Here are excerpts from Secretary of Defense-designate John Tower’s appearance Sunday on the ABC-TV show “This Week With David Brinkley.” Tower, a former senator from Texas, was questioned by Sam Donaldson, George Will and Cokie Roberts.
DONALDSON: . . . You heard Sen. (Sam) Nunn this morning suggest that if the White House continues to leak, as he sees it . . . portions of that FBI report, the (Senate Armed Services) committee ought to resume its hearings and call people, put them under subpoena and oath, and take their testimony. Would you agree to that?
TOWER: I’m not going to try to advise the committee on what to do, and the committee will arrive at its own decision on that. I am no longer a member of the committee, and I have found that I’m not . . . don’t have a great deal of influence over what the committee does. But I am hopeful that we can reduce the level of the rhetoric somewhat . . . de-escalate it.
DONALDSON: Would that be a fair thing to do?
TOWER: Well, I think that, in fairness to the White House, they are reacting to about three months of solid allegations being poured into the public media; and therefore the White House, I think, felt it necessary to refer to the more favorable aspects of the report in an effort to shoot down these allegations. As you know, in this business, the answer rarely catches up with the charge. You can be charged with something on a three-column headline above the fold in the paper, and the next day the rebuttal for it or the disproof of it is back on the 23rd page somewhere. And I think that that’s what the White House was responding to. The White House was put on the defensive by all of the allegations that came through across the media, and I think that should be understood.
. . . I know one thing, and that is that the committee didn’t tell me nor did the White House tell me . . . they’re very meticulous about this . . . what the allegations were. And I learned about them by seeing them on television and reading them in the newspaper, and that was my first hint . . . that these allegations were out there.
DONALDSON: . . . as you know, many of the allegations have to do with, to put it rather inelegantly, the charge that you’re a common, or uncommon, drunk . . . you admitted that, in the ‘70s, you had a drinking problem. But the allegations are that it has persisted. Now, what can you tell us to reassure on that point?
TOWER: I would deny that allegation. And what I would like to do, in response to that, is to read a portion of a letter that was issued by a doctor who took care of me after I was operated on for a colon polyp, in which a very thorough examination was made. And I will not read the entire letter, although the entire letter I think is very revealing.
DONALDSON: It will be made part of the record?
TOWER: Yes, it will be made part of the record. I would like to read the . . . last paragraph. It says: “In summary, Sen. Tower had normal liver function tests, with pre-op evaluation, had a normal liver at the time of surgery, and exhibited no evidence of alcohol withdrawal post-operatively. On the contrary, he was at work continuously, almost from the time he left the recovery room. Based on these facts, it can be stated with relative certainty that Sen. Tower shows no evidence at all of alcoholic impairment or alcoholism.”
DONALDSON: Who is that doctor?
TOWER: “It is my professional view that there is little basis for statements made concerning the possible impairment by alcohol of his ability to perform his duty as secretary of defense.” It was made by Dr. Warren Lichliter of Baylor Hospital.
. . . Now, what I want to do is to try to remove the obstacles to my confirmation. I’ve already gone a step further than I’m required to on recusals, more than the law requires me to do. And I’d like to take another step, which I hope will remove what appears to be the principal obstacle and the principal concern expressed by Sen. Nunn and other senators, and I would like to read this pledge, if you want to call it that. Noting the principal concern of Sen. Nunn and other members of the Senate, relative to my confirmation as secretary of defense, namely the extent to which I may engage in excessive use of beverage alcohol, let me state that I have never been an alcoholic nor dependent on alcohol.
However, to allay any fears or doubts on this matter, I hereby swear and undertake that, if confirmed, during the course of my tenure as secretary of defense, I will not consume beverage alcohol of any type or form, including wine, beer or spirits of any kind.
WILL: Was there a point prior to this pledge, which is a quite decisive one, was there any point at which you did, you could point to and say: ‘There, I changed.’
TOWER: Yes. Twelve years, I gave up spirits. I used to be a pretty good Scotch drinker. And I gave up, I haven’t tasted Scotch in 12 years. After that I had only wine. Had perhaps an occasional martini, occasionally a little vodka with smoked salmon or caviar or something like that. But that was just occasionally. I really essentially have been a wine drinker. And now, my only consumption is wine at meals. I don’t drink wine even unless I’m eating.
WILL: Now, Sen. Nunn says that it would be unfortunate to reopen these hearings and put people under oath. Do you, I know you don’t want to give the committee advice, but do you think it would be unfortunate to you? That is, what do you have to lose at this point, the committee having already . . .
TOWER: I don’t think it would be . . .
WILL: . . . voted against you.
TOWER: . . . because I’ve probably, my reputation and character have been damaged as much as they can be by the allegations that have already been floated. So, I have high confidence that, if it were a balanced presentation, that is to say, if both favorable and unfavorable witnesses were subpoenaed, that I have high confidence I would come out on top. I think around 400 people were interviewed in the FBI inquiry. I have been more thoroughly investigated and more thoroughly scrutinized than any public figure.
DONALDSON: Senator . . . by making that pledge today, it seems to me you’re admitting you have a drinking problem.
TOWER: I anticipated that question, Sam, because, in vetting this with some of my friends, they said that’s the spin that would be put on it . . . . No, I said in the statement that I am not an alcoholic nor have I ever been dependent on alcohol.
DONALDSON: Then why would you make a pledge when you say there’s no reason to?
TOWER: Why not? Well, why not make it? It’s a small thing to do to allay doubts and fears. I didn’t have to recuse myself on matters of suspension and disbarment involving former clients of mine. But I did so anyway. I took that extra step. This is an extra step that is really not terribly significant as far as I’m concerned. As far as my own personal . . . .
DONALDSON: I must say, senator . . . .
TOWER: It is not an admission. I just . . . .
DONALDSON: Where does it end?
TOWER: Wait a minute. I just read the letter from my doctor who . . . and there is no proof that I have a chronic problem. And, so, I think that this . . . nobody has ever accused me of being dishonest and not being a man of my word . . . and I will live in a goldfish bowl, so there will be plenty of enforcers out there.
DONALDSON: . . . Now, when allegations are raised that you’re a womanizer, should you take a pledge not to go out with women?
TOWER: I’m a single man. I do date women.
DONALDSON: Well, exactly. I’m asking you . . . .
TOWER: I’ve been a single man for 3 1/2 . . . .
DONALDSON: When you start down this road . . . .
TOWER: What is your definition of ‘womanizing,’ Sam?
DONALDSON: Well, it’s not mine. The accusations . . .
TOWER: Well . . . .
DONALDSON: . . . are made against you and may have no basis in fact.
TOWER: But womanize is a broad term. What is your definition of the term?
DONALDSON: I don’t know. I simply . . .
TOWER: Well, all right.
DONALDSON: . . . say to you that if you take . . .
TOWER: Cokie, do you have a definition of the term?
ROBERTS: Well, I think most women have a . . . know it when they see it, senator. But . . . .
TOWER: Uh-huh. But, you still can’t define it.
DONALDSON: Sen. Tower, Sen. Nunn said today that he asked whether you would consent to having doctors inspect you along with your own personal physicians, to having people who are trained in alcoholism in the medical profession, and you said: “No.” You wouldn’t do it.
TOWER: Wait a minute. All I remember of a conversation with Sen. Nunn was after he viewed my medical report, I guess about a month ago. I suggested that he could name any doctors that he wanted to interrogate my doctors. Now, that’s as far as it went. And he said he might do that. I did not object to such . . . but I don’t really think that’s . . . that would be saying that my doctors are not men of professional integrity. And there could be another supporting statement from two other doctors that attended me.
DONALDSON: Well, would you . . . .
TOWER: And, too, wait a minute, friend. Let me add something else, that the FBI went through my medical records back from 1975 and came up with the same thing, that there’s no evidence. Now, I don’t know what an examination by an independent doctor would tell you other than what’s already been said by my existing medical records. Would it be a psychiatric examination or something like that? No, I’m not going to submit to that, and why should I? No other Cabinet nominee has ever been required to do that. Members of the Senate or of the House are not required to do that. I think that you take my doctors’ word on the basis of their professional competence. And they can be interviewed by other doctors of the committee’s own choosing.