George Bush is heard talking, or is talked about, in more than 100 of the 4,140 conversations that are to be made public by the National Archives. The tapes carry conversations that occurred in late 1971, when the former president was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"We did call to express concern, you bet," Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday night. "We do have an ongoing concern about whether this administration is going to create external events to influence the outcome of this election."
"We expressed a concern about the timing. We were told that these are predetermined dates (for Nixon tape releases), and we accept that," said Fleischer.
On Thursday, the archives plans to open to the public more than 4,000 conversations that Nixon recorded between August and December of 1971.
A source familiar with the flap said the Bush camp was indeed worried that any untoward remarks by Nixon or other key Republican figures that might be on the recordings could affect his son's bid for the presidency just two weeks before the election.
John H. Taylor, executive director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, Calif., is familiar with the Nixon tapes being released.
"I have substantial familiarity with the content of the release. I can assure you there is absolutely nothing that's prejudicial in the least to the Bush family," Taylor said.
The Bush campaign has harshly criticized members of President Clinton's Cabinet for going to bat for Democrat Al Gore's presidential campaign.
"We have concerns about this administration doing anything that could discredit Republicans," Fleischer said.
Fleischer said the campaign expressed its concerns to Jim Cicconi, who worked in the Bush White House and helped set up the Bush presidential library. Cicconi then called National Archives director John Carlin to inquire about the Nixon tape release, said Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman for the archives.
She said she did not know whether Cicconi specifically asked the archivist to delay the release of the tapes until after the election.
Nixon installed his taping system in the White House in early 1971. The existence of the taping system was revealed during testimony to the Senate Watergate committee in 1973. The government seized the recordings when Nixon resigned. Following years of legal wrangling, the National Archives began to release batches of tapes, which have never been heard before.
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