It needs to be said, so Im going to say it, Doug Wead is an idiot.
Who is Doug Wead? you might ask. He is a former special assistant to then-President George H. W. Bush (father of George W. Bush) and (one can assuredly now say) former friend of the Bush family. His name has been in the headlines recently because he chose to release secretly recorded conversations between he and then-governor George W. Bush in which Mr. Bush discussed his personal life, political strategy and private perspectives.
Mr. Wead, using the left-wing cover of the New York Times to reveal his cards, initially defended his actions (both of recording and then releasing the private conversations during which Governor Bush did not realize he was being recorded) by claiming that he knew he was talking with a historic figure and wanted to preserve the conversations for future generations to examine in light of history. Of course, he also conveniently released them just prior to the release of his new book on Presidential parents.
A few days later, Mr. Wead claims to have regrets stating, “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. I am asking my attorney to direct any future proceeds from the book to charity and to find the best way to vet these tapes and get them back to the president to whom they belong. History can wait.”
Someone needs to explain to Mr. Wead that you cant unring a bell and the damage has already been done. But what is the damage?
I would argue against the idea that the release of the tape snippets did the President much harm. In fact, I think they show several things about him. First, he is pretty much the same in private as he is in public. His public policy pretty much reflects the attitudes revealed in these assorted taped statements. He identifies with the Religious Right, but isnt their lapdog. He is a driven man in spite of his laid back appearances he was out to win and he was serious about defeating his opponents. Howard Fineman called that arrogance in an article he wrote for Newsweek. I call that focused leadership just the quality I want in a man who is defending our nation and leading our military. He seems to acknowledge that he made mistakes in his past, but he didnt glory in those failures and wasnt about to let them define him both marks of a true leader. I cant see how those revelations did any damage to him at all and in fact, in my opinion, only reinforced his standing as a principled, focused leader.
But, I think we can safely assume that Weads long-time friendship (if it ever was that) with the Bush family is DOA. What kind of friend capitalizes on his private relationship with a high-profile figure for personal gain or notoriety? Not a real friend, thats for sure. Leadership is lonely enough and one of the reasons paranoia and reclusiveness often invades the life of public people is because it is extremely difficult to discern who is a friend and who is just another manipulative, groupie, back-stabber. I guess the world now knows what category into which Mr. Wead fits.
Theres a greater damage however, that shouldnt be lost on evangelicals and Christian conservatives. One of the reasons Mr. Wead had access to the President and why he became a trusted confidant was his role in the conservative faith community. He served as a liaison to the often diverse and divergent factions of Christian conservatives. He was assumed to be a man of faith, integrity and trustworthiness. And with his selfish and unethical decision to break his confidence with the President, he tarnished the expectations and reputation of a whole category of influencers. If the leaders and liaisons of the religious community cant be expected to respect their privileges, who can be trusted?
This is yet the latest example of trust violations between high-profile religious leaders and the public. From televangelists to political operatives, from Jim Bakker to Catholic Priests, from moral failures to ethical failures, we damage the reputation of our greater mission which is to represent the Lord Jesus Christ with excellence. When our ambassadorship of the Gospel is our first priority, lesser issues like money, power, access and notoriety follow respectfully in the shadows. When we get our priorities out of order, we besmirch the image of our Father and His Kingdom and Truth.
His current regrets are all fine and good, but as we used to say in Missouri where I grew up, That cows done left the barn. All of us who carry the title of Christian need to remember that there indeed is a higher standard of integrity, ethics and morality expected of those who would represent Christ.
With a friend like Mr. Wead, the President doesnt really need any enemies. Sadly, he has also been reminded once again that true friends are often very difficult to find.