August 21, 2009

Ridge Line: Much Ado About Hardly Anything

Hatched by Dafydd

When I read this headline...

Bush Official, in Book, Tells of Pressure on ’04 Vote

I somehow expected something a bit more scandalous (or even salacious!) than this:

Tom Ridge, the first secretary of homeland security, asserts in a new book that he was pressured by top advisers to President George W. Bush to raise the national threat level just before the 2004 election in what he suspected was an effort to influence the vote.

After Osama bin Laden released a threatening videotape four days before the election, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pushed Mr. Ridge to elevate the public threat posture but he refused, according to the book. Mr. Ridge calls it a “dramatic and inconceivable” event that “proved most troublesome” and reinforced his decision to resign....

Keith M. Urbahn, a spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld, said the defense secretary supported letting the public know if intelligence agencies believed there was a greater threat, and pointed to a variety of chilling Qaeda warnings in those days, including one tape vowing that “the streets of America will run red with blood.”

“Given those facts,” Mr. Urbahn said, “it would seem reasonable for senior administration officials to discuss the threat level. Indeed, it would have been irresponsible had that discussion not taken place.”

(What next -- will Ridge hint that one of the Bush daughters has become a notorious thespian, and the former president himself sometimes even masticates in public?)

In October 2001, George W. Bush named Tom Ridge the first head of the newly created Office of Homeland Security within the White House; when Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, creating the Department of Homeland Security, Ridge slid seamlessly into that position. His qualification for both positions appears to have been that he was a popular, Roman Catholic, pro-choice governor, and that he served with distinction as a sergeant in Vietnam.

I have nothing against sergeants. I'm just at a loss how this translates to becoming Secretary of Homeland Security.

Even Ridge himself won't quite commit to accusing Bush of manipulating the national-security color code for political gain... Ridge just tosses the suggestion into the D.C. maelstrom and lets nature -- the politically obsessed nature of Democrats -- do his dirty work for him. But this is weak tea even for those purposes:

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.”

As it stands, this appears to be an even more transparent -- and even less successful -- "am-Bushing" (for purposes of selling a bunch of books) than Scott McClellan's smell-all What Happened. (Or was that What Happened to My Career?)

The publication of McClellan's "memoir" was timed to coincide with the 2008 election, kicking off an anti-Bush campaign by McClellan that culminated in his highly publicized endorsement of Barack H. Obama on (I rib you not) D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. (Or was that D.L. Hughley Breaks the Wind?)

Here is the McClellan finale -- alas, taken from his Wikipedia entry; nevertheless, it's accurate, to the best of my recollection:

As a result of his assertions in his book, McClellan was invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. When asked about his testimony McClellan said: "I don't have anything incriminating to say here if that's what you're looking for." During the actual testimony McClellan said: "I do not think the president had any knowledge" [of the revelation of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity]; "In terms of the vice president, I do not know." While being questioned by Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., McClellan conceded that the president had never asked him to shade the truth, use innuendo or employ propaganda, nor ordered anyone else to do so in his presence.

Since then, McClellan appears to have accomplished... well, nothing. But since he hadn't accomplished anything before resigning and writing his pusillanimous potboiler, his post-career non-career wasn't much of a come-down. (At least Tom Ridge gets to sit on a bunch of boards of directors as a phony-baloney expert on economics.)

I suspect that Tom Ridge's "memoir" will have even less impact than McClellan's epic poem, What's Happening! -- or whatever it's called; and Ridge, too, will eventually be relegated to the Date with Ignomy Memorial Marching Society, where he can sit between Alger Hiss and David Brock while he swills his thin gruel.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 21, 2009, at the time of 10:19 PM

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The following hissed in response by: AD

If Mr. Ridge's integrity was so challenged, at the time, by the increase in threat-level warning, why did he not resign immediately, and take his concern to the NYT, WaPo, FaceTheNation, ThisWeek, MeetThePress, and (most importantly) Miss Chrisie/Olberdouche?
This is just so much BS, just like most of what passes as news/intellect in DC!

The above hissed in response by: AD [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 22, 2009 9:18 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E


(What next -- will Ridge hint that one of the Bush daughters has become a notorious thespian, and the former president himself sometimes even masticates in public?)

I understand the ex-president has even shamelessly matriculated. I think that's something like getting wee-wee'd up.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 22, 2009 6:31 PM

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