In conversations with a friend who secretly recorded his comments, President Bush all but admitted to having a past history of drug use. The tapes were recorded by Doug Wead, a long-time Texas pal of the president's, between 1998 and 2000, when Bush was considering a first run for the White House. Wead told ABC's Good Morning America that he did not intend to make the tapes public, but that he was forced to release them by his publisher as questions were raised about his book about Bush. Wead's book, "The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation's Leaders," went on sale last month.
"I wouldn't answer the marijuana question," Bush said as he and Wead discussed various scenarios for a presidential campaign. "I don't want any kid doing what I tried to do 30 years ago. And I mean that. It doesn't matter if it's LSD, cocaine, pot, any of those things, because if I answer one, then there will be another one. And I just am not going to answer those questions. And it may cost me the election. But you got to understand, I want to be president. I want to lead. I want to set -- Do you want your little kid to say, 'Hey, Daddy, President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will?'"
The comments came as Bush mocked former Vice President Al Gore for admitting that he smoked marijuana. "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, who acknowledged a drinking problem only after an old DWI arrest surfaced in the final days of the 2000 presidential campaign, told Wead he had strategies for dealing with the "wild behavior" of his past. Worrying about the possibility that rumors of past cocaine use would surface during a campaign -- as they did -- Bush said he would blame his opponents for starting them. "If nobody shows up, there's no story," he said. "And if somebody shows up, it is going to be made up." When Wead mentioned that Bush had previously denied ever using cocaine, Bush denied it. "I haven't denied anything," he said.
Bush is profilic at such denials. During that first successful presidential campaign, Bush at first refused to comment on rumors of past drug use. Then he said he would have passed White House rules that barred employment for anyone using drugs in the past seven years. Under continuing pressure from the press, Bush pushed his denial back to 1974, when he was 28. But when asked to clear the record about any adult drug use, he drew the line, saying only that he suffered from "youthful indiscretion."
The tapes also show Bush practicing a pious response to questions about drug use or other misbehavior. His "immature" past was "just part of my schtick, which is, look, we have all made mistakes," he said. He told Wead he had learned a couple of good lines from a 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."
And, as the 2000 campaign drew nearer, a combative response. "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."
And show no tolerance for similar indiscretions by today's youth.