The Granddaddy of failed cabinet nominations was President Andrew Johnson's attempt to appoint Lorenzo Thomas as Secretary of War in 1868. It was not the first such appointment, but it was the only one that resulted in the impeachment of a U.S. President.
|"The Situation," unsigned in Harper's Weekly, March 7, 1868|
The Senate ultimately fell one vote shy of the 2/3 majority needed to convict Johnson, but by then, the president had agreed to withdraw Thomas's nomination. Stanton didn't get the job back either; Gen. John Schofield served as Secretary of War for the remaining months of the Johnson administration.
The Thomas episode revolved about momentous policy issues of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Modern Day failed nominations so far have not risen to the level of impeachable offenses, but we'll see what happens when Trump tries to replace the top echelons of the Justice Department with Michael Cohen, Jared Kushner, and whoever does his hair.
For the first time in history, the Senate rejected an incoming president's cabinet nominee, voting 47-53 against their former colleague. Some Senators were only too happy to give Tower his comeuppance. "They're pretty straightforward what they do in Beirut," Tower said later, comparing Washington D.C. to the then war-torn capital of Lebanon. "They hurl a grenade at someone or shoot a machine gun. Up here, it's a little more subtle, but just as ruthless, just as brutal. They kill you in a different way."
Bush's replacement nomination of Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney went off without a hitch, and I'll probably come back to this cartoon again someday. But let's move on to the next administration and its stumble out of the blocks trying to name an Attorney General.
Zoë Baird was Bill Clinton's first nominee to head the Justice Department in 1993, but was compelled to withdraw after it became public that she and her husband had hired undocumented immigrants as nanny and chauffeur; moreover, they had not paid required Social Security taxes on those employees' wages. It turned out that Clinton's second choice, Kimba Wood, had also hired an undocumented immigrant as a nanny; but unlike Baird, she had paid the woman's Social Security taxes. Wood had done nothing illegal, but the stink of "Nannygate" resulted in Clinton going with his third choice, Janet Reno.
Nor was Clinton quite finished fumbling his Justice Department appointments. He withdrew his appointment of Lani Guinier as Assistant Attorney General in June of 1993 over Republican complaints that her academic writings supposedly revealed her to be a "quota queen."
Kimba Wood, by the way, has been back in the news lately as the judge presiding over motions arising out of the search warrant of Trump affair-fixer Michael Cohen's home and office.
Returning to the Clinton Administration: After the resignation of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin in December, 1993, Clinton named Admiral Bobby Ray Inman to replace him. Aspin had not been popular within the Pentagon, and took the fall for military fatalities in Somalia.
At first, Inman's appointment basked in bipartisan support; but then he abruptly withdrew his nomination, angrily complaining to the press about New York Times columnist William Safire accusing him of "anti-Israel bias." Inman also claimed that Senators Bob Dole (R-KS) and Trent Lott (R-MS) were planning to "turn up the heat" on his nomination, which both senators denied.
There have been other unsuccessful cabinet nominations since these, but none that I have cartooned about, I'm afraid. As had Baird and Wood, a couple of George W. Bush's nominees had undocumented immigrant troubles; now that we have a president whose hotels, golf courses and other assorted ventures have no doubt seen their share of undocumented workers, I guess that's not such a big deal any more. The Obama administration started off with a trio of failed cabinet nominations: Tom Daschle, Bill Richardson and Judd Gregg all withdrew from consideration for one reason or another.
I don't recall any of those past presidents calling up cable TV morning news crews to throw a tantrum live on the air, however. Unless perhaps Andrew Johnson sent a nasty telegram to Harper's Weekly.