It's a remarkable political event when the nation's most influential Republican excuses himself from endorsing another famous Republican who's just been nominated to the U.S. Senate.
It's even more remarkable when Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., the Senate minority leader, repudiates the decision of Virginia Republicans and issues a veiled warning to national Republicans against a galloping right-wing political distemper that threatens the party's future.That's the warning Dole seemed to deliver on national television when he, in effect, disowned the Virginia Senate candidacy of Oliver North and encouraged another Republican to get in the race against North as an independent.
Dole and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., both trashed the North candidacy only hours after North, the former Reagan administration national security aide and a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, won Virginia's GOP Senate nomination.
The menace of the North candidacy to the Senate is that North - as few other candidates in memory - has helped spark a movement and has come to represent an angry, vengeful crusade that is simply against government.
It is not that North is a serious advocate of legislative programs or policies that don't fit Republican doctrine. He appears to offer no programs or policies. He's a proud patriot who stands against.
This former Marine officer and White House operative, who celebrated both his felony conviction for lying to Congress and the legal technicality that let him off, has become a force, gathering a national backing and money to spread among other right wingers.
North is often portrayed as a loose cannon careening around the Republican deck, capable of doing some harm but in a good conservative cause.
A better North portrayal might be as a flag-draped falling safe, crashing through whatever political structures he plunges into, headed for disaster.
Dole, in his long service in the House and Senate, has seen the disintegration of party rule and responsibility.
What Dole and other Republicans have not seen in the Senate is the aimless sort of anarchy now represented by North, a candidate whose most effective campaign talk is denunciation of Congress, the presidency and all of government and whose most serious promise is that he'll be against everybody and everything.
It's said by some of North's apologists that Dole and other Republicans have made a mistake and - if they want future party help - they'll come around to support the North candidacy in Virginia.
Dole, it's even suggested, has cut himself off from any chance at the GOP presidential nomination in 1996.
It could be that Dole and other Republicans are asking themselves how much that presidential nomination would be damaged when Senator North, a newly elected Republican leading a know-nothing mob, jumps into the 1996 campaign.