Bush tapes: More where those came from?

By Tim Grieve

Published February 22, 2005 1:21PM (EST)

The papers and the talkers were abuzz with news of Doug Wead's tapes of George W. Bush over the weekend. There's plenty in there to discuss: Bush's admission  implicit but unequivocal  that he used marijuana in the past, his warning that Republicans shouldn't "kick gays," his prickliness about attacks perceived and real, and his ruminations about what a great Supreme Court justice John Ashcroft might make.

But the most interesting thing about the recorded conversations is that there's apparently a whole lot more of them still out there. Wead says that he didn't mean to harm the president by letting the New York Times listen to excerpts from the tapes. As proof, he points to the fact that he has refrained from releasing most of the tapes he has. "Ninety percent of the tapes have not been heard," Wead told the Washington Post. "If I released all the tapes, it would be an act of betrayal. Most of them have never seen the light of day and never will."

Wead's decision to hold back may explain the White House's muted response to the tapes so far. The Bush administration has never been shy about lashing out at those who embarrass the president. Just ask Paul ONeill or Richard Clarke. But the White House has all but admitted the authenticity of Wead's recordings, and it has done little yet to discredit Wead himself. "The governor was having casual conversations with someone he believed was his friend," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told the Times.

Maybe the Bush team hopes that reacting quietly will help the story go away. But maybe it's something else. Maybe Bush figures that a man still sitting on a stack of tapes isn't a man he wants to hassle.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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