A conservative activist told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that he encountered Defense Secretary-designate John Tower in an inebriated condition on several occasions accompanied by women other than his wife.
The witness, Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, has opposed Tower’s nomination on grounds he is soft on “Star Wars,” a space-based missile defense system under development. Today Weyrich questioned whether Tower has the moral character to oversee the Pentagon reforms that President Bush has promised he will initiate.
“I have made enough personal observations of this man here in Washington to have serious reservations about his moral character,” Weyrich said.
Weyrich claimed that Bush’s transition team received hundreds of letters criticizing Tower, some containing specific allegations of “moral impropriety” against the nominee, but did not bring the letters to the President’s attention.
Weyrich said he never saw the letters, but “I have encountered the senator in a condition lacking sobriety as well as with women he was not married to.”
“The encounters occurred frequently enough to make an impression. I did encounter this on a number of occasions,” he said.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the panel, immediately suggested that discussions of any information Weyrich had on the nominee’s personal life be taken up in a closed afternoon session. Tower was to testify in that session.
Tower was dogged by allegations of drinking and womanizing before his nomination was announced by Bush. In divorce papers filed by his second wife, Lila Burt Cummings, Tower was accused of “marital misconduct.”
Bush has defended Tower, saying an FBI background check found nothing that would prevent him from serving as defense secretary.
24 Years in Senate
Tower, a 63-year-old Texas Republican, served 24 years in the Senate, including a brief tenure as chairman of the Armed Services Committee from 1981-84.
“He considers SDI (the Strategic Defense Initiative) a bargaining chip. We don’t,” Weyrich has said previously.