The quotes below are taken from a New York TImes article from Feb 19, 2005. Doug Wead is a personal friend of George Bush. During the course of writing a book about then future president he secretly recorded some private conversations.
NOTE: We are currently trying to acquire the entire transcripts of these tapes, as well as the audio files themselves. Check back regularly for updates.
>>Variously earnest, confident or prickly in those conversations, 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, Bush appears to have acknowledged trying marijuana.
>>Preparing to meet Christian leaders in September 1998, 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 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, Bush complained to Karl Rove, his political strategist, “What the hell is this about?”
>>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 Bush had in the past publicly denied using cocaine, 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, 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.
>>Bush threatened that if his rival Steve Forbes attacked him too hard during the campaign and won, both Bush, then the Texas governor, and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, would withhold their support. “He can forget Texas. And he can forget Florida. And I will sit on my hands,” Bush said.
>>Bush also regularly gripes about the barbs of the press and his rivals. And he is cocky at times. “It’s me versus the world,” he told Mr. Wead. “The good news is, the world is on my side. Or more than half of it.”
>>”I believe tomorrow is going to change Texas politics forever,” he told Mr. Wead. “The top three offices right below me will be the first time there has been a Republican in that slot since the Civil War. Isn’t that amazing? And I hate to be a braggart, but they are going to win for one reason: me.”
>>When Mr. Wead warned him that “power corrupts,” for example, Bush told him not to worry: “I have got a great wife. And I read the Bible daily. The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check.”
>>Preparing to meet with influential Christian conservatives, Bush tested his lines with Mr. Wead. “I’m going to tell them the five turning points in my life,” he said. “Accepting Christ. Marrying my wife. Having children. Running for governor. And listening to my mother.”
>>…apparently ruling out potential vice presidents including Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Gen. Colin L. Powell, who favored abortion rights. Picking any of them could turn conservative Christians away from the ticket, Bush
>>…”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?”
>>…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,” Bush said. “I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays.”
>> “No, what I said was, I wouldn’t fire gays.”
>>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,” Bush told Mr. Wead, five years before a Massachusetts court brought the issue to national attention.
>>”Sovereignty. The issue is huge. The mere mention of Kofi Annan in the U.N. caused the crowd to go into a veritable fit. The coalition wants America strong and wants the American flag flying overseas, not the pale blue of the U.N
>>”I don’t like it either,” Bush said of the Clinton investigations. “But on the other hand, I think he has disgraced the nation.”
>>When Mr. Wead warned that he had heard reporters talking about Bush’s “immature” past, 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.”
>>”I said, ‘James’ – he stopped – I said, ‘I did some things when I was young that were immature,’ ” Bush said. “He said, ‘But have you learned?’ I said, ‘James, that’s the difference between me and the president. I’ve learned. I am prepared to accept the responsibility of this office.’ “By the summer of 1999, Bush was telling Mr. Wead his approach to such prying questions had evolved. “I think it is time for somebody to just draw the line and look people in the eye and say, I am not going to participate in ugly rumors about me, and blame my opponents, and hold the line, and stand up for a system that will not allow this kind of crap to go on.”
>>…used illegal drugs in the past …”I am just not going to answer those questions. And it might cost me the election,”
>>”It’s unbelievable,” Bush said, reciting various rumors about his past that his aides had picked up from reporters. “They just float sewer out there.”
>>”I like Ashcroft a lot,” he told Mr. Wead in November 1998. “He is a competent man. He would be a good Supreme Court pick. He would be a good attorney general. He would be a good vice president.”
>>When Mr. Wead predicted an uproar if Mr. Ashcroft were appointed to the court because of his conservative religious views, Bush replied, “Well, tough.”
>>”I want Ashcroft to stay in there, and I want him to be very strong,” Bush said. ” I would love it to be a Bush-Ashcroft race. Only because I respect him. He wouldn’t say ugly things about me. And I damn sure wouldn’t say ugly things about him.”
>>Evangelicals were not going to like him, Bush said. “He’s too preppy,” Bush said, calling Mr. Forbes “mean spirited.”
“Steve Forbes is going to hear this message from me. I will do nothing for him if he does to me what he did to Dole. Period. There is going to be a consequence. He is not dealing with the average, you know, ‘Oh gosh, let’s all get together after it’s over.’ I will promise you, I will not help him. I don’t care.”
>>When Mr. Wead suggested in June 2000 that Mr. McCain’s popularity with Democrats and moderate voters might make him a strong vice presidential candidate, Bush almost laughed. “Oh, come on!” He added, “I don’t know if he helps us win.”
>>Bush could hardly contain his disdain for Mr. Gore, his Democratic opponent, at one point calling him “pathologically a liar.” His confidence in the moral purpose of his campaign to usher in “a responsibility era” never wavered, but he acknowledged that winning might require hard jabs. “I may have to get a little rough for a while,” he told Mr. Wead, “but that is what the old man had to do with Dukakis, remember?”
More as we try to acquire the transcripts….