Los Angeles Times: The George W. Bush revealed in two years of surreptitiously recorded private conversations with a former friend is more complicated and appealing than the uncompromising, language-mangling leader Americans are accustomed to hearing. His struggle to fit his morality to his politics is illuminating, if not exactly comforting.
The Bush on the tapes -- which begin in 1998, when he was running for a second term as Texas governor, and continue into 2000 and his run for the Republican presidential nomination -- believes homosexuality is a sin but is unwilling to "kick gays" to win votes from religious conservatives because he understands human frailty. He may have smoked marijuana when he was young, but he won't admit it to reporters because that might lead kids down a dangerous path. And never mind that turn-the-other-cheek stuff, the born-again Bush is not afraid to sabotage political rivals who hit below the belt on the campaign trail.
The conversations -- segments from a dozen tape recordings made by onetime Bush family political adviser Doug Wead -- display flashes of the sort of personality quirks that endear Bush to his supporters and frighten his critics.
Bush tells Wead, "The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check" and says he stays humble by reading it every day. He understands -- in the same way Bill Clinton did -- that the American electorate is eager to embrace the underdog, the fallible, the redeemed, and he manages to turn his self-described "wild behavior" as a young man into a political asset.
"I've sinned and I've learned" becomes his campaign mantra. He tells Wead, and now us, "That's part of my shtick, which is, 'Look, we have all made mistakes.' "
Odd that the same man, once in office, would be incapable of admitting them.