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In Secretly Taped Conversations, Glimpses of the Future Chimpy


Doug Wead, an author and former aide to President Bush’s father, has Bush on tape saying some interesting things. (WaTimes)

Well this is an interesting development. Among other things, it looks like Chimpy partook of some weed, doesn’t make a convincing case he didn’t do blow, and that he doesn’t think very much of the American Taliban yahoos. This won’t go over well with his base, though the Freepers are probably going to blame the messenger on this one, since it is the Gray Lady. It’s a lengthy article and worth the read. (NYT):

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. [God, no — the man who can’t look at the naughty bits on statues doesn’t need to be on the high court OR a heartbeat away from the presidency.] And in exchanges about his handling of questions from the news media about his past, Mr. Bush appears to have acknowledged trying marijuana.

The conversations Mr. Wead played offer insights into Mr. Bush’s thinking from the time he was weighing a run for president in 1998 to shortly before he accepted the Republican nomination in 2000. Mr. Wead had been a liaison to evangelical Protestants for the president’s father, and the intersection of religion and politics is a recurring theme in the talks.

Preparing to meet Christian leaders in September 1998, Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead: “As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways.” He added, “I am going to say that I’ve accepted Christ into my life. And that’s a true statement.”

But Mr. Bush also repeatedly worried that prominent evangelical Christians would not like his refusal “to kick gays.” At the same time, he was wary of unnerving secular voters by meeting publicly with evangelical leaders. When he thought his aides had agreed to such a meeting, Mr. Bush complained to Karl Rove, his political strategist, “What the hell is this about?” [Well, we know he got over that reluctance, due to Rove’s prodding.]

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.” [Geez, what’s he’s saying is the evidence has disappeared and witnesses have been silenced.]

…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.

Mr. Wead first acknowledged the tapes to a reporter in December to defend the accuracy of a passage about Mr. Bush in his new book, “The Raising of a President.” He did not mention the tapes in the book or footnotes, saying he drew on them for only one page of the book. He said he never sought to sell or profit from them. He said he made the tapes in states where it was legal to do so with only one party’s knowledge.

Mr. Wead eventually agreed to play a dozen tapes on the condition that the names of any private citizens be withheld. The New York Times hired Tom Owen, an expert on audio authentication, to examine samples from the tapes. He concluded the voice was that of the president.

Later in the article, it’s more clearly outlined his differences and common ground with the evangelicals on gays. Bush knew he was going to have to play it close, given his “base” doesn’t just object to gay rights, they hate homosexuals to the core.


Bush’s oracle on how to handle questions of past pharmaceutical transgressions, televangelist James Robison.

Early on, though, Mr. Bush appeared most worried that Christian conservatives would object to his determination not to criticize gay people. “I think he wants me to attack homosexuals,” Mr. Bush said after meeting James Robison, a prominent evangelical minister in Texas.

But Mr. Bush said he did not intend to change his position. He said he told Mr. Robison: “Look, James, I got to tell you two things right off the bat. One, I’m not going to kick gays, because I’m a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?” Later, he read aloud an aide’s report from a convention of the Christian Coalition, a conservative political group: “This crowd uses gays as the enemy. It’s hard to distinguish between fear of the homosexual political agenda and fear of homosexuality, however.”

“This is an issue I have been trying to downplay,” Mr. Bush said. “I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays.” Told that one conservative supporter was saying Mr. Bush had pledged not to hire gay people, Mr. Bush said sharply: “No, what I said was, I wouldn’t fire gays.” [Now you know why the White House is well-stocked with, at the very least, a plethora of gay men.]

As early as 1998, however, Mr. Bush had already identified one gay-rights issue where he found common ground with conservative Christians: same-sex marriage. “Gay marriage, I am against that. Special rights, I am against that,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead, five years before a Massachusetts court brought the issue to national attention.

And finally, we see the well-worn pattern of explaining away Repug past sins, neatly being trotted out most recently by “Jeff Gannon”, learned by Bush during his run up to the White House bid:

When Mr. Wead warned that he had heard reporters talking about Mr. Bush’s “immature” past, Mr. Bush said, “That’s part of my schtick, which is, look, we have all made mistakes.” He said he learned “a couple of really good lines” from Mr. Robison, the Texas pastor: “What you need to say time and time again is not talk about the details of your transgressions but talk about what I have learned. I’ve sinned and I’ve learned.

…Later, however, Mr. Bush worried that his refusal to answer questions about whether he had used illegal drugs in the past could prove costly, but he held out nonetheless. “I am just not going to answer those questions. And it might cost me the election,” he told Mr. Wead.

Thanks to House Blend reader Holly for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding