John Tower


John Tower, the son of a Methodist minister, was born in Houston, Texas, on 29th September, 1925. Educated at Beaumont High School, Tower enlisted in the United States Navy in June 1943. During the Second World War Tower served on an amphibious gunboat in the Pacific.

After the war Tower studied political science at the Southwestern University. For a while he worked as an insurance agent in Dallas. He combined this with attending classes at the Southern Methodist University. In 1951 Tower accepted a position as assistant professor of political science at Midwestern University. The following year he moved to the London School of Economics (LSE). While in London he carried out research into the Conservative Party.

In 1953 Tower returned to the Midwestern University. He also became involved in the Republican Party in Texas. He was an unsuccessful in his attempts to be elected to Congress. However, in 1956 he represented Texas in the Republican National Convention.

Tower won the Republican Party nomination to take on Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960. Johnson easily won the election but as he was also elected as vice president, he had to resign his seat in the Senate. Tower beat his Democratic Party candidate, William Blakely, in May, 1961. He therefore became the first Republican senator elected in Texas since 1870.

Tower served on the Senate Armed Services Committee (1965-1985) and the Joint Committee on Defense Production (1963-1977). Tower, eventually replaced Richard Russell as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He developed a reputation for promoting areas of commerce important to Texans.

In January, 1985, Tower retired from the Senate in order to become a highly-paid defense consultant. Two weeks laterPresident Ronald Reagan appointed him as chief United States negotiator at the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks in Geneva. He resigned in April, 1986, to continue his career as chairman of Tower, Eggers, and Greene Consulting, a company based in Dallas and Washington. In November 1986, Reagan persuaded Tower to chair the President's Special Review Board to study the actions of the National Security Council and its staff during the Iran-Contra affair.

In 1989 President George Bush selected Tower to become his Secretary of Defense. However, the Senate refused to confirm his nomination because of his alleged excessive drinking and womanizing. There were also rumours about his links with the arms industry. AsSteven Waldman reported in the Washington Monthly: "There was no solid proof Tower did anything illegal when he was a defense consultant after leaving government, but his closeness to the industry makes it doubtful he would have been sufficiently critical of contractors' products and claims." This was the first rejection of a cabinet nominee in more than 30 years.

In 1990 Bush appointed Tower as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Tower published his autobiography, Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir in 1991.

John Tower was killed in a plane crash new New Brunswick, Georgia, on 5th April, 1991. According to the New York Times the “failure of a severely worn part in the plane’s propeller control unit caused the aircraft to spin out of control.” This was a day after his friend, John Heinz, had also died when his Piper Aerostar PA60 came down after colliding with a helicopter in Montgomery County.

Primary Sources

(1) Museum of the Gulf Coast, John Tower (2003)

Considered an ultraconservative, during his 23 years in the Senate, Tower became an authority in matters concerning national defense and the military. As defense spending rose to $211 billion a year, Tower brought prized defense contracts to Texas. In 1981, he became chairman of the Armed Services Committee. In 1984, Tower decided not to seek re-election. He worked instead as a highly-paid defense consultant.

In 1985, President Reagan named Tower to the post of strategic arms negotiator with the Soviet Union. The following year, he appointed Tower to chair a bipartisan committee to investigate the Iran-contra scandal. George Bush nominated Tower for Secretary of Defense in 1989, but critics claimed he had too many ties to defense contractors. His was the first rejection of a cabinet nominee in more than 30 years.

(2) Victor Thorn, George Bush & John Kerry: Blood Brothers, World Independent News Group (2004)

According to researcher Rodney Stich in Defrauding America, when George Bush Sr. and CIA Director William Casey engineered the October Surprise to bribe Iranian officials into retaining US hostages until after the 1980 elections, two of the passengers on Bush’s BAC 111 flight to Paris were Senator John Heinz, along with Senator John Tower from Texas.

Even more intriguing is the fact that John Heinz chaired a three-man presidential review board that probed the Iran-Contra affair and had in his possession all the damning documents from that sordid affair, while John Tower led the infamous Tower Commission that investigated a variety of different CIA criminal activities and dirty dealings. Coincidentally, both John Heinz and John Tower died in plane wrecks on successive days in 1991 – Tower in Georgia, and Heinz in Montgomery County, Pa. Once again I must ask: what are the odds of such an occurrence, especially when both men had close ties to George Bush Sr., who was a former CIA director in the mid-1970s? Did both of these men uncover information that they refused to keep silent about any longer?

(3) Steven Waldman, Washington Monthly (March, 1991)

Time after time, someone made a charge, the FBI investigated it, and then the fact that the FBI was looking into it gave the charge credence-even if it was found to be untrue. Consider this report in the Los Angeles Times: "Tower, according to unsubstantiated stories, is a womanizer and has a drinking problem. The tales were inspired by Tower's recent divorce. One particularly wild-and wholly unfounded-story has Tower barred from Australia because of a drunken spree there." And L.A. Times editor Shelby Coffey's mother wears army boots, a wholly unreliable source once told me.

Having said all that, I must add: Boy, am I glad John Tower isn't defense secretary. Not because of "womanizing." And not primarily because of his drinking, which was troubling, but ultimately not conclusive enough to reject any nominee who was otherwise outstanding. The problem was that Tower was not otherwise outstanding - because of his relationship with the defense industry and his stewardship of the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Reagan defense build-up. There was no solid proof Tower did anything illegal when he was a defense consultant after leaving government, but his closeness to the industry makes it doubtful he would have been sufficiently critical of contractors' products and claims.

Looking back through the press coverage of the confirmation battle, it is staggering how little attention was given to Tower's role as chairman of the Armed Services Committee from 1981 to 1985, as the Pentagon and Congress squandered a trillion dollars. Here, the public was ill served by the media's predilection toward certain types of critical reporting and its avoidance of others. It vigorously pursues "character" issues-sometimes legitimate, sometimes not-because they're fun to write and read about. The press is also good at tracking down corruption because it involves the breaking of predefined rules. Since the rules were written by other people, the media doesn't have to judge their appropriateness, just whether they were violated. But when it comes to policy dereliction-remember the S&L crisis?-the press finds itself unequipped (who am I to say if a billion dollars should have been spent on that weapons system?), uninterested (covering policy means studying minutiae), or unwilling (no one ever won a Pulitzer for analyzing how a piece of legislation got screwed up).

Tower says he was a military reformer all along. I'm no defense expert, but one statement from his book casts serious doubt on his bona fides: "Waste, fraud, and abuse [in the Pentagon] wouldn't have amounted to even a billion dollars. . . . The money was spent well." Does he honestly believe that the Pentagon has wasted only .05 percent of its budget? The B-1 bomber alone is a waste of $20 billion. Unwise and consent

Tower feels that an irrational, runaway process chewed him up, ignoring his defense expertise and past service to his country. What's more, "the rules of ethical conduct are constantly shifting with little or no warning" - and he ticks off the names of senators who drank a lot more than he did, believe you me.

(4) Sherman H. Skolnick, The Overthrow Of The American Republic (2004)

Two U.S. Senators knew too much themselves about the murder of President Kennedy; about treason committed by Ronald Reagan and the Elder Bush in the Iran-Contra Affair; about how the American CIA and various foreign intelligence agencies used BCCI to launder funds for political assassinations, committed within the US and overseas.

One such Senator was John Tower (R., Texas). He headed up what became known as the Tower Commission which whitewashed the criminality of Reagan and Daddy Bush as to Iran-Contra. The other one was Senator John Heinz (R., Penn.) Heinz knew too much about fellow US Senator Arlen Specter (R., Penn.) Specter had previously been on the staff of the infamous Warren Commission. Specter formulated the big lie that a single pristine bullet, marked Warren Commission Exhibit 399, somehow wounded John Connally in the limousine with JFK, and blew out Kennedy's brains. Cynics contend the bullet still circles the planet and no doubt, under Specter's big lie, also killed Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy, and a host of other assassination victims.

In the spring of 1991, just as we were verifying the bribery list, Senators Tower and Heinz were both assassinated, a few days apart. Both, in separate sabotaged plane crashes. By October, 1991, our exclusive story about the bribery list ran in a populist newspaper, "Spotlight" (later defunct after publishing continuously for 25 years). They had from us the bribery list and ran the complete story, but at the last minute, deleted the list from my story.