Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, pointed out a major irony during debate on John Tower's nomination as secretary of defense: "The public elects a lot of drunks," he said referring to some fellow senators, but those same drunks won't vote to confirm Tower because of his drinking.
Garn said that he had never seen Tower drunk when he was a senator nor had he seen Tower's ability impaired by drinking. But he cannot say the same about other Senate colleagues."Some in this body to this day, we are well aware, have a problem. We are aware of it. I would certainly be the last person to mention any names on this floor or off the floor. But there is a double standard going that I am very disappointed in after all these years in the Senate," Garn said during the debate.
The Washington Times newspaper wasn't so squeamish to name names.
It said, for example, that Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., often have drunk excessively together, become boisterous and made sexual advances to waitresses and young female patrons in Washington area restaurants.
In one incident at the LaColline restaurant, the Times said, Kennedy and Dodd removed their portraits from the wall and smashed them because they thought they were ugly. They were restrained when they tried to smash other congressmen's portraits.
The Times said last year that at the La Brasserie restaurant, a waitress walked in on Kennedy in a private dining room and found him having sex.
Roll Call, a weekly newspaper on Capitol Hill, reported that a few weeks ago, Kennedy - again after drinking heavily - found himself in a yelling match with a patron, and both marched into the parking lot to fight. But no punches were actually thrown.
All of that comes besides Kennedy's infamous "Chappaquiddick incident," where he drove off a bridge after a party, and a young female companion drowned. Kennedy was a candidate for president in 1980.
Some of the other incidents that the Times mentioned include Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich., being found in 1976 by The Detroit News to be having a three-way extramarital affair. He later admitted having affairs with the two women, one of whom he later married - and subsequently divorced.
Also, Sen. Brock Adams, D-Wash., was accused last year of drugging and sexually assaulting the 24-year-old daughter of a longtime family friend. She claimed she was drugged while they were having dinner at his house, and she woke up the next morning in his bed while he was fondling her. Adams said he merely asked her to stay the night and denies all other allegations.
Such scandals have not been limited to Democrats.
Sen. David Durenberger, R-Minn., had a much publicized affair with his young secretary, for whom he left his wife in 1985. At the time, Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., complained that Durenberger's sexual dalliance posed a risk to national security because Durenberger was then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. No action was taken against him, however.
All of that begs a question: If Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., is correct in his claims that Tower's drinking and moral indiscretions would make him a national security risk as defense secretary, why wouldn't the same actions by senators themselves - especially those on sensitive intelligence and armed services committees - also threaten security?
If action is taken against Tower - as may be justified - then it seems it would also be needed against senators who do the same sorts of things.
Until now, known sexual affairs and drinking problems - including convictions for drunken driving - have been mostly disregarded by House and Senate ethics committees. Action has usually been taken only in cases where members of Congress had affairs with underage pages or other employees.
Before senators can throw stones at cabinet nominees, they must first clean their own house. If they believe in the principle of repentance for themselves, they should also believe in it for cabinet appointees.