The Democratic-controlled Senate is striving to put the rancorous debate over John Tower's failed nomination behind it, but many Republicans say the wounds are deep and will not easily heal.
"Never in all my years in the Senate have I encountered anything like the feeling of outrage that exists today among my former Republican Senate colleagues," Vice President Dan Quayle said in a speech prepared for delivery Friday in Indianapolis. "Never have I encountered such anger and bitterness in the Senate chamber.""This goes into the memory banks," said Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, after the Senate scuttled Tower's bid to become defense secretary and prepared to begin the confirmation process anew for the replacement President Bush will soon select.
Quayle accused Tower's critics of engaging in "a McCarthyite mudslinging campaign" that he said had "degraded the Senate."
Tower's 53-47 rejection on Thursday, just 49 days into Bush's presidency, represented a major setback for his administration and opened the floodgates of speculation on who might be the next choice to run the Pentagon.
On various lists were: former defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and James Schlesinger; Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, a principal defender of Tower in the Senate debate; and former Rep. Jack Edwards, R-Ala.
Other names mentioned were Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a former Navy secretary; Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H.; former Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis; Frank Borman, onetime astronaut turned business executive; and Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser and a Bush supporter in the presidential campaign. Brent Scowcroft, Bush's national security adviser, also was mentioned although he said he would stay in his current post.
Edwards, for nine years the senior Republican on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, "is not involved in seeking nor is he interested in being secretary of defense," his law office said in a statement.
Warner, asked on NBC's "Today" show Friday morning whether he would be interested in the job, said: "I can best serve my president and also the people of Virginia by staying where I am. I'm pledged to fill out this Senate term, and I'm going to stand for re-election (in 1990)."
The naming of a new candidate for defense secretary gains added urgency in light of evidence the Pentagon is close to bureaucratic paralysis because of the time lost in the bruising battle over Tower.
Decisions need to be made across the Pentagon, including the staffing of key positions, Bush's plan to cut almost $6.4 billion from the Pentagon budget, and on a special 90-day strategic military policy review the president has set in motion.
In a statement he read minutes after the Senate vote, Tower said: "I will be recorded as the first Cabinet nominee in the history of the republic to be rejected in the first 90 days of a presidency and perhaps be harshly judged.
"But I depart from this place at peace with myself, knowing that I have given a full measure of devotion to my country," he continued. "No public figure in my memory has been subjected to such a far-reaching and thorough investigation nor had his human foibles bared to such intensive and demeaning public scrutiny."
In the Senate, Democratic leaders turned to damage control to limit the impact of Tower's rejection on the bipartisan spirit that seemed about to bloom in the days immediately after Bush's inauguration.
But many Republicans said the bitterness would linger.
Dole had much to say, condemning a confirmation process he said had become a "hotbed of character assassination" and "a pitched partisan battle."
"The partisan taste of this debate is going to linger," said Sen. Robert Kasten, R-Wis. "This is going to make it damn tough for us to act in much of a bipartisan manner in the months ahead."
"Bipartisanship is not going to be automatically restored unless the majority wants it restored," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
But Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine voiced the optimistic view of many senior Democrats when he said: "There will be no long-term adverse effects within the Senate."
"We must work together in the future because the national interest compels us to do so," he said. "I know it is difficult now in the heat and anger of the moment, but that is precisely what I ask of my colleagues."
Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., who said he feared the scrap over Tower might mark "the first battle in an all-out war between Congress and the president," said he had been reassured by Mitchell's words.
Garn, Hatch upset
Utah's Republican senators have expressed disappointment and anger in the Senate's 53-47 rejection of John Tower as defense secretary.
Jake Garn accused Democrats of judging the nominee by a double standard and Hatch charged that the Democrats gave Tower "a very raw deal.'
Garn said the Senate "started with crucifying Bork . . . when he was undoubtedly one of the best qualified people that has ever been recommended for the Supreme Court. Now we're doing it to a defense expert (Tower), who could do a good job at Defense. So we've had two examples of that; I'd like to see it stopped and people judged on their qualifications to do the job."
Hatch said, "After I saw what they (Senate Democrats) did to Robert Bork, I thought I'd seen it all. I was mistaken. I think that John Tower got a very raw deal."