Ridge backpedals on "pressure" claims

Less than two weeks ago, Tom Ridge launched his memoirs with the explosive allegation that Bush administration officials had pressured him to change terror-threat levels in order to boost George Bush’s re-election chances in the final days of the 2004 election.  A day later, the New York Times pointed out that the book not only didn’t have any supporting evidence for that claim, it also had Ridge insisting that he hadn’t seen any political pressure on threat levels.  Now Ridge himself has begun to backpedal from his publicity-seeking allegations:

Former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, speaking for the first time about accusations made in his new book, says he did not mean to suggest that other top Bush administration officials were playing politics with the nation’s security before the 2004 presidential election.

“I’m not second-guessing my colleagues,” Ridge said in an interview about The Test of Our Times, which comes out Tuesday and recounts his experiences as head of the nation’s homeland security efforts in the first several years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. …

Last week, when word got out about Ridge’s accusations, Rumsfeld’s spokesman Keith Urbahn issued a statement calling them “nonsense.”

Now, Ridge says he did not mean to suggest he was pressured to raise the threat level, and he is not accusing anyone of trying to boost Bush in the polls. “I was never pressured,” Ridge said.

Anyone interested in buying this book now?  When a politician writes his memoirs, the only quality that makes them at all interesting is honesty.  If it’s just a hagiography or a one-sided apologia, the book becomes as interesting as a press release.

Ridge blew his credibility when he allowed his publisher to make that unsupported allegation in advance of the book’s release.  He didn’t immediately note that the allegations were false; it took him twelve days to finally get around to it.  Ridge put cash ahead of his word in this case, which makes his memoirs both suspect and unappealing.  Ridge wasn’t important enough to even have celebrity interest.

It does do one thing; it finally  puts to rest the conspiracy theories about the threat levels and political manipulation.