Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole suggested Friday that Defense Secretary-designate John Tower be allowed to stand on the Senate floor to answer the allegations against him.
"If we owe Senator Tower anything, we owe him the right to say, `I've had my day in court,' " Dole said. "Let John Tower stand right there, speak from the well."Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, said he would be "happy to consider any request" by the minority leader, but gave no indication on how the proposal would fare.
Dole did not formally ask for permission for Tower, once a senator himself, to speak from the floor, but said he was considering introducing such a motion.
Earlier in the day, conservative Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., announced his opposition to Tower.
Dole asked the Senate's presiding officer, Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., whether lawmakers debating the nomination could discuss the number of witnesses quoted in the FBI report, the ratio of favorable and unfavorable witnesses and a series of other questions about what would be permissible in the debate.
In each instance, Kerrey responded no.
Arguing that such limitations make it impossible "to get at the truth," Dole raised the possibility of bringing Tower to the floor "to answer his critics face-to-face, charge-by-charge, rumor-by-rumor."
Dole also suggested that perhaps the nomination should be sent back to the Armed Services Committee.
Mitchell said he is "profoundly troubled by difficulties which attend this process" and said it might be necessary to hold a closed session of the Senate to engage in a full and complete debate on the nomination.
DeConcini, who met privately at the White House with Bush earlier this week and had hinted he might support the nominee, said instead that the nation "cannot take a chance" with Tower.
"I believe that Senator Tower is not the proper person for this sensitive position in these critical times," DeConcini said in a statement.
Faced with a so-far solid Democratic opposition to the nomination, Bush traveled to the Pentagon for the latest in a string of presidential gestures in support of Tower.
Tower; Adm. William Crowe, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Brent Scowcroft, the president's national security adviser, greeted Bush when the president's motorcade arrived at the Pentagon.
The four then walked up the building's front steps, flanked on both sides by a color guard from the four services.
Bush, when asked as he posed for photographers before the briefing began why he was there, replied, as he has before, that he does not take questions as such "photo opportunities."