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. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Poor Tom doesnt want to go to prison with Ashcroft and Rumsfeld for war crimes and treason.

    September 1, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. Polar Bears Against Palin

    These Republicans are like chickens with their heads cut off. They are clueless.....and criminals. I say, lock them all up and throw away the key.

    September 1, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  3. Kevin in Ohio

    Thank you, CNN, for telling the "rest of the story"........ as it was, it set off the liberal hate-dogs once again.

    September 1, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  4. Jeff Brown

    Don't back off Tom...these people are evil!

    September 1, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. Ryan Indy

    You See Dems all though we dont see eye to eye Republicans dont tear each other a part like small minded democrats do. Democrats are so incomptent. They have a majority in both houses and the presidency and still cant pass any bills or develop any kind of policy. On top of that Obama is showing very weak on national defense and he would rather go after the CIA then after the terrorist. Oh yea and he is fast becoming very unpopular.......2010 is looking better and better every day for the republicans. Werent you Pukes I mean Democrats saying the Republicans were dead as a party less than 3 months ago. You people really are weak minded small people,,,yea yea I know this will all be George Bush's Fault because its always his fault???? You people are hopefully a dying breed......

    September 1, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  6. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Boy this a lot to do about nothing, what done is done let it go. Tom Ridge is trying to sell his book but nothing wrong with trying to get paided. Good luck this is like Palin going to Hong Kong.

    September 1, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  7. "Victim" - Often Used, Rarely True

    No, no. It's been well established that no mistakes were made by anyone in the superiorly patriotic George W. Bush administration. The USA's only perfect president in history...that's why he left with a 30% approval rating, he was that good!

    Talk about partisan hacks with selective memories. I believe most Republicans are suffering from Stockholm syndrome; they've suffered greatly by ways of policies that affect them adversely and they are thankful. Amazing.

    September 1, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  8. Sniffit

    Who cares...this guy neesd a slap in the head...and that's just about the only thing worth mentioning about him.

    September 1, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  9. victim of republican greed

    Tom Ridge has lost his credibilty. The politics of fear of the the Bush/Cheney administration has now claimed him.

    At one point, I thought it was noble of him to leave his position because he felt the threat levels were used politically. Now he admits that he lied in his book. What a low life.

    September 1, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

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

    -------------------------------–Your Party is in landslide mode headed straight for the precipice, there really is very little to no chance of it recovering enough credibility amongst educated constituents for it to pose a serious threat to a fly much less the Democrats. Having said that, the only suggestion I can offer you at this time, if you truly wish to help your Party recapture the White House (read: We Want Our Country Back) is to pray. Go to your local house of prayer and pray...hard. You may want to enlist the help of ( I know you HATE to do this) Muslims, Buddhists, anyone that has faith to help you in your effort. God bless.

    September 1, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  11. princenoah

    I think both Rumsfield was the most dangerous guy in Bush regime and i am very sure that he plays great role to put fear on the American people..

    September 1, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  12. Doug, New Jersey

    Goes to show, republicans from blue areas might have some conservative views, but their lack of loyalty, honesty, and complete selfishness and narcisism is 100% liberal Democrat. They are not socially conservative, which is on display in the nice red areas of this nation, and the 180 of that in the blue hate-filled, selfish, mean, total disregard for human life areas.

    September 1, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  13. Gary

    Ridge stop wasting your time with this issue and run against Spector in the Senate Race in PA....the Democrats are out of control in Congress and we need a change before they ruin our healthcare system and our economy. Run Tom, Run!

    September 1, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  14. Peggy - TX

    He did not attach Rumsfeld or Ashcroft; he simply stated the facts as he knew them. His comment about political pressure resonates with reality in which we all know the Republicans will use any tool at their disposal to get and retain power. The manner in which Republican War Machine has viscously turned on one of there own for leaking a few innocuous tid-bits of information is also consistent with everything we know about the inner workings of the Republican War Machine.

    September 1, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  15. keithc

    Tom Ridge has to be one of the few living on this planet who immensely respect the opinions of Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft . And the spectre of raising the alert status just before the election is definitely Bush-style mode.

    September 1, 2009 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  16. roscoe

    Ridge ... thanks, but no thanks. Your kind of help is not required.

    September 1, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  17. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    The terror alerts were changing evry other day. Mr. Ridge can't deny that the administration was using the terror alerts as a political ploy to keep people scared.

    September 1, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  18. pompass

    She should stay in Hong Kong .

    September 1, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  19. Susan

    Townsend is a liar, and if you read "The War Within," you will see that Bush and Cheney are as well. They knew they were losing in Iraq, had NO PLAN, and sent more troops there anyway. Look how well that's worked out!

    September 1, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  20. Tom in Wisconsin

    I have a modicum of respect for Tom Ridge, but this situation just reaffirms the whole Bush Administration philosophy of "you are either with us, or you are against us". It's a dangerous mentality that will bring down anyone not lockstep with every decision, right or wrong. Freedom, logic, independent thought are the enemies of Bush/Cheney conservatism. Brings to mind a fellow named McCarthy...

    September 1, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  21. MO

    Why the flip-flop, Tommy Boy? When you resigned, your official reason was a government job did not pay you enough to send your kids to college. Wow! What do you think the rest of us do?

    September 1, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  22. LacrosseMom

    Poor Tom Ridge, he can't win with the GOP!

    Mr. Ridge, perhaps its time to switch to the Democratic side!

    September 1, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  23. daisy

    Wether or not the terror level was being raised for politcal reasons...

    I think it speaks volumes of the sad, broken state of the country when people hear accusations like this and aren't the least bit surprised.

    September 1, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  24. Rob Johnson

    Thanks to people like Ridge, McClellan and Richard Clarke, we are getting a good picture of what life in the Bush administration was like, and it's not a pretty picture.

    And before the Republicans get their panties in a wad over this, it is not like Ridge is some liberal Democrat. In this story he talks about how he wants to help the GOP recapture the White House in 2012.

    It's okay to be a Republican and admit that Bush was wrong, just as it's okay to be a Democrat and admit that Obama is wrong about some things.

    September 1, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  25. Ken

    Tom, didn't you get the memo? Why, it came out about 20 years ago....weren't you on the list? Just to fill you in, it basically said that the [R] party would no longer be the refuge of true conservatism..... there was much more money in cow-towing to the religeous right and other components of the rightwing underbelly of this nation. So the party has long since given up on rational thought, and we've taken to more of a drama queen reactionary approach to demonizing our ENEMYS. (You're not our enemy, are you Tom?) Anyhow, I thought you knew, wonder you are now surprised that upon providing some cogent analysis and speaking the truth about your time as head of Homeland security you are charged with attacking your own party. Come on son!...get with the program!...this is not about being rational! surely see now that its all about perpetuating the rightwing delusion and fairytales that our uber-rightwing puppetmasters feed to us. Please follow Ms Townsend's lead and OBEY, or we'll feed your name to Rush so he can rake you into the mud and ex-communicate you from our current [R] cabal.

    September 1, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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