Attorney General Edwin Meese III engaged in a bit of revisionist history the other day in a television appearance on "John McLaughlin's One on One." When McLaughlin asked about Meese's oft-quoted statement that "if a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect," Meese replied:
"I was misquoted. The intent of what I said was improperly portrayed. I have never said . . . that just because a person is a suspect means he's guilty of a crime. I would say that statistically, probably most people who are suspects later on are ultimately convicted of the crime."
In fact, Meese made his now- famous comments in a tape-recorded interview with U.S. News & World Report last fall, and was allowed to review the transcript before it was published.
Spokesman Terry Eastland said Meese concedes that he uttered the words and has said that he misspoke. In claiming to be misquoted, Eastland said, "I think what he means there is the recycling of that quote as if that's what he means, taking it out of context as if that's his full view on the subject."
Thrice Denied . . . President Reagan, who often likes to answer questions at picture-taking sessions, cut them off curtly yesterday when correspondents asked about his proposed aid package to the Nicaraguan rebels.
At the outset of the session, Reagan read a statement calling for more aid to the rebels, but when asked how much, he responded, "We won't have anything more to say than I've just said as we now proceed with the meeting."
When reporters persisted, presidential spokesman Larry Speakes interjected. "The president said thank you and I say thank you . . . . The president said no more questions three times. He means it. So let's go. Right out that door there."
Also yesterday, in a switch from past practice, the White House refused to let correspondents into the photo session with still photographers; instead, their presence was limited to a second "wave" with video cameras.
This effectively cut the time for asking questions of Reagan. Asked why the correspondents were barred, assistant press secretary Mark Weinberg said, "We want to do it that way."
Who Killed Cock Robin . . . ? Pity poor White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan, whose fine hand is seen by his critics in almost any act committed in official Washington. This week's rumor is that Regan had a hand in Lee A. Iacocca's ouster from the advisory board on the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Regan and other White House officials have insisted that that is incorrect.
One version of the Regan-Iacocca story had quoted an unidentified source as saying that Regan "hates his guts," and that there was "extremely bad blood" between the two men over Chrysler bailout legislation. In an interview yesterday with wire service reporters, Regan responded to the rumors with asperity, saying, "I do not hate Lee Iacocca's guts."
Regan said again, as the White House has said all along, that all the . . . er, credit . . . for Iacocca's departure goes to Interior Secretary Donald Hodel.
Regan did, however, acknowledge that he and the Chrysler chairman had crossed swords over terms of the bailout, when Regan was secretary of the Treasury. Of his rumored refusal to drive a Chrysler, he said, "I just don't happen to like them."
The Trenchcoat Set . . . Foreign correspondents assigned to Washington have recently organized a Foreign Correspondents Association to try to make life and work a bit easier. A previous organization has been dormant for several years, according to Abdul Salam Massarueh of Arab-American Media Service, president of the new FCA.
Other officers of the new organization are T.V. Parasuram of the Press Trust of India, vice president; Emery Link, an American who is an associate member, treasurer; and Jeanne Trabulsi of Jordan Newsletter, secretary.
Board members from across the globe represent such news organizations as Kyodo (Japan), China Times (Taiwan), Agence France-Presse, Jornal de Brazil and Tass.
Son of Blue Thunder . . . U.S. Customs Commissioner William von Raab recently initiated a new, ultra-sophisticated communications command center for the Blue Lightning Strike Force, a joint drug enforcement effort by Customs, the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration and 22 state, county and local law enforcement agencies in Florida.
The center uses radar to track boat movements in southern Florida.
Police boats, equipped with radios and transponders that broadcast an identification code, show up on radar maps, so the nearest ones can be sent to intercept suspected drug boats.