Another Reason for Tower's Cabinet Defeat

In a story on secrecy in Washington, Post writer Sally Quinn drops a bomb on the late Sen. John Tower:

... John Tower, the powerful Republican senator from Texas, was nominated to be secretary of defense, a job he badly wanted. Tower had a reputation as a serious womanizer. It was a poorly kept secret on the Hill, but most women wouldn't talk. Only one or two had the guts to speak up. Tower, who was a friend of my father, had attempted to sexually assault me when I was 18 and a college freshman. Embarrassed and ashamed, I had kept this story a closely guarded secret for years.

One day, during Tower's confirmation hearings, two FBI officials showed up at my front door and asked me to tell them about the incident. I refused to confirm it. "But you don't understand," one of them said to me, "this will be totally confidential." I burst out laughing. "Are you kidding?" I said. "Where do you think The Washington Post gets its stories? From guys like you who leak."

As it turned out, there were enough stories like mine to deny Tower his confirmation. And later, Anita Hill made a mistake I did not, when she agreed to testify "confidentially" about Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Tower, who died in a 1991 plane crash, had a reputation as a drunken womanizer that helped defeat his nomination by the first President Bush to be Defense Secretary -- the first Cabinet choice rejected by the Senate in 30 years.

Tower's never been accused of attempted rape before, based on my search of news accounts. When his treatment of women was scrutinized during the 1989 confirmation process, the public only heard about Benny Hill-style shenanigans like chasing a secretary around a desk. In 1998, Washington Times columnist Suzanne Fields even wrote that he was rejected "because he was seen putting a hand on the knee of a woman under the table at a restaurant."

Tower's entire FBI file was shared confidentially with senators. If any sex-assault allegations were included, that detail didn't make the press, according to the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997:

While the raw FBI files contained words like "extremely inebriated" from unnamed witnesses, and the final report apparently concluded that Tower had once had a drinking problem, the White House concluded that the FBI did not corroborate the most serious charges against him.

The Senate has had its share of notorious horndogs in recent decades, including Bob Packwood, Strom Thurmond, Gary Hart, and Ted Kennedy. Tower once said of Thurmond, imagining his future funeral, "they'll have to beat his pecker down with a baseball bat to close the coffin lid."

If Tower's behavior with women reached a point that his fellow senators took offense, there had to be some horrible stuff in that FBI file.

Comments

And your point? The man is dead. Let him rest in peace. If you want to point out some of the great womanizers, drunks, and general jackasses of our time, why not look within your own party at Ted Kennedy. That man has more skeletons in his closet than a chiropractor.

There are plenty of 'living' examples on both sides of the aisle that would make a more appropriate target. I think it is decidedly convenient that the victim brings this up now, when there is no opportunity for the man to defend himself.

I think it's a pretty cheap shot.

I'd say Quinn's remark about Sen. Tower is either malicious libel (if the assault didn't happen) or just desserts (if it did). Hard to know with no corroborating details.

Though Tower's long gone, his rejection as Cabinet secretary in 1989 helped feed the current level of partisan acrimony in Washington. Republicans, fed in large part by the senator's own complaints, believe he was wronged. That's why I'm interested personally. I grew up in Texas and have always wondered if the guy was right to believe he got a raw deal.

David K. above writes that you should talk about Ted Kennedy or other Democrats with bad records on this. If David had bothered to read carefully he would have learned that you not only point out Ted Kennedy, but also Gary Hart both of whom are Democrats. David is showing his Republican Party credentials by being blind to criticism of the Democratic Party so often included in the Corporate-Owned Media these days that it goes without notice by so many who agree with it.

To amplify my point, here's how Tower was mentioned by Dick Meyer of CBS News in May: "If I had to etch a date on the tombstone of The Senate Club it would be March 9, 1989, the day the Senate rejected former four-term Texas Sen. John Tower as defense secretary under the first President Bush -- only the ninth time in history that a Cabinet-level nominee had been rejected."

I'd love to see some light shed on the behind-the-scenes intrigue that might have motivated his buddy senators to stick a shiv in his back.

Rogers,

One point you seem to be making is one can't trust the FBI to keep it confidental - certainly ironic and timely given the recent Deep Throat unvieling - interesting point IMHO and one to think about ...

"I'd love to see some light shed on the behind-the-scenes intrigue that might have motivated his buddy senators to stick a shiv in his back."

Me too. It could be even more creepy than him being a pervert. That's what made me not want to be a journalist, the realization that anyone with access the really interesting stuff about politics would be incapable of relating them to the public for fear of never getting to hear anything interesting again.

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