Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The friend of President Bush’s who secretly recorded private conversations with him before his first bid for the White House says he will surrender the tapes and donate proceeds from a book based partly on them to charity.

“I was certainly wrong to tape the president without his permission,” Doug Wead told The Washington Times yesterday. “I wish I could live my life over and do things differently.”

Mr. Wead, a former aide to the president’s father, said he started taping Mr. Bush with his permission in 1998, and didn’t see it as a breach of trust to keep doing so secretly through 2000 because he wanted to have an accurate account of a man he saw as “a figure of history.”

“I saw him as a future leader and was proud of him, and so it was natural to keep taping, even without his permission,” said Mr. Wead, adding that when he was a White House staffer he sent Mr. Bush a memo suggesting that he might become president. “I never imagined that the tapes would be more than source notes for my own history books.”

The best-selling author of “The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation’s Leaders” canceled an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program Tuesday night, saying he had a change of heart about promoting the tapes he released to the New York Times last weekend.

“It seems the better part of wisdom for me is to forgo television for a time,” he wrote to host Chris Matthews. “It would only add to the distraction I have caused to the president’s important work.

“Contrary to a statement I made to the New York Times, I have come to realize that personal relationships are more important than history,” he wrote. “I am asking my attorney to direct any future proceeds from the book to charity and to find the best way to vet these tapes and get them back to the president to whom they belong. History can wait.”

On the tapes, Mr. Bush hinted that he had used marijuana and other drugs, but said he would never discuss that publicly out of fear that it would set a bad example for children.

“I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions,” Mr. Bush says on the tapes. “You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”

A Bush administration official, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, said the White House “had heard” about Mr. Wead’s offer yesterday afternoon, but had not spoken with him.

White House spokesman Dana Perino said Mr. Bush maintains that “he believed he was having casual conversations with someone he thought was a friend,” and would not comment further.

First lady Laura Bush was asked yesterday on NBC’s “Today” show whether she felt betrayed by Mr. Wead.

“I think it’s very odd and awkward, to be perfectly frank, to tape someone while you’re talking with them on the phone when they don’t know it and to come out with the tapes later,” Mrs. Bush said. “I don’t know if I’d use the word betrayed, but it’s a little bit awkward for sure.”

Mr. Wead, who has written more than 40 books, said he didn’t expect the firestorm that erupted ” leading some Bush supporters to excoriate him in public for giving fodder to the president’s political opponents.

“My heart is especially sad for any hurts I have caused friends,” Mr. Wead said.

A fair reading of the tapes, he said, makes Mr. Bush “look good,” especially the president’s assertion that he would resist pressure from evangelical Christians to “kick gays” during his campaign and as president.

“Unlike other tape stories, this was not about catching someone doing something wrong but catching someone doing something right,” Mr. Wead said.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide