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...
"Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld," he writes. "There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, 'Is this about security or politics?' "
Although he prevailed and the threat level was not elevated, Ridge writes that the episode reinforced his decision to resign. He did so weeks after the election...
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.
I'm really not sure how we're supposed to reconcile these two stories now. In his book, he says Ashcroft and Rumsfeld "strongly urged" him to increase the the threat level, and openly wonders if their motivations were political, since there was "absolutely no support" for their request inside the Homeland Security Department. It was so bad, it "reinforced his design to resign."
But now, he says he wasn't pressured, and isn't "second-guessing" Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, even though I'm pretty sure that's exactly what he's doing in his book.
And, of course, there's no chance he wasn't pressured into backpedaling on his allegations.
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