The 11 Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee said in a report Tuesday that John Tower has a record of excessive drinking and indiscreet behavior with women that disqualifies him from becoming President Bush’s secretary of defense.
Nine Republicans on the same committee, however, insisted that there was no credible evidence that Tower ever allowed alcohol to interfere with the performance of his duties and said he is “fully and ably qualified” to take over the Pentagon. He never had sexual liaisons that could subject him to blackmail or embarrass the United States, they added, and his other relationships with women were private and none of the committee’s business.
The 11 Democrats said Tower’s switch from being a U.S. nuclear arms negotiator to a highly paid consultant for major defense contractors “created the appearance of using inside information for private gain.” The nine GOP members, however, said the panel was trying to set a “new standard” and declared that Tower had no conflict of interest.
Backdrop for Battle
The majority and minority views were filed with the Senate, providing a written backdrop for a floor battle over Tower’s confirmation expected to begin today with odds apparently against the former Texas senator.
The detailed allegations, however, were omitted from the report and kept for senators’ eyes only in a secret repository in the form of an addition to the majority report, together with eight installments of FBI reports on Tower’s conduct.
In general, the portions made public repeated familiar arguments made by advocates and opponents of Tower’s nomination without any startling new disclosures.
The Democratic report, however, said one document relating to Tower’s service as an arms negotiator in Geneva was “destroyed” by the Office of Personnel Management “as a routine matter” despite the committee’s request for it.
Even so, the panel received another copy of the document from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the report said. The committee majority concluded there was no evidence, however, that Tower was involved with foreign nationals in a way that would constitute a security risk.
In their report, the Democrats said Tower has a number of strong qualifications for the defense secretary’s job but their overall assessment was unfavorable.
The Democrats also charged there were “significant inconsistencies” in what Tower told the FBI at first, what he told them later, what he told the committee in closed session and what he has said in public statements about his use of alcohol. But it gave no examples, saying they could be found in the addendum available for senators’ viewing only.
“These concerns included: (1) excessive use of alcohol; (2) the provision of consulting services to defense contractors on the probable outcomes of ongoing, confidential arms control negotiations shortly after serving as an arms control negotiator, which created the appearance of using public office for private gain; and (3) a number of incidents of indiscreet behavior toward women,” the report said.
Republicans, however, disagreed on all three counts. They said Tower’s private life--his relationships with women that would not subject him to blackmail or embarrass the United States--should not even be a matter for the committee’s attention.
“We reject the recommendation of the majority because it is apparently based upon a body of fact and allegation lacking the weight of corroboration required by Senate precedents of 200 years,” the nine GOP senators said.