Menu
Image 1 of
Zoom In
Zoom Out
Fullscreen

President George H. W. Bush’s message nominating John Goodwin Tower as Secretary of Defense, January 20, 1989

In 1989 newly elected President George H. W. Bush nominated former senator John Goodwin Tower of Texas as secretary of defense. Tower had served in the Senate from 1961 to 1985, chaired its Armed Services Committee, and later led a commission to investigate the National Security Council. Although he sometimes disagreed with more conservative Republicans, his appointment was expected to be readily confirmed.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

President George H. W. Bush’s message nominating John Goodwin Tower as Secretary of Defense, January 20, 1989

The Senate Rejects a Cabinet Nominee

President George H. W. Bush nominated John Goodwin Tower, a former U.S. senator from Texas, to be secretary of defense in his first cabinet. Tower had served twenty years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and chaired it for three, so his confirmation seemed assured. Hearings on Tower’s nomination grew rancorous, however, as allegations about alcoholism, womanizing, and consulting for defense contractors aroused concerns about national security and conflicts of interest. The Senate voted largely on party lines to reject Tower’s nomination.

Nominations of standing and former senators to cabinet positions are not guaranteed Senate approval. In 1989, for the first time, the Senate rejected the nomination of one of their former colleagues for a cabinet post.