Bush WH figures deny, express puzzlement over Ridge allegations

posted at 9:30 am on August 21, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

It didn’t take more than a few hours for key Bush administration officials to respond to allegations forthcoming from Tom Ridge’s memoirs that they had pressured him to raise terrorist threat levels for the 2004 re-election campaign.  Not only did they deny it in the strongest terms, some of them explained to Politico that the process was specifically designed to prevent that kind of political manipulation, and expressed puzzlement over how Ridge could have been “pressured” in a process that was deliberately passive to the NSC and President.  For that matter, a New York Times report seems to indicate that Ridge wasn’t entirely sure, either:

Top officials from the George W. Bush White House are disputing claims in former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s coming book that they pressured him to adjust the terror threat level for political gain.

“We went over backwards repeatedly and with great discipline to make sure politics did not influence any national security and homeland security decisions,” former White House chief of staff Andy Card told POLITICO. “The clear instructions were to make sure politics never influenced anything.”

“I’m a little mystified,” former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend added in an interview. “Never in my experience did I see any political influence exerted on the cabinet secretary.” …

Townsend and Card also said that the process used to change the terror threat level made almost any claim of political influence impossible. Both said any change originated with DHS and was then referred to the National Security Council. The NSC then made a recommendation to the president which was then either agreed to or rejected.

So what did Ridge see that made him feel pressured?  Even Ridge seems unsure (emphases mine):

The most sensational assertion was the pre-election debate in 2004 about the threat level, first reported by U.S. News & World Report. Mr. Ridge writes that the bin Laden tape alone did not justify a change in the nation’s security posture but describes “a vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion” on Oct. 30 to do so.

“There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None,” he writes. “I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.”

Mr. Ridge provides no evidence that politics motivated the discussion. Until now, he has denied politics played a role in threat levels. Asked by Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times if politics ever influenced decisions on threat warnings, he volunteered to take a lie-detector test. “Wire me up,” Mr. Ridge said, according to Mr. Lichtblau’s book, “Bush’s Law.” “Not a chance. Politics played no part.

I believe this is a process known better in Washington as “talking out of one’s ass,”  and I’m not referring to the Democratic Party mascot.  Perhaps Lichtblau should have taken Ridge up on his offer.  I’d also note that after this news broke across the media yesterday, the Times’ Book section report leaves this part of their report to the final three paragraphs.

But if this is all he has, it’s beyond thin, especially considering that analysts had determined earlier that Osama bin Laden’s tapes appeared to trigger major al-Qaeda operations in the past.  It would not have been at all unreasonable in 2004 to at least consider that pattern to still be operational, and to hike a threat levelfor a few days in response.  In fact, that’s exactly why we have the threat level system — to warn law enforcement of an increased possibility of attack.

As Michelle notes, either Ridge lied to Lichtblau (Bush’s Law was published in 2008, almost three years after Ridge left DHS) or he’s lying now.  It’s not difficult to guess that Ridge may have wanted to make a big splash for his book, and this kind of unsupported allegation — as the Times itself acknowledges — would help.  I’m sure it will sell big on the Left.

Update: An excerpt from another book quoting Ridge seems to negate this allegation, too:

“In spite of allegations of playing politics, as time went on, our office was more often than not the most reluctant to raise the threat level. Despite perception to the contrary, the White House couldn’t, as a matter of course, call us up and say, ‘Go to orange, Tom.’”

Um, wait … that’s a quote from Ridge’s book, found by Caleb Howe.  He also has this:

It is possible, at this point, that you find none of this very definitive. But that is OK, because Tom Ridge has a definitive statement for you. Earlier in the book, addressing the allegations that political pressure had been applied to raise threat levels, Ridge has this to say:

“Let me make it very clear. I was never directed to do so no matter how many analysts, pundits or critics say so.”

Maybe you should ask your publisher to read your book, Mr. Ridge.


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Can anyone, ANYONE, name one RINO, any RINO who has done America a shred of good in any possible way?

ANYONE?

Dammit, not even you, BUELLER?

The Left is already seizing on this to divert the news cycle from Obama’s health care takeover implosion.

Nice work Moderate jackasses. When you get the hell out of the Republican Party, I might sign up again and resume contributing the maximum amount to my local and national candidates.

jeff_from_mpls on August 21, 2009 at 10:56 AM

This will help him get spots on the left-wing programs to push his book.

katiejane on August 21, 2009 at 10:57 AM

In Ronald Kesslers great book “In the President’s Secret Service” Tom Ridge was depicted as the “cheapest protectee they had ever known”. On weekends he would return to his home in Erie, PA. So he would not have to pay for his own ticket, he would have his agents drive him-a trip of more than six hours, one way. This tells me all I want to know about this liar.

Big Nicholas on August 21, 2009 at 11:05 AM

This gives us one more reason to never trust a RINO. I am sure Ridge will just say that he was reaching across the aisle.

mobydutch on August 21, 2009 at 11:12 AM

jeff_from_mpls on August 21, 2009 at 10:56 AM

Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman

Oh.. wait, they are DINOs :)

Wolftech on August 21, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Halliburton!

kirkill on August 21, 2009 at 11:14 AM

Mr. Ridge writes that the bin Laden tape alone did not justify a change in the nation’s security posture but describes “a vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion” on Oct. 30 to do so.
“There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None,” he writes. “I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’

So if I understand this right, assuming what he says is true: so long as he stands to lose something, regardless to the threat to the Constitution or American public, he will do and say nothing? Only after he’s out of the job, out of a position to take a stand for what is right, and conveniently out of political danger, will he say something, assuming it’s all true?
As I see it, he is either a coward for not saying something then or a liar for making it all up for personal gain.

Send_Me on August 21, 2009 at 11:14 AM

Ridge wants to sell some books, make some money. All there is to this

jp on August 21, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Halliburton!

LOL. + 1

Anders on August 21, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman

Oh.. wait, they are DINOs :)

Wolftech on August 21, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Whatever happened to Zell?

And Joe still is a Dem for all intents and purposes. He’s just hawkish and pro-Israel. He’s kind of the reverse of Ron Paul.

MadisonConservative on August 21, 2009 at 11:24 AM

Whatever happened to Zell?

MadisonConservative on August 21, 2009 at 11:24 AM

Last I heard, he is on the board of the NRA.

Wolftech on August 21, 2009 at 11:29 AM

Custom made for Rachel Maddow and her 16 foot basketball hoop.

allstonian on August 21, 2009 at 11:32 AM

Who lead with the story, let me guess MSNBC LOL!

Dr Evil on August 21, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Custom made for Rachel Maddow and her 16 foot basketball hoop

Huh? A 16 foot basketball hoop?

IlikedAUH2O on August 21, 2009 at 11:43 AM

So if I understand this right, assuming what he says is true: so long as he stands to lose something, regardless to the threat to the Constitution or American public, he will do and say nothing? Only after he’s out of the job, out of a position to take a stand for what is right, and conveniently out of political danger, will he say something, assuming it’s all true?
As I see it, he is either a coward for not saying something then or a liar for making it all up for personal gain.

Send_Me on August 21, 2009 at 11:14 AM

My position as well. If he was told this then, he should have made it public and resigned. The revelation now does not exempt him from his duty to the constitution and the people of this country. If this is untrue and only an unsupported allegation, may he rot in H…

hillbilly on August 21, 2009 at 11:45 AM

Custom made for Rachel Maddow and her 16 foot basketball hoop.

allstonian on August 21, 2009 at 11:32 AM

It’s either
A) the diameter of her tea bagging mouth, or
B) other orafice.

kirkill on August 21, 2009 at 11:51 AM

Ah, allegations like this, true or not, make for great book sales.

Idfaciam on August 21, 2009 at 11:51 AM

As Michelle notes, either Ridge lied to Lichtblau (Bush’s Law was published in 2008, almost three years after Ridge left DHS) or he’s lying now. As a PA resident, I’m not surprised. Ridge is a weasel. Always was. Always will be. He’s a poor man’s Arlen Specter.

petefrt on August 21, 2009 at 12:13 PM

Selling ones soul, for fame, and money. I hope it’s worth it!!!

capejasmine on August 21, 2009 at 1:17 PM

This is why we lose. Republicans sell each other out for book advances while Democrats keep their secrets till they die.

Speedwagon82 on August 21, 2009 at 2:37 PM

It’s almost become pathological at this point. They are simply incapable of making a statement that does not serve the current theme.

There is no truth on the Left that cannot be changed. I am sick thinking they are in charge.

I’m left wondering when the next attack will be and how surprised we will be by it because politics definitely plays a role now. If the czar says the threat level will not be raised, does that mean there is no threat?

God help us.

gopmom on August 21, 2009 at 2:58 PM

And I forgot to ask? What do they have on Ridge?

gopmom on August 21, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Clinton O’Bama News Network (something called “CNN”) will be flogging this non-story to death on Rick Sanchez’ laugh fest from 3 to 4 PM EDT.

Gonna make some popcorn, or maybe a Zombie.

Del Dolemonte on August 21, 2009 at 3:03 PM

the ‘press release’ yesterday was mostly Manufactured Crap to give libs some ammunition and psy ops to defuse their Health Care Fiasco.

On the Ridge thread yesterday the troll crr6 went OT to spew a talking point about Bush firing U.S. district attorneys –using MSNBC as a source and lying, of course.

The troll crr6 had been issued talking points or has saved up its own Stash of Crap, then pounced on this matter to disgorge its dy-a-ree-uh.

For libs, stunts like this Ridge mess are a form of the ‘trial balloon’ gimmick Clinton perfected, combined with Poisoning the Water: They toss out a Lie to stain and ruin the process of actually learning about events. This is why more and more people despise and distrust the MSM, because they are subject to more and more of this garbage

Janos Hunyadi on August 21, 2009 at 3:07 PM

Doesn’t matter…ABC News on the radio this morning ran with Ridge’s original assertions.

Couldn’t help but to notice out of the three or four items they normally cover in their syndicated 30 second blurb during a commercial break, that this was one of the things they picked.

Couldn’t resist obviously.

Oh, BTW…according to the same source, cash for clunkers was a huge success, with hundreds of thousands of cars sold because of it.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 21, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Sometimes I wonder if all of this is just bs to get people to buy the book and then once they read it they will find it is not quite as advertised.

Either way, it does not matter at this point.

Terrye on August 21, 2009 at 4:50 PM

despite being such a sinister figure (per the left), Bush did an awful job of appointing loyal staff.

pgrossjr on August 21, 2009 at 5:34 PM

Ridge.RINO. thats all you need to know.hell by the election No one was paying attention to that alert stuff.

theTarCzar on August 21, 2009 at 8:08 PM

Pastel Alert! RINO with a book. Pastel Alert!

Feedie on August 22, 2009 at 12:52 AM

Ok, are there any more pathetic Bush appointees with book deals? Please move to the head of the line. Can we please get them all done by the end of this year? Ya Know time is money and if you don’t hurry your crappy little books out for the 12 viewers of Keith Olberman, or a quick hit with Matt Lauer, pretty soon people might even forget who that old George Bush guy is.

oped01 on August 22, 2009 at 2:19 AM

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