money to illegally finance a war in Central America.

The retired Marine colonel was later convicted of multiple felonies, though the convictions were later overturned on appeal.

Traditional political norms might suggest someone with this background might struggle in conservative politics, but that’s just not how the contemporary right operates.

Postscript: North’s new leadership role with the NRA comes against a backdrop in which three Republicans are running for Congress this year, despite being ex-cons. Two of the three served time behind bars, and the third might have faced a similar sentence were it not for a pardon from Donald Trump.