Kill the messenger

Published February 23, 2005 1:33PM (EST)

What else is on Doug Wead's tapes of George W. Bush?

We may never know. Wead suggested over the weekend that the worst of the Bush tapes had not yet been released. Now it appears that those tapes will never be released, or at least not until Bush himself decides to release them.

Largely ignoring the fact that the tapes contain Bush's admission that he used marijuana -- and hints that he turned to harder drugs as well -- the right has chosen to attack Wead instead. Linda Chavez says Wead will go down as "one of Washington's most ruthless confidantes" and asks, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?" Chavez at least acknowledges the news about Bush's drug use; the Indianapolis Star omits that tawdry detail on the way to asking its overwrought question, "Who needs enemies, Mr. Wead, who needs enemies?" The Macon Telegraph gets right to the point:: The headline on its editorial this morning says "Wead is a sleazy opportunist."

Wead has gotten the message. When Wead played portions of his tape recordings for the New York Times last week, he said he was doing so because the "historical point" he was trying to make about the family lives of presidents "trumped" the "personal relationship" with Bush that allowed to make the tapes in the first place.

Apparently stung by the attacks -- and God knows what he was hearing from the White House -- Wead now says it was all a mistake. In a message on his Web site, Wead writes: "My thanks to those who have let me share my heart and regrets about recent events. Contrary to a statement that I made to the New York Times, I have come to realize that personal relationships are more important than history."

Wead says he will ask his attorney to turn over to charity any future proceeds from his book "The Raising of a President." As for the recordings? Wead says he'll ask his lawyer "to find the best way to vet these tapes and get them back to the president to whom they belong." "History," he says, "can wait."

By Tim Grieve

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

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