The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

That John Tower nomination fight

John Tower I've noted as the first US Senator from the Confederacy since Jeter Pritchard of Tennessee (January 12).

Tower is also notable (not that it had stuck in my puny brain) for a knock-down, drag-out nomination fight in 1989 for Secretary of Defense that Daddy George Bush lost.

I come to it through a piece on Keith Poole's site [1] detailing John Kerry's Voting Record.

It's pretty useless for the 99th and 100th because the relevant materials aren't there in THOMAS. So I mosey over to the 101st page on which, after a whole bunch of more or less unanimous confirmations - including (RC 19) anti-Christ Thomas Pickering as UN Ambassador - we get to Tower (RC 20), who was rejected 53-47 [2].

Tower's confirmation was a whole big deal; it seems that his problem was cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women - mostly, the second - according to a Texas Observer piece
In humiliating testimony during his confirmation hearings, however, it emerged that Senator Tower had been drunk for most of his tenure in the United States Senate, and was not a good bet for keeping the nuclear peace. Moreover, he liked to dress up in a Superman costume and frequent Capitol Hill bars, where he lunged at the ladies [3].

(The fact that highest body of lawmakers in the land had previously clasped the randy old piss-artist to its bosom for nigh on fourteen years is not to be wondered at. Ol' Strom Thurmond lasted nigh on fifty!)

He wasn't a nice guy (as if that was a requirement of office!), according to a 2001 Ken Rudin piece [4]:
It would be an understatement to say that Tower, who did not seek reelection in 1984, was not the most likable senator in the joint. He was often perceived as a bully who would rather knock some heads than charm fellow senators to win over their votes.

And he liked defence contractors [5] - as a political consultant [6], his gig after leaving the Senate and whitewashing Reagan over Iran-Contra (Tower timeline).

There is a spooky six degrees connection with John Kerry - Tower was killed in a plane crash in Georgia on April 5 1991; John Heinz was killed in a plane crash in Pennsylvania - the day before! It's a conspiracy theorist's wet dream.

The list of Senate rejections of Cabinet nominations is a select one - headed by no less than Roger Taney, future Chief Justice. Apart from Tower, the only nominations to be rejected in the 20th century were Charles B Warren, Coolidge's pick as Attorney-General in 1925, and Lewis L Strauss, Eisenhower's for Commerce in 1959 [7].

Strauss, apparently, was the nemesis of Robert Oppenheimer at the Atomic Energy Commission, but his
arrogance and his insistence that he was always right made him unpopular on Capitol Hill.

Stupid idea to nominate him for Commerce Secretary, then.
Strauss perjured himself during the confirmation hearings - but strangely did not go the way of Alger Hiss.

  1. Plenty of stuff their for the poli-sci nerd. Software that produces results that look as if Bill Gates had never been born. Hey! - Gates is my blankie...

  2. It was party-line - the state of the parties was 55-45 - bar four: the historically fruitful Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS) (June 24 2004) voted against; Dems voting for were Bentsen (D-TX), Dodd (D-CT) and Heflin (D-AL).

  3. Did Nancy Landon Kassebaum vote against him because he lunged at her? Or, perhaps, because he didn't?

  4. Paul Weyrich, a leading conservative activist according to Rubin, was the first to attack Tower's character at the confirmation hearings, and opened the floodgates.

  5. In a delicious piece of poetic justice, Tower came into the Senate in 1961 winning a special election to replace 'Landslide Lyndon' Johnson - who defrauded his way into the place and whose best pal in all the world was Herman Brown of Brown and Root - now part of Halliburton. That good ol' Texas politics now reaches north to Wyoming, of course...

  6. His company - Tower, Eggers and Greene, Inc - is apparently namechecked online just three times - here and a couple of other Tower bios. He ran the company from 1987 till his death in 1991.

  7. On Warren, there is anecdotage: Vice President Charles Dawes
    had left the Senate chamber to take a nap, not realizing that a vote on which he could have broken the tie to confirm Warren's nomination was being taken, because the vote had come earlier than he expected. As a result of this incident, "dawsing" was used as a term to refer to someone who had "fallen asleep at the switch".
    (The page says Warren's nomination was for the Supreme Court: do you want anecdotes or accuracy? I thought so...)

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