September 1st, 2009
09:25 AM ET
13 years ago

Ex-homeland security chief denies attacking Rumsfeld, Ashcroft

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Ridge denies his new book attacks his former colleagues in the Bush Administration."] WASHINGTON (CNN) - Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, denied Tuesday that he attacked former colleagues Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft in his controversial new book.

Ridge called them "people whose opinions I respect immensely" on CNN's "American Morning."

He made headlines recently by saying he fought their proposal to raise the U.S. terror threat level in the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections.

In his book, "The Test of Our Time," he implied that politics may have played a
role in the proposal to raise it. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft strongly advocated raising the security threat level to "orange" - even though Ridge believed a threatening message from Osama Bin Laden "should not be the sole reason to elevate the threat level."

In the book, he called the incident "another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security."

He told CNN on Tuesday that he was not "second-guessing" Ashcroft and
Rumsfeld in the meeting.

In the end, the threat level was not raised. Frances Townsend, a former Homeland Security advisor to Bush and now a CNN contributor, denied politics played any role in the request to raise the threat level.

"It was never discussed," Townsend said last week on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"Not only did he never say this at that time, that he thought political influence was involved in raising or lowering the threat level, he's never said it since when I've spoken to him," she said.

The former governor of Pennsylvania also confirmed he would not not run for Senate, he told CNN's "American Morning" Tuesday.

"That is out completely," the Republican said, reiterating a stance he first took in May.

He also called a run for the presidency "very unlikely," but said he wanted to help the Republicans "recapture the White House in 2012."

Filed under: Tom Ridge
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Lynda/Minnesota

    Ridge can sugar coat his comments all he wants. The fact is that since 9/11, the Bush administration kept this country in perpetual fear - the color coded terror alert system was only one of many ways of controlling Americans.

    I am confident many many Americans voted for Bush in 2004 who would have otherwise voted against him if but for the fact that the terror alerts where raised and lowered during the most convenient of times in which to benefit the GOP the entire summer of the 2004 elections.

    September 1, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  2. The Voice

    He is back peddeling now, it was a time of fearmongering and lies to win an election. This is what the conservative movement is about. War, corruption, make the rich richer, take from the poor, forget about healthcare for those in need and the list goes on.

    America voted for is time to make it happen.

    September 1, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  3. Doraine Gordon

    Who got to him this time? Every time someone in Washington accuses a Republican of any wrong doing they come back the next day taking it all back. It was a mistake or a joke or something to that effect. I never saw anything like it. If these folks are so scared why say it in the first place? Ridge didn't have to say what he did. Everyone already knows he was under orders from the Bush administration to keep people afraid. How stupid is that! They kept people so afraid that Bush won a second time. I hope the American people finally woke up to what was going on and won't ever let it happen again!

    September 1, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. B Lewis in Austin

    How ironic, another backtracking Republican. Must have got a call from Rush

    September 1, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  5. Joan

    Probably Rush Limbaugh called him and told him he wasn't happy and Ridge better toe the line. It's amazing how any Republicans who dare tell the truth suddenly have to retract or "explain" their statements.

    September 1, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. Angie in Pa


    Thats how Republicans campaign By scaring you look Elevating the Terror alert to win an election Now fear mongering the Healthcare debate Death Panels, Socialisim, Medicare cuts, Illegal aliens covered,Abortion covered FEAR MONGERING AT ITS BEST Thats what they do and Some people actually fall for it?

    September 1, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. Bubba

    I guess the threat of waterboarding made him retract his statements. Ah, just another flip-floppin' GOP guy. They're so wishy-washy.

    September 1, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Ridge is inconsistent in his comments

    When Ridge first hit the TV stations he was crying that Bush and Cheney had pressured him to raise the threat level as a pure political move before the 2004 Presidential election, and the liberal media pounced on thss story, but on Fox News last night he denied that there was any political pressure applied at all to raise the threat level and poiltiics did not play any part i any decision he ever made as Homelenad Security Chief - a complete 180 degree retreat from his earlier statements. For the record, before the 2004 election, the threat level was never changed, and Ridge has been talking in circles since his book came out contradicting himself depending on whose television show he is on at the time.

    Ridge has zero credibility, and there is no story here other than a washed up pol trying make a few bucks writing a controversial fictitious bit of history -- Ridge is following the Obama road to victory - Blame anything and everything on Bush and Cheney

    September 1, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
1 2