Bush Secretly Taped from 1998-2000
As George W. Bush was first moving onto the national political stage, he often turned for advice to an old friend who secretly taped some of their private conversations, creating a rare record of the future president as a politician and a personality. In the last several weeks, that friend, Doug Wead, an author and former aide to Mr. Bush’s father, disclosed the tapes’ existence to a reporter and played about a dozen of them.
Variously earnest, confident or prickly in those conversations, Mr. Bush weighs the political risks and benefits of his religious faith, discusses campaign strategy and comments on rivals. John McCain “will wear thin,” he predicted. John Ashcroft, he confided, would be a “very good Supreme Court pick” or a “fabulous” vice president. And in exchanges about his handling of questions from the news media about his past, Mr. Bush appears to have acknowledged trying marijuana.
Mr. Wead said he recorded the conversations because he viewed Mr. Bush as a historic figure, but he said he knew that the president might regard his actions as a betrayal. As the author of a new book about presidential childhoods, Mr. Wead could benefit from any publicity, but he said that was not a motive in disclosing the tapes.
Oh, certainly not. Publicity from revealing secretly recorded private conversations with a future president? Perish the thought.
If the NYT story is any indication, though, there are no real surprises here. Indeed, the indication is that it might well be helpful to Bush.
Mr. Bush, who has acknowledged a drinking problem years ago, told Mr. Wead on the tapes that he could withstand scrutiny of his past. He said it involved nothing more than “just, you know, wild behavior.” He worried, though, that allegations of cocaine use would surface in the campaign, and he blamed his opponents for stirring rumors. “If nobody shows up, there’s no story,” he told Mr. Wead, “and if somebody shows up, it is going to be made up.” But when Mr. Wead said that Mr. Bush had in the past publicly denied using cocaine, Mr. Bush replied, “I haven’t denied anything.”
He refused to answer reporters’ questions about his past behavior, he said, even though it might cost him the election. Defending his approach, Mr. Bush said: “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”
He mocked Vice President Al Gore for acknowledging marijuana use. “Baby boomers have got to grow up and say, yeah, I may have done drugs, but instead of admitting it, say to kids, don’t do them,” he said.
Either the Bush or the Gore stance on this one is defensible, I think, but the rationale for Gore’s position is mostly political while Bush’s is about broader societal goals.
via Bill Hennessy, who has some thoughts on the piece as well.