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John Tower's Nomination for Secretary of Defense – 1989

Feeding Frenzy U.S. Senate confirmation of a president's Cabinet nomination of a former U.S. senator is usually pro forma. But the treatment of George Bush's pick for secretary of defense, ex-Texas senator John Tower, was anything but standard.

After five grueling weeks of testimony, debate, and rumor-mongering, Tower's nomination was defeated in March 1989 by a mostly party-line vote. Accusations of extensive womanizing and heavy drinking filled the airwaves and newspapers, supplementing more traditional charges of conflict-of-interest in Tower's previous work for defense contractors.

Many media organizations unquestionably let their standards slip, with unproven allegations receiving equal weight with legitimate commentary. By the time of the final Senate vote, Tower felt compelled to make a humiliating public pledge on national television to abstain from drinking if confirmed, on pain of resignation if he broke his promise.

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© Copyright 1998 Larry J. Sabato

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