The Doug Wead telephone transcripts cut both for and against President Bush. Moderates will probably be impressed with his comments about gays. He said he doesn't want to discriminate against gay people and doesn't want to kick them. Gay people will be less impressed. At one point he compares gays to sinners. But at least he isn't taking the high and mighty approach saying gay people should burn in hell. And after all, he is implicitly comparing himself to gay people by saying he and they are both sinners. The rub is that gay people insist that they aren't sinning and Bush thinks they are.
The most interesting aspect of the tapes may be the light they shed on Bush's willingness to engage in hardball politics. He says on the tapes that he is ready to go after Steve Forbes if Forbes goes after him. Sometimes you have to play rough in politics--like his dad did against Dukakis, he says.
This is not exactly the portrait of the president that he presents to his evangelical supporters. They seem to think he is doing God's work. He seems to think he's just a politician.
Of course, as Wolf Blitzer noted today on CNN it's been well known that Bush plays hard ball when he has to, as he did in South Carolina against McCain in the spring 2000 primary.
But the Bush people always officially distanced themselves from the attacks on McCain and they certainly didn't let anybody see Bush's own fingerprints when McCain was being knifed.
So the tapes fill in the gap between how campaigns say they are conducting themselves and how they actually do.
Moreover, it is quite one thing to read that a president is making political calculations and quite another to hear it directly. The impact is greater. It's the difference between being told that Howard Dean screamed at the top of his lungs when he lost the Iowa primary and seeing him do it.
All presidents present one face to the public and another to friends. That's politics.
I don't doubt that Americans have grown cynical since Vietnam and Watergate. But Bush's evangelical supporters do tend to think that God is driving his agenda. I have friends whose parents think this. To see that Bush is an ordinary mortal who makes political calculations like any other politician--well, that is worth pondering.
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Michael Meo - 2/27/2005
I tend to see politicians as people interested in wielding political power. But then none of my friends' parents have much of an opinion of President Bush, because my friends' parents are almost all dead.
We're in different generations, all right.