President Bush said today that the allegations against John Tower have been "gunned down" by a thorough FBI report, and he called on the Senate to move swiftly to confirm the former senator as secretary of defense.
Fielding questions from reporters at the White House, Bush said he had personally reviewed the FBI background report on Tower.
"What I got from it was that there has been a very unfair treatment of this man by rumor and innuendo, over and over again rumors surfacing with no facts to back them up," he said.
Tower has been plagued by reports of womanizing and problem drinking and by questions about his financial ties to defense contractors. The Senate Armed Services Committee had postponed a vote on the nomination while the FBI report was being compiled and may decide today or Wednesday when to vote.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had no immediate response to the President's declaration. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell of Maine told reporters he did not know when the committee would act on the nomination but noted that the delay in the confirmation proceedings had been "at the request of the White House."
Report Delivered Monday
The FBI report was delivered on Monday to the White House, which forwarded it to the Senate committee.
Published reports have said that the FBI found that Tower drank excessively in the 1970s but no longer does so. Asked about that, and whether the former senator had undergone treatment, Bush replied:
"I say there is no evidence of any kind of disease of alcoholism. None. None whatsoever."
" . . . I've never wavered in my support for John Tower," he said.
During the news conference, Bush also said he would not be stampeded into a hasty U.S. initiative in the Middle East by Soviet diplomacy in the region. Asked what role he envisions for the Soviet Union in the Middle East peace process, the U.S. leader replied: "I think it should be a limited role, and that's what it will be."
The President also sought to allay fears that the Japanese own too much American property. "It is important, if we believe in open markets, that people be allowed to invest here just as I'd like to see more openness for American investors in other countries."