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Bush Friend Reportedly Recorded Private Talks

Associated Press
Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page A08

NEW YORK , Feb. 19 -- Private conversations with George W. Bush secretly taped by an old friend before Bush was elected president foreshadow some of his political strategies and appear to reveal that he acknowledged using marijuana, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The conversations were recorded by Doug Wead, a former aide to George W. Bush's father, beginning in 1998, when Bush was weighing a presidential bid, until just before the Republican National Convention in 2000, the Times said in an article posted on its Web site.

The tapes show Bush crafting a strategy for navigating the tricky political waters between Christian conservative and secular voters, repeatedly worrying that evangelicals would be angered by a refusal to bash gays and that secular Americans would be turned off by meetings with evangelical leaders.

On one tape, Bush explains that he told one prominent evangelical that he would not "kick gays, because I'm a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?"

In early tapes, Bush dismisses the strength of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for the nomination and expresses concern about publisher Steve Forbes as a rival. He also praises John D. Ashcroft as a promising candidate for Supreme Court justice, attorney general or vice president.

Bush also criticizes then-Vice President Al Gore for admitting marijuana use and explains why he would not do the same.

"I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions," he said, according to the Times. "You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."

According to the article, Wead played 12 of the tapes to a Times reporter. He said he made the recordings because he viewed Bush as a historical figure. He is the author of a book on presidential childhoods.

The White House did not deny the authenticity of the tapes.

"The governor was having casual conversations with someone he believed was his friend," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said, referring to Bush.

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