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August 21st, 2009
10:01 AM ET

Frances Townsend: Tom Ridge has it wrong

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Frances Townsend, CNN contributor and former homeland security adviser, disputes the allegation politics were involved in the terror alert level."]

During the 2004 presidential race, many on the left accused the Bush White House of trying to use the politics of fear to get re-elected. That same claim is now coming from a former Bush insider.

America's first secretary of homeland security, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, says in his new book that he was pressured to raise the nation’s terror alert level ahead of the election.

Frances Townsend, former homeland security adviser for the Bush administration, says that's not what happened. Townsend is now a CNN national security contributor and she spoke with Kiran Chetry and John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday.

Kiran Chetry: In his book Ridge says, “Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’” Fran, you were in the meetings. What is your recollection of how that whole conversation went down?

Frances Townsend: Kiran, I actually chaired the meeting and called it. Tom Ridge knew very well that I agreed with him that I didn't believe there was a basis to raise the threat level, but I knew there were others in the Homeland Security Council that did believe that and we agreed we'd have the conversation. By the way, what Tom Ridge's book doesn't say is the most eloquent case for not raising the threat level was not made by Tom in fact, it was made by Secretary of State at the time, Colin Powell. And Bob Mueller, at great personal risk – remember his boss John Ashcroft was advocating to raise it – based on the facts of the intelligence, Bob Mueller himself made an eloquent case not to raise it.

Chetry: He's saying he felt politics played in to those decisions and it was the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of him deciding to get out of federal government. Do you think politics came in to the equation at all during the time when it came to deciding whether or not to raise the threat level?

Townsend: Not only do I not think that it – that politics played any part in it at all – it was never discussed. In fact, the only thing that was discussed was – earlier that summer there had been a threat against the financial district, there was the Bin Laden tape, and then there was another tape, Kiran, by Adam Gadahn a U.S. citizen who was a member of al Qaeda. And it was a very threatening tape. And so the discussion really revolved around what the intelligence was. There was no discussion of politics whatsoever.

John Roberts: There was also some controversy following the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston when the threat level was raised and was later found out that a lot of the information, or at least some of the information that played in to that decision to raise the threat level, was three-years-old. So there were a lot of people who were already suspicious. I mean, when you take these two things in combination, does it suggest that maybe people were looking at this idea – well, it is the fall of the election campaign, we're in a tight race here with John Kerry, maybe we could work some things to our advantage?

Townsend: You know, in fact, not only was there no discussion in those meetings, the discussions on the margins – you know one of the people who was in that meeting was John McLaughlin, the acting director of CIA, and John Brennan, the current homeland security adviser was then the head of the National Counterterrorism Center. The only discussions I recall were, on the margins of that, there was concern if the intelligence supported raising the threat level it might actually be to the detriment of President Bush because people might perceive it being political. In the end John, people have to remember, you want the Cabinet members who disagree to have a healthy debate. And this in the end came out in the right place. The threat level was not raised and there’s no reason to suspect this discussion would have had any impact on the election whatsoever.

Chetry: When we talk about whether or not politics played in to any of this equation, a lot of people say perhaps there are some political ambitions on the part of Tom Ridge and that he wants to perhaps separate himself from the Bush administration in some ways moving forward. Do you think that what he wrote or what he's alleging here perhaps has a political motivation?

Townsend: I've got to believe it does, Kiran. And I'm sorry to say that because I really enjoyed working with Tom Ridge. But I will tell you not only did he never say this at the time – that he thought political influence was involved in the raising or lowering of the threat level – he’s never said it since when I’ve spoken to him. And just two weeks ago – I'm co-chairing along with Bill Webster a bipartisan task force to make recommendations to Secretary Napolitano now about the threat advisory system. One of the things we obviously did was ask Tom Ridge and Secretary Chertoff to come in and talk to the panel. This is two weeks ago. And Tom Ridge never in that meeting ever mentioned any concern and he mentioned what concerns he had. He never mentioned any concern about politicization of the threat advisory system. So you've got to believe that this is personally motivated in some way.

Roberts: He’s not coming out to talk about this until the first of September. Between now and then … if he doesn't have specifics to back this up, he's going to get eaten alive by folks like you, Andy Card, and other Bush administration officials who are going to try to slam him down as hard as they can.

Townsend: Well John, I’ll tell you, last night I got my hands on one of the books and I looked at it. And, in fact, in other parts of the book, Tom acknowledges that politics never played a role in any of his decisions about the threat alert system. So you have to wonder if this is not just publicity meant to sell more books.

Filed under: Controversy • Politics
soundoff (365 Responses)
  1. Tom

    Interesting debate. It is nice to see civilized disagreement comming for the right. This is a wonderful change. That said, the record is clear, no WMD, 935 lies stated by the Cheney administration in the run up to the war, and no reason to attack other than President Cheney wanted to finish what he started in 1991. As to whether the Republicans campaign on fear, the evidence of that is quite public, and overwhelming. They have nop coice in that they have no ideas, policies, or suggestions. BTW, the Republicans held the White House for 28 of 40 years, why didn't they propose changes to the health care system?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  2. Mike D

    OK – enough – this is a "he said she said" controversy – and if you are pro- Bush you will defend "W" and if you are a "Bush hater" you are going to support Ridge's view and comments. But for anyone here who cares to undersatand that all Presidnet manipulate events for political reasons – please remember President Clinton's firing Tomahawk missles into Afghanistan after the USS Cole disaster??? Clinton lobbed some cruise missiles into an empty terrorist camp in Afghanistan, and then he blew up a Tylenol plant in Africa. Take that, you terrorist scum!

    So give me a break will ya!

    August 21, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  3. CK

    All the liberal lowlifes are now jumping on the hate Bush wagon AGAIN! Get over it! Obama is turning into a liar now and all the liberals are trying to spin anything to say it is not so. Get used to it! He did a Bill Clinton, say what they want to hear. Now that it is time to pay the piper people are finding out he is full of crap!

    August 21, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  4. Vince

    I love these people who post their comments and who's opinion is based soley on the information being fed to them by the media as if the government (Rep or Dem) is telling them all of the secret things that go on behind the scenes. Let's face it, if you make blanket statements about this or former administrations and you are not an "insider" to the real information you are only proving how dumb you really are. If we knew everything that was really going on you'd be afraid to leave the house.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  5. Dean

    The fact that politics did not enter into the discussion, that is no proof that politics had nothing to do with the *desire* by the White House to raise the threat level. It is very widely believed that politics played a huge role in decisions made by the administration – particularly Bush, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft. It is also well known that Colin Powell was somewhat of a 'maverick' in that administration. Of course, there is no evidence that politics was the basis for the pressure – but the timing of it, and the circumstantial evidence of other events (the DNC issue, the firing of lawyers, the WMD issue, tying Al Quaeda to Iraq, etc.) would certainly be enough to sway a jury of 12 to consider the 'preponderance of evidence'...

    August 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  6. Greg

    Conspiracy Theorists: First you contend that Rumsfeld ran everything, but the Threat Level was never actually raised. If there was an evil plot, why didn't we all see the Threat Level raised??? Stop jousting with windmills and let's move on!

    August 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  7. OneAmerican

    Isn't all politics based on either fear or empty promises? Didn't Obama promise no new taxes, yada yada yada? Isn't he using fear of the evil Insurance industry to get his health care bill passed? It's been the same for my 40+ years of life. It 's only a matter of who is doing the spinning to make their side look better. Both parties have always used fear and they always will. Anyone that thinks otherwise doesn't think at all.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  8. Charlie

    All of the former Bush people are now telling the truth. Ridege, Powell and I think a couple more. If they are so wonderful and good people why didn't they speak the truth then and show some integrity and resign. Doesn't do any good to kiss and tell now. All those wonderful conservative moral and family values; where were they?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Bruce33315

    SPIN is the name of the game. Was Frances Townsend present at all meetings with Tom Ridge?

    What politician would discuss national security in terms of political motives when they know that is forbidden?

    Political motives never enter directly into discussions in the Executive Branch when discussing issues related to government decisions. Those motives always remain unspoken. Understood, perhaps, but never spoken outright.

    The decision to dismiss federal prosecutors, for example, may have had political motives, but none of those involved would ever say that directly.

    Ms Townsend should know this, but her saying political motives were never discussed implies that someone would sometime do so, and that is just naive.

    Her speaking out now is likely politically motivated, but she is not about to say that ever, since she is now a "respected journalist" whose interviews and articles must not reveal any political motivation.
    She had a political job in the past, and she may want another in the future, so she is protecting her political credibility by supporting those in her political past who hired her. Another shill.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  10. Jim

    ALL Presidential administrations lie to further their policies or to hide the truth. It's not new to Bush the Sequel. We can look at Presidencies of the the past, and find that they lied about something. That's not what bothers me. What bothers me, and, I suspect, many other people, is that Bush was leveraging the obvious lies to foment fear and to create an atmosphere in which he could tell further lies to get ahead. He used the Office of the President to make himself and his buddies rich while he was sitting IN that office. That is what bothers me. The depth of the corruption that he exhibited and exercised is very hard for me to swallow. And this from a professed Christian man...

    August 21, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  11. bill

    forget bush...forget kerry...
    ask yourself....what does she have to gain from coming out and saying this?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  12. I. Gotta Haddock

    So Ashcroft and Rumsfeld didn't say they wanted to raise terror alerts to influence the election. Don Corleone didn't say, "Kill Paulie." He said, "We've got a situation here I'd like to see go away." It is jejeune on the part of Frances at best.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  13. TeddK

    I've never heard of Frances Townsend, but I must admit I'm a little suprised even CNN would allow such intellectually barren comments go unchallenged. The notion that politics were not a factor because it was not explicitly discussed is ridiculous. I guess as long as they can fool enough people, it doesn't matter if a few people call BS. Ahhhh, makes me feel like I'm back in the Bush years again. That said, I sure wish all of these former administration officials would have had their consciences pricked at the time they were witnessing these questionable acts. At least enough to speak out when it could have changed the course of this country. Perhaps easier said than done though.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  14. david

    I agree with the other David – most of these comments are based on political bias. Sad that a lot of people take what they think as facts. They think they know a lot about what goes on at the highest level of our government. They probably just know a lot about the different sound bites that the media feeds them.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  15. Megan

    If any of you think back to that time, the threat levels being raised always seemed to coincide with some issue the administration was having. Most of it was pure nonsense – who remembers running out to buy plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal their windows??? I remember telling my family back then that it was politically motivated. There was just one too many times that the threat levels were raised at a time when Bush needed a policital win. If you don't believe Ridge, then your memory is failing you.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  16. Bushed

    Just a couple of simple questions?
    1) Where are the colors now?
    2) Where are the WMD?
    3) Where is the money that would support the war?

    Nuff Said

    August 21, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  17. Dramafied

    George Bush was President for two terms. Both times his election was rigged. The man couldn't find his way out of a paper bag and yet he won. Hmmmmmm. Like I have always said, the twin towers would still be standing if George Bush hadn't become President. Look now how this country is suffering from his ignorance.

    If you remember your history about 9/11 George Bush had the Bin Laden family escorted out of America shortly after the towers collapsed on the only plane that was in flight. Why are we still trying to cover this up. George and Dick need to be put away for war crimes not only in Iraq but within our own country.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  18. john tossel

    When did politics not influence any decision they made. It was never about anything but maintaining power to line their pockets. I give Ridge credit for leaving this group.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  19. Dean (PA)

    I think Tom Ridge is an honest guy. After all, in time of crisis he was the one man called on to head homeland security. It wasn't a planned political move to put him in, they found the person that they could rely on most. I say he should run for President.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  20. S82

    I doubt that Townsend is telling the truth now either.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  21. Anne

    I honestly cannot believe all the left wingers on this site. Does CNN just attract them? Tom Ridge is selling books and what politician can any of you name that tells the absolute truth about anything. They all paint themselves in the best light possible just to look good and sell books.

    Stop hammering Bush so much. All you Bush haters – look at what you voted into office–are you all happy now? At the very least the nation had a class act as a president – look how he has never ever bashed President Obama since he left office. Come on now, you think the democratics would show that kind of class–they never ever miss a chance to bash the former administration meanwhile they lie, cheat and steal our money.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  22. PLUTO

    Sounds like a bunch of BS to me. Ah, seems like just yesterday that chimp, Dubya the Bush, was down in Crawford cutting brush with a whiskey bottle in his hand. Boy, how the conservatives cry when you bring up those old Bush days and how much evil was done in the name of eventual good that never happened. The worst president ever. And of course Ridge isn't lying, any more than Obama is out to put your dog to sleep or steal your gun or whatever. Get a grip, people. Cheese.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  23. Native Washingtonian

    It's Code Paisley suckers!

    No more taxation without representation....Pueto Ricans have more rights then citizens of Washington, DC.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  24. buckwheat

    I can see a closed for comments coming up real soon.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  25. dave

    Another person on the Bush admin who "just gets it wrong." Even Bush has it wrong according to Cheney.

    Look GOP, this thing is quacking like a duck and has been for a long time. You have to agree it is a duck.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  26. James

    Absolutely hilarious! It's people like this who THINK that the American public is so naive as to believe that politics had no bearing on putting FEAR into everyone is ludicrous. You know what, as a former GOP supporter, I am tired and disgusted with the same SCARE and INTIMIDATION tactics STILL being used on the American public. it's unfortunate that MANY people still listen to media personalities that want to REWRITE someone experiences because it doesn't FIT into what THEY believed in years ago. Grow up Frances and stop drinking the GOP Koo-laid..

    August 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  27. Kirk

    How do you know when Republican Party officials are lying? Their lips are moving.

    Has anyone forgotten that during the 2004 VP debates, Dick Cheney looked directly at the camera, and essentially told the TV audience that if Kerry/Edwards were elected, we would be attacked by terrorists again, and the people who voted Kerry/Edwards would be to blame?! I will never get over that.

    Bush and his whole team lied about everything, from WMDs and Iraqi nukes on down. Terrorism and fear was all Bush/Cheney could offer.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  28. buckwheat

    Tom Ridge is now supporting a president who just today gave Scotland hell for turning a terrorist loose as he is about to turn 96 loose.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  29. Dan CLayton

    I am certain that politics was never brought up at these meetings. If they were there would be a trail for later prosecutions. The political discussions took place in pre-meetings. "Lets get our stories straight so we can look the American people in the eye and not lie about what we discussed in the Cabinet Level meetings." Even Mr. Bush was not dumb enough to allow politics to be brought up in a meeting that would ever have the potential to be discussed on CNN.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  30. Pete

    So Frances Townsend says that Tom Ridge is wrong about his claim that the Bush Administration was going to raise the terrorist threat level during the Bush/ Kerry race... like she's going to claim otherwise. I'm pretty sure she got her job with CNN – Conservative News network – as a favor to Bush and Co. – and it puts her in the perfect role to deny claims like this.

    And I'm sure there is a counterpart to her on Fox News put there by the left...

    August 21, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  31. Gregg

    Most of you are sheep. You follow the media hatred of Bush and assume that everything he did was for political gain. GET OVER IT! Let time tell if he was a good or bad president. Same for Clinton, same for Obama.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  32. buckwheat

    Someone sent me this sentence the other day: "Before your government can give you anything they have to take it from you." I do not know who said it but he was sure as hell smarter than the average person living today.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  33. Jason

    Just look at her. Like Nazi members of old, she feels compelled to wear her "uniform" of republican red, just like other right-wing political zombie yes-people.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  34. JT

    Anyone who doesn't believe that every decision made by politicians does not have a political consideration is naive.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  35. Collin S. in Glenwood Springs, CO

    I wouldn't put anything past the most dishonest administration in American history., Amazing that for all of the lying, killing and favortism of the Bush years, there was never an impeachment. Really shows the true feelings of Americans...sickening

    August 21, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  36. Rick McDaniel

    As usual, there are various viewpoints on what occurred. Not at all surprising to anyone who deals with meetings, and assorted personalities.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  37. GuyFromLA

    Frances, you should go to jail with your boss Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld!!!

    August 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  38. calvin

    is this all msnbc can talk about. they should change there name to bush fact this groupe and the bunch that said mrs obama short were to short are with out a adough the poor excuse for news people there are.a little advise from a not so smart person. report the new and stop trying to change history bush sold the election in 2000 and obama is not a citizen are two of the poorest reason for your air time to be on the air

    August 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  39. buckwheat

    If you think the threat level is low why not watch the reruns of the planes flying into those building that morning or do you think that was a big scam.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  40. cyndy c.

    Another Liar from the Bush Administration-Frances Townsend!!

    What a joke!! do these people have not shame?

    Bush's whole Presidency was based on threat alerts, lies,etc!!

    Bush and his cronies left this country in the worst possible shape and now the republipigs and conservatives are moaning about the bad job Obama is doing after 8 months in office!!

    Obviously they must have had amnesia during the 8 years Bush and Co. was in office!!

    August 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  41. Chuck

    As a democrat and resident of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge was one of the best and most honest politician in years. He was an incredible Governor, and was liked by both democrats and republicans. I had proudly cast my vote for him. The man left his position due to the fact that he had character and integrity. I would take his word over anyone in the Bush administration, even little Frances Townsend.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  42. Allen Bender

    How do you know when a de. is lying? Their lisp are moving.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  43. buckwheat

    If the Bush administration was so crooked why would you believe Tom Ridge?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  44. James

    Right... because Tom Ridge, the guy at the TOP of the food chain at Homeland Security, knows LESS about the goings-on at Homeland Security, than Frances Townshend, a mere ADVISOR to Homeland Security...

    I think we can reasonably call this a gigantic FAIL on the part of CNN.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  45. KR

    It will be interesting to read in a couple years about how much more damage was done to this country by Obama then by Bush.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  46. Butch McSnuch

    She has zero credibility and is undoubtedly lying.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  47. bird

    So Townsend is lying, and Ridge is an unimpeachable source of honesty? Gimme a break. Tom Ridge is still bitter about being taken out of circulation for a shot at President, and is now airing his sour grapes. if it was such a great concern to him, why did he wait 6 years to say anything?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  48. Mike in NJ

    I don't believe her. Because the Bush administration NEVER CARED about negative public opinion – they had the chutzpah to brazenly use the trappings of power to further their personal goals. And never apologize for it. And then deny it in the face of overwhelming evidence, while smirking all the while. WMD? Yellowcake? PATRIOT Act? Ilegal wiretaps? Valerie Plame? And now THIS??

    These men (Particularly Cheney and Bush) have damaged the leadership of the free world in a way that would make Richard Nixon run for the hills. And that's saying something.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  49. xpst

    Note that definitions of the threat levels have never been published. Nor has a list of prescribed actions to go with the threat levels.

    If no one outside the group that decides threat levels knows what they mean, how can they have any purpose other than to control fear?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  50. Jacoob

    Why doesn't CNN report on the same tactics being used by the current administration instead of focusing on the same old beat up Bush tactic. It is boring and used up. Last I checked ol W is sitting at home laughing and drinking a beer.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  51. buckwheat

    Just goes to show a politician will do anything to feather his nest. He ain't no different than all the rest. Have you noticed that new political leaders ,to keep the heat off their butts, start investigating and trying to charge former crooks in the prior government with something to keep the press busy just as you throw your dog a leather bone while you try to eat.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  52. gw307

    So the Homeland Council met, according to her statement. The Homeland Secretary, the Homeland adviser, the Secretary of State and an assistant to the Attorney General didn't think there was a threat. So who did and who made the final decision?

    August 21, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  53. David

    We heard from John DiIulio, Harvard, Princeton, Penn professor who ran Faith office, former Alcoa Chairman Paul O'Neil at Treasury, Richard Clarke, Scott McClellan, Colin Powell and now Tom Ridge.

    Rove and the Bush 43 administration was always more interested in politics than policy. They made the choices that they did and we got what we got. I hope that they are proud of their accomplishments.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  54. mg

    Tom from Chicago:

    Please provide some data or beef to back up your claims. I would be interested to hear your reasoning regarding Obama and polls, and how he would differ from any other president.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  55. BDB

    Fancis Townsend is a liar. Plain and simple.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  56. Debby

    What a liar. You can tell by some of her answers just how political the whole "threat level" situation was over hte entire year and more before the election. With the bull that Bush, Rumsfeld and Rove threw at the public every chance they got, they made it sound like a nuc would be set off the next day and only they could stop it. Tom RIdge has been a man of conviction and honesty and he finally had it with the lying to the public and made the right decision to get out of the Bush Administration before it destroyed his morals as it has to everyone associated with Bush. None of them, Bush, especially Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rich and Gonzales can never be trusted to tell the truth about the last 8 yrs. They all played thie American citizens like fools and the GOP was just dumb enough to fall for it. Any intelligent adult could see right through their lies. Party loyalty should NOT mean that you go along with the lies to the public who think they put you in office for the betterment of our country. Bush and his whole admin are a disgrace to everything great about this country. They took my constitution and tore it to shreds. They will answer to God for what they have done to my country.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  57. bianca

    This woman is lying....and the Bush administration lackies have moved too quickly, as they have to, which indicates that they are doing what they do best....cover up or 'lie' about their self-serving policies. Why do we still give these folks air time?...and, haven't we moved past this senseless debate about questioning someone who decides to come clean about his insidious activities under Bush...we know he's telling the truth. Those ruthless bastards did way worse than raise threat levels and lied about it.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  58. WTF

    Are you guys aware that the story here is that they chose NOT to raise the threat level? So, lemme get this straight. If they chose to raise the threat level, they're fear mongering. If they chose NOT to raise the threat level, then they're still fear mongering? Seriously, there no winning with you guys!

    August 21, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  59. Michael Daniel

    Ridge's comment only underscores what many knew at the time– that Homeland Security threat levels were sometimes jiggered for political reasons. The fact that Powell and Mueller weighed in against Ashcroft (in the meeting Chetry reports on) tells all. Attempting to discredit Ridge's statement that this was a factor in his decision to step down is transparent. Who knows his decision making process better? Chetry or Ridge? Chetry is aligning herself with a dubious administrative decision: to try to raise the threat levels around election time. Why does CNN pay her as an expert consultant? She sounds like an apologist. In this case, CNN does itself no credit with its choice of an "expert" talking head. If the object was to create a firey backstory by enlisting an opposing opinion, why not get Ashcroft to deny it? Then you would have a national story rather than a tempest in a tea pot.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  60. Cliff - Beaverton, OR

    Wow! Looks like we are going to live with wacko Bush-conspiracy theorists for many years to come.

    Frances Townsend agreed with Tom Ridge. The threat level was not raised. Ms. Townsend has nothing to gain by lying. Tom Ridge has books to sell.

    If President Bush had concocted 10% of the conspiracies he is accused of master minding, he would have been much smarter than he really was. If he was going to do a conspiracy, he should have fabricated WMDs in Iraq to justify the war. As it was, he deserves some credit for not fabricating WMD evidence (the stuff was never found). GWB was not very good at manipulating the media.

    On the other hand, President Clinton, walking on an all-sand beach at Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day, with a media entourage, suddenly comes across a convenient pile of pebbles and arranges them in the shape of a cross for the media to snap a bunch of pictures.

    C'mon guys! President Bush didn't have the smarts to do everything he is accused of doing.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  61. DaveGR

    Since Bush was roundly hated by the media, why would he raise the terror threat to advance his political position when he knew he'd be crucified for it if nothing terrorism related happened? It doens't make sense politically. But if he did, he's in good company with our current president, who's using scare tactics and one-sided statistics to force the country into a health care system it may not want. A good example is the oft-quoted 40-50 million Americans without health insurance. A very large part of the number are young people who can afford it, but choose not to buy it because they are young, healthy and probably won't need it anytime soon. Since a lot of these folks voted for Obama, they are going to be ticked when they get forced to buy coverage by their messiah. Here come the chickens back home....

    August 21, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  62. RealistToo

    it is amazing how many people believe the lies that we attacked Iraq because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We attached Iraq because they INVADED, raped, and pillaged Kuwait, a country we had a protection agreement with and were threatening to attack Saudia Arabia where we also had agreements. The UN was with the USA on this too with several resolutions.

    We did not finish the job the first time because Democrats in Congress (and much of the UN) started making too much fuss, and once the Iraqis were out of Kuwait they wimped out.
    There was no resolution to the Iraqi invasion, just a CEASE FIRE agreement that Saddam never abided by during the entire Clinton administration despite all the "jawboning". He kept on following his murderous ways until he was captured and executed by the Iraqis after the USA and our partners finished the job.

    Selective memory is an interesting thing... And a lie told often enough becomes like the truth...

    August 21, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  63. Cyn

    This woman has never been anything but a colossal tool for the Bush administration. I don't believe a single word that ever exits her mouth.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  64. Bill C

    Thankfully, stupid people like me have incredibly smart people like Mike in Los Angeles to set us straight. So much for the left being on the side of tolerance.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  65. Cart Smith

    As a Bush's adviser, of course she will defend her boss. If CNN wants to be a no-bias main stream media, it should not present the so-called opinions from an insider of the Bush administration.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  66. Phil

    Lets be real here – of course the Bush administration used fear as a means to manipulate and produce political gain – can anyone say Iraq?

    August 21, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  67. Lynn West Bloomfield, Michigan

    If the GOP isn't lying they are planning to lie.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  68. Really

    Good distraction. Lets see, maybe we should dig into Clinton's pass while he was president and start questioning him. Monday morning arm chair quarterbacking can be fun. The left does have it right, Bush is to blame for everything now. Without him, the left and the media would not of had a villian and Obama would never had gotten elected. So it is Bush's fault we are stuck with Obama for 3 1/2 more years. ugh.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  69. jacko

    Everyone can believe what he/she wants in anything, and the truth always like somewhere in the middle in cases like this. I think people forgot that Ms Townsend served also in the Clinton Admin. What she said here is reasonable.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  70. John MF

    Townsend has been a insider of the W clan all along. Ridge was a dutiful player in the W movement. W Insiders like Ashcroft, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and their staffs like Townsend have been documented attempting to Bully others into a unrealistic position. Even Ashcroft was bullied when he was drugged up. Townsend, after interpreting her comments, suggests that she was the "set-up" person to have this meeting, spearheaded by Ashcroft and Rumseld, to twist Ridge into a corner. But it backfired and Ridge had the strong support of Powell and Muller!
    So, Chetry and Roberts, why don't you push back with these tough questions? My respect of Ridge has increased by an order of magnitude. Sounds like CNN interviewers are patronizing fellow contributors! CNN has been my primary website for news, but this interview is definitely weak. As a tech-industry analyst for the last 17 years of my career, I give CNN a F-D grade on this interview

    August 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  71. Grog in Ohio

    Did anyone really expect Ms. Townsend to say Tom Ridge is correct. We were all a bunch of politicized liars covering for the worst president in US history?

    August 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  72. tray

    UGGH! The THREAT LEVEL WAS NOT RAISED. There was only a discussion. Some said yes, some said no. Hard to see the political conspiracy when again, - The THREAT LEVEL WAS NOT RAISED.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  73. Pat

    This woman really isn't lying, she's just putting a spin on the events. If you notice, she's very clever in choosing her words. She didn't say that the administration wasn't trying to use the threat level for political gain, she said "it was never discussed." Duh! Then she goes on to say that Tom Ridge may be saying this now for political reasons, especially since he had never discussed the topic with her (as if he would!).

    To the remarkably ignorant ones who said "Why didn't he resign?" Uh, he DID resign, in November 2004!

    And Powell, the person Townsend says was even more against raising the level than Ridge, also resigned that month!!!!!!!!

    Wow. Ms Townsend hasn't done much for her credibility in this interview. She's trying to undo Ridge's claims, but has actually inadvertently supported them!!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  74. Ron Howerton

    I am not surprised; fear tactics are standard MO for the GOP. Even now they use fear of the meltdown of the medical system to stifle health reform debate. I can't help but wonder what bogeyman they will drag out of the closet to frighten the electorate in 2010?

    Nor is it surprising they'd throw one of their own to the wolves to cover it up. Republicans rarely hold themselves to the same high moral standards they use to vilify Democrats, either, or Sanford would've been crucified already by his own party for the very same reasons Clinton was impeached. In any case, lying has become derigeur for the GOP as demonstrated so aptly by the Bush administration. I'm therefore more inclined to believe FORMER Republican Ridge than any of his old comrades.

    Here's hoping the GOP scares itself out of existence!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  75. charlie chaplin

    That's the biggest fairy tale I've ever heard!!!! Nothing but liars in the entire Bush administration.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  76. johnharry

    I do not even have to read this article to know that the terror levels went up and down at the drop of a voting pole. Replublicans are such a fear mongering little group. I left the party for a reason. Bush Lied Soldiers Died.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  77. Matt

    If any poster here thinks the Democrats in general, or Mr. Obama in particular, wouldn't play politics if they thought it helpful an/or necessary, you are deluded. Hate to tell you, but Mr. Bush did not invent "play the fear factor."

    August 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  78. x-rev

    I do in fact believe her when she says that political motives were not discussed in the cabinet meetings. But does this mean there were not political motives behind the discussions? Anyone in that room would be stupid to openly say they needed to make the move to help the Bush campaign, knowing someone would eventually write a "tell all book."

    So like many political figures... she tells the truth concerning the offical cabinet meetings, but maybe forgets to talk about discussions outside of the meetings.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  79. DennisG

    It's never been a question that the Bush/Cheney whitehouse herded the right wing public like sheep but the real shame is that they manipulated and used the staff who were loyal to them like this poor clueless woman. She still has no idea what was going on and will probably never be able to comprehend it.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  80. Tom

    She may be telling the truth about the meeting content, but it's obvious that the meeting would never have taken place without the political push from Rumsfeld and friends. So she is at the very least being disingenuous.

    I really just view all this crap coming out now just like the OJ trial. Everyone now wants to create more controversy and make money writing books. It's the American way!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  81. Jay

    This is what the GOP is all about, propaganda, lies and deciet.
    They are attacking the health care plan like wild fire, planting more lies and propaganda to the American people, I wonder how patriotic these people are, I knew all along that thye 2004 election was set up for a GOP win.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  82. ?

    So wait ... You're saying that some people actually took the terror threat level seriously?

    Wow, news to me...

    I thought it was prety much the biggest joke ever.

    What is more scary to you: the color RED or the thought of your grandmother on steroids?

    August 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  83. RealistToo

    It is interesting to see this discussed when we have a Democratic government that is using fear to sell this socialist federal takeover of all the economy:

    The stimulus bill must pass NOW (before anyone reads it) or the economy will collapse!
    The federal takeover of the healthcare industry must pass NOW (before anyone reads it) or the health care for all people will collapse!
    We have to force the automakers into bankruptcy NOW (before the bondholders and stockholders can get the courts to negate it) or they will collapse!

    Then all the other LIES that we have been fed during the campaigning and since...

    No fear used at all. Bull

    August 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  84. Bruce

    Ridge raised the terror level right after John Edwards was named as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, just to kill the Democratic buzz. He didn't have anything specific – so he was just misleading the public for political gain. Frances Townsend is an idiot.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  85. Mike McW

    Townsend states politics did not come up in the meeting, of course not. I'm sure Rumsfield would not state the threat level should be raised to help boost the polls but.......

    August 21, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  86. Tony

    If Ridge is trying to show he is honest, he should have done somthing about it and raised this issue while he was in the Bush administration. It is so nice to bring this up when he needs to sell books.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  87. John Berkeley Heights New Jersey

    Tom Ridge is a lot more credible than Townsend who parrots the Bush line ad nausium. CNN should get a lot more objective contributor. The Bush people are getting very nervous that they may face prosecution.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  88. gvgv

    Of course, the current administration uses no scare tactics in the health care reform. No, not at all.

    Hand me a glass of the finest cherry kool-aid, please...

    August 21, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  89. BW GONE

    Incompetent administration.
    You voted for them, they hired Townsend as a homeland security adviser. She continues to advise.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  90. Jon

    Bush was such a horrible president. Lets see if Obama can go lower than him in the rankings!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  91. harvey

    put all of them in front of a grand jury, under oath, and let's see who's really telling the truth. you Republicans are staging disruptions to health care forums and encouraging people to carry assault weapons at healthcare forums where the President speaks. you are also passing out photos of the President with a Hitler mustache. you complain about the Democrats trying to pass bills with a simple majority when you not only did the same thing when you ran Congress, but you held hearings late at night and scheduled votes on bills hundreds of pages long so Democrats would not be able to read and research the contents. you are morally repugnant, all of your conservative naysayers are liars, cheats, and some are convicted felons. you did absolutely nothing in the 12 years you ran Congree to promote healthcare for all Americans. you Republicans are the real Nazi Party of the United States, with your encouragement of right-wing hate groups and militias, religious fanaticism, and attitude that only what you believe is the true American way. you prove it every day by ridiculing members of your own party if they step partially away from your path of righteousness.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  92. Scott ---- Appleton, Wisconsin

    Are we now to believe this coming from a tight Bush supporter ? I would believe Ridge before I believe this woman. Tom Ridge had and has nothing to gain from this and the facts have proved this. Bush's numbers have always increased after a terror alert change and they knew that. Tom Ridge resigned a month after the election, coinicidence ? I think not. For all you so called true republicans who can point a finger at our current president for trying to pass reform I say shame on you. Look at your last administration and how they abused their power ( firing the judical staff), using their power to sway the voters. Remember it was the Bush in florida that got Goerge elected. Is this all coinincidence ? Think again before you talk.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  93. Mike

    Nothing at CNN can be trusted ...

    August 21, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  94. Charles

    Townsend was part of the problem. She went on National Television and help spread fear for the Bush administration and now, is covering her tracks. Any intelligent person knew the Neo-Con's agenda and the events they were CREATING and her silence speaks to her patriotism and commitment to this country! We need a UN investigation because the very people that committed this crime, are still employed covering their tracks, like Townsend!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  95. Bj

    Boy the liberals are out in force today. Is it that time of the month, or are you all just pissed off about you idiotic health plan falling apart.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  96. HD

    To Greg,,,
    the Clinton adiminstration may have played politics in the process, but they never used the fear tactics of Bush and Cheney. Republicans prey on the most simple minded people and stir fear to get their agenda satisfied. Hopefully people will start to figure out they have been taken by all these Repbulican lies.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  97. CPO


    I don't understand your logic. If one cannot trust the word of Bush administration members – how can you believe Ridge. Was he not appointed by Bush himself? You can't make a statement of non-trust for all members and selectively believe the ones that agree with you perception.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  98. Dan

    Does Ms. Townsend honestly believe that anyone with an ounce of common sense would believe anything that the Bush administration did or didn't do was not politically motivated? How stupid does she think the American public is? It's almost laughable to see her try and continue to defend this group. She must have absolutely no self-esteem whatsoever.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  99. Mississippi Mike

    Yeah, yeah, she's a liar. Of course you are going to say that but ask yourself this, why would she lie? Also ask yourself why no one else is stepping forward to support Ridge's assertion. Surely someone else out there would love to save face besides Ridge.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  100. CMS

    All you liberal clowns out there ranting against your antichrist need to take a deep look at what you are thinking and saying. Your current savior is just as much of a political manipulator as any conservative has been. Just because you disagree with someone does not make them a liar or a fool or evil and just because you agree with someone doesn't make their statements the gospel truth. Your fanatic liberal ideology confuses your little minds just as much as you think a fanatic conservative is confused by his/her ideology. Get over yourself and you may actually have some good ideas to contribute!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
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