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August 21, 2009

Tom Ridge in 2008: Politics Never Played a Part in Terror Decisions; "Wire Me Up" [to a Polygraph] and I'll Tell You the Same Thing

Well, it seems that a minor dispute (if it was even that) has been blown up into a conveniently-book-selling scandal.

Either Ridge was lying in 2008 -- not so very long ago -- or he's lying a year later. Hard to take this seriously, especially given that we know that publishers, before agreeing to any kind of advance, demand to see juicy, scandalous revelations in the book proposal.

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.”

So there was a dispute as to the appropriate response and Ridge wondered, he says now, if politics played a role. Well, he earlier he denied that possibility, but even assuming the truth is a bit more nuanced, the most that's possible here (given his previous claim) is that he merely wondered if politics was shaping the Administration position.

It's fine to wonder that -- and, indeed, someone in his position ought to wonder such things. His duties were vital, and it's appropriate to be on guard against all sorts of wrong-headed responses.

But the most that seems to have happened -- assuming Ridge is not a complete fabricator -- is that he "wondered," had no evidence for his wonderment, and ultimately concluded (at least in 2008) that his wondering was incorrect.

But now he amps it up and claims that it was quite a bit more than wondering.

Meh.

Oh, Bush officials deny this and express puzzlement at the allegation, which they're hearing for the first time now, it seems. But I think Ridge's statement is the one that's dispositive.


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posted by Ace at 10:31 AM

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