A few weeks ago, former Bush Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was thrust back into the public spotlight with news of his upcoming book, which is out today. Of particular interest was Ridge’s revelation that officials may have pushed him to raise the security alert level for political reasons on eve of Bush’s re-election. An excerpt from the book:
A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensured. Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. 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. … I consider the episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington’s recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security.
Ridge is now trying to get back into their good graces. He has been on an apology tour this week, insisting that he never meant to insinuate any bad motives on his former colleagues. Yesterday he groveled to Sean Hannity on Fox News, and today he went on CNN and is scheduled to talk with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC tonight. He also gave an interview to ABC’s Political Punch podcast. In all the appearances he criticized people for misinterpreting what he had written:
— But there’s never been any doubt in my mind that any of these individuals, Secretary Powell, Attorney General Ashcroft, Secretary Rumsfeld, the FBI Director Mueller, they’ve always had the security of America as the number one reason they would say, let’s go up or let’s not go up. I don’t think it ever was politics.” [CNN, 9/1/09]
— “”Is there any other reason that’s out there and perhaps this — expressed it unartfully — but I’m not suggesting that anybody in that room on that occasion or any other occasion was interested in doing anything other than the right thing to protect America.” [ABC, 9/1/09]
— “I was musing in the book, as I was trying to think back on those discussions. … Is there something else that I am missing or my department’s missing? Pure and simple. It’s not an accusatory statement. Wasn’t intended to be. And if people want to talk about it in that fashion, in this world — see, security is not black and white.” [Fox News, 8/31/09]