WASHINGTON – President Bush was concerned "his mistakes as a youth" would disqualify him from running for the nation's highest office, said an old friend who secretly recorded private conversations in which Bush appears to acknowledge past drug use.
"I don't want any kid doing what I tried to do 30 years ago," Bush said in recordings made when he was governor of Texas and aired Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "And I mean that. It doesn't matter if it's LSD (search), 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."
The recordings were made by Doug Wead (search), a former aide to George W. Bush's father, in the two years before the younger Bush became the Republican nominee for president in 2000.
"I think it bothered him — the fact that when he was younger he was irresponsible," Wead said in an interview on the ABC program. "I think early on he felt disqualified, that he couldn't run for office because of his mistakes as a youth."
White House press secretary Scott McClellan (search) said Sunday that the president does not dispute the content of the tapes. McClellan would not comment further, other than to say they were "casual conversations that then-Governor Bush was having with someone he thought was a friend."
Wead also played some of his recordings for a New York Times reporter. The newspaper reported Sunday that they show Bush crafting a strategy for navigating the tricky political waters between Christian conservative and secular voters. He repeatedly worried that evangelicals would be angered by a refusal to bash gays and that secular Americans would be turned off by meetings with evangelical leaders, the newspaper reported.
Wead said he didn't intend for the tapes to become public in his lifetime, but he was forced to release them by his publisher. Wead is the author of "The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation's Leaders," which was published by Atria and went on sale last month.
Wead said he made the tapes as a historical record. He denied that he released them to make money or sell books.
"This book could have been released before the election, driven by partisan sales," Wead said. "The publisher wanted it. I wouldn't let it, and my publicist told me at the time, 'That cost you a million dollars.'"