Interview with Malcolm Byrne, Deputy Director of National Security Archive, George Washington University:
Part 1 - Background:
"Well, this was an incredibly complex affair as you know, because you've done a lot of research on it, and it unfolded on a lot of different planes. The most important, in terms of global context, was the fact that the Cold War was still in play, and anti-communism was a huge motivating factor in terms of Reagan and his advisors.
"There was also domestic political context. Reagan came into office with an agenda that included rolling back a lot of the post-Vietnam era reforms that Congress had put in place that included reeling in executive branch power. There was also a very strong democrat-republican divide, there were issues relating to the intelligence process and how that should work in a democratic society, and all of those little battles were being fought at the time that these guys put into place the operations that turned into Iran-Contra."
Part 2 - Legacy:
"There are a lot of aspects of Iran-Contra that were very damaging. It was one of those affairs that didn't have any good outcome for anybody. It hurt Ronald Reagan's reputation personally, it hurt his policy prospects, it hurt U.S. national interests and our reputation abroad, but I think it also had an affect that has not been appreciated much which is that it has contributed to the debasing of the political process.
"Like Watergate before it, it was one of those moments where I think the public, or a lot of members of the public, came away with the sense of 'Well, if it's okay for those guys to behave this way and not be held to account, then maybe it's okay for the rest of us to behave this way.' It undermined the public's respect for good government."