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John Tower's Rocky Road

February 09, 1989

Nov. 8 -- George Bush is elected President. Within days, FBI begins background check of his leading candidate for defense secretary, John Tower. The probe focuses on allegations of excessive drinking, womanizing and ties to the defense industry.

Dec. 16--Bush ends weeks of speculation by announcing Tower's nomination, saying the long investigation cleared Tower of any serious impropriety. "I am totally satisfied in that regard because the investigation was extensive," Bush says at a press conference. "I believe this matter is now totally concluded."

Jan. 25--Tower's confirmation hearings begin before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Tower pledges to attack waste and fraud in Pentagon procurement and to prepare the agency for necessary belt-tightening. Tower is "well qualified" for the post, says committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), and he predicts easy confirmation.

Jan. 26--Tower discloses during questioning that he has received $763,777 in consulting fees from six defense contractors since resigning in 1986 as a U.S. arms control negotiator. Nunn expresses concern that, if Tower removed himself from decisions involving all his former clients, he could not function as Pentagon chief.

Jan. 31--Conservative activist Paul Weyrich testifies that on a number of occasions he has seen Tower drunk and socializing with women who were not his wife. He questions whether Tower has the "moral character" for a high Cabinet post.

Feb. 1--Tower denies he has a drinking problem. "I have none, senator," he tells Nunn. "I am a man of some discipline."

Feb. 2--Armed Services Committee postpones confirmation vote after two new allegations of heavy drinking and womanizing are received. Nunn says he still expects Tower to be confirmed but that the new charges were "serious enough for us to want to check them."

Feb. 3--Two defense industry publications call on Tower to withdraw. Committee Republicans begin pushing for a vote soon. "This is terribly cruel to a man who is just sort of hanging out there," says Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.).

Feb. 7--FBI investigation is further extended when a new allegation is received--this one pertaining to defense industry contributions to Tower's campaign when he was a senator. Nunn, in White House meeting with Bush, expresses concerns about the nomination. The panel's second-ranking Democrat, J. James Exon of Nebraska, says he now opposes Tower.

Feb. 8--Committee vote is delayed until Senate returns on Feb. 21 from one-week recess. Bush stands firm. "I have seen nothing, not one substantive fact that makes me change my mind about John Tower's ability to be secretary of defense and a very good one," Bush says.

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