The friend of the Bush family who secretly recorded nine hours of conversations with George W. Bush says he never intended for the tapes to become public but felt he had a duty to accurately represent a man who he believed would one day become president.
Doug Wead, the author of the new book "The Raising of a President," surreptitiously recorded his conversations with Bush beginning in 1998, when Bush was governor of Texas and considering a run for president.
"I didn't do it for money. I could sell the tapes even now for tremendous amounts of money," Wead said in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America," adding, "I didn't do it to sell books." Wead said his publisher wanted him to release his book during the 2004 presidential campaign so it could benefit from sales to Bush supporters, but he refused. "My publicist told me at the time, 'That cost you a million dollars,'" Wead said.
Wead, a former Assembly of God minister, said he had had second thoughts about secretly taping the future president. "If I had to do it over, I wouldn't do it at all," he said, "but I love history."
The candid conversations suggested Bush's strategies to deal with questions about whether he used drugs, to reconcile his born-again Christian faith with a tolerance toward gays, and other issues.
Wead, who has written extensively about other first families, including the Kennedys and the Roosevelts, believed Bush would become a "pivotal figure in history."
"I had a choice to either write propaganda about the Bushes or write accurately and fairly based on what I knew," said Wead in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America."
Wead said his publisher insisted on listening to the tapes to confirm anonymous sources cited in the book. The New York Times then got wind of the tapes, and from there, it "all became unraveled," Wead said.
Wead played about a dozen tapes to a reporter from the Times over the past several weeks, and the paper confirmed their authenticity with an audio expert, according to an article in the paper today.
Questions of Possible Drug Use
On the tapes, Bush discussed strategies for stonewalling questions about past marijuana use.
"Do you want your little kid, to say, 'Hey daddy, President Bush tried marijuana; I think I will?'" said Bush on the tapes. "That's the message we've been sending out. I wouldn't answer the marijuana question."
In a taped segment played on "Good Morning America," Bush also addressed how he would deal with questions about cocaine use.
"The cocaine thing, let me tell you my strategy on that," Bush said on the tape. "Rather than saying no … I think it's time for someone to draw the line and look people in the eye and say, you know, 'I'm not going to participate in ugly rumors about me and blame my opponent,' and hold the line. Stand up for a system that will not allow this kind of crap to go on."
When asked if past drug use was a big issue to Bush, Wead said, "He brought the subject up often."
Bush has acknowledged having a problem with alcohol in the past but has not publicly admitted any illegal drug use.
Instead of being a negative for the president, Wead sees Bush's past indiscretions as a positive story of redemption.
"Leo Tolstoy said, 'Everyone wants to change humanity, but no one is willing to change themselves,' " said Wead. "I see George W. Bush as an example of someone who changed themselves."
Tolerance for Gays, Disdain for Rivals
The tapes also show Bush's concern about keeping his evangelical Christian base happy while appearing tolerant to gays.
In one conversation, Wead said on the tape: "He's saying you promised you would not appoint any gays to office."
Bush replied: "No, what I said was I wouldn't fire gays. … I'm not going to discriminate against people."
A more bawdy side of Bush also is apparent on the tapes, as he mocked then-Vice President Al Gore for admitting to marijuana use, predicted that Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., appeal would "wear thin," and called his father's vice-president "ugly."
"Dan Quayle, gosh, he's ugly. He's gone ugly on me, man," Bush said on the tapes.
The White House response to the six-year-old tapes has been terse.
"These were casual conversations with someone [the president] considered a friend," said a White House spokesman.
Wead said he's keeping some of the material private, because it's too personal and could land him in legal trouble. He also said he made all of the recordings in states where it is legal to do so.
Though Wead said he has spoken to the White House since the release of the tapes, he has stayed mum on the president's response.
"He's a leader, and he prefers to lead," said Wead of his old friend, adding, "I write history."