So now it's been officially confirmed: With political gain as the goal, President George W. Bush's administration attmpted to elevate the terror alert just days before the 2004 presidential election. The disclosure comes from former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in his new book, "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege . . . and How We Can Be Safe Again"
Ridge writes that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, in reaction to a threatening video released by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on October 29, 2004, "strongly urged" that the threat level be raised just three days prior to the election, and that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld concurred with Ashcroft. Ridge claims he vehemently disagreed, suggesting that elevating the threat level on the eve of the election was not warranted and would undermine the administration's credibility.
As expected, Bush officials have denied Ridge's allegations:
"The story line advanced by his publisher seemingly to sell copies of the book is nonsense," said Rumsfeld's spokesman.
Former White House chief of staff Andy Card said: "We went over backwards repeatedly and with great discipline to make sure politics did not influence any national security and homeland security decisions. The clear instructions were to make sure politics never influenced anything."
And former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend: "I'm a little mystified. Never in my experience did I see any political influence exerted on the cabinet secretary."
This is a huge story, but not a surprising one. Anyone with half a brain knew that the Bushies waged its own terror campaign between Sept 11, 2001 and the 2004 election, scaring the bajesus out of Americans by frequently manipulating the threat level to its political advantage. As Associated Press's Ron Fournier wrote in the summer of 2004:
"The politics of terrorism has Democrats tied in knots. Each time President Bush raises fears of a possible attack, the political debate shifts from his most troublesome issue (Iraq) to one of his strongest (the war on terrorism) while Democrats fight their impulse to question the president's motives."
To be sure, as this story unfolds, the criticism of Ridge will intensify. In typical Bushevik fashion, you can bet there'll be harsh attacks and character assassinations, all of which will directly contradict the previous public praise lavished on Ridge:
March 2, 2004: President Bush said Ridge and other officials "are doing a fantastic job of leading this department."
December 1, 2004, the day after Ridge announced his resignation, Bush said: "His efforts have resulted in safer skies, increased border and port security, and enhanced measures to safeguard our critical infrastructure and the American public. In the fight against terrorism, he has played a vital role in protecting the American people from a real and ongoing threat."
That is, of course, until Ridge blew the whistle on his former boss. But his explosive charge is really old news in a way. He's really not telling us anything we didn't already suspect. The Busheviks for eight years abused the power of the presidency, consistently using the White House, the Justice Department and the Attorney General's office, and other levers of government, for political gain. Whether manipulating terror threats, firing U.S. attorneys, or smearing former Ambassador Joe Wilson for example, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft/Gonzalez cabal zealously and consistently played the politics of fear game. But will any of them ever pay for their misdeeds? Don't hold your breath.