Why Send Andy Card and Frances Fragos Townsend to Rebut Ridge?

Mary reminded me that I wanted to comment on the Bush Administration’s response to Tom Ridge allegation–or rather, confirmation–that the terror alert system was politicized. Politico tells us that when the  were asked about Ridge’s allegation they–apparently all of them–referred reporters to Frances Fragos Townsend and Andy Card.

Ridge did not respond to numerous requests for comment from POLITICO and a number of former top political and national security officials within the Bush administration declined to respond to Ridge, referring POLITICO to Card and Townsend.

Don’t you think that a little odd? That "a number of former top political and national security officials" would all tell reporters to speak to Townsend and Card? Particularly since, as Card Townsend tells it, he didn’t know Ridge was writing a book?

“I didn’t even know Tom was even really writing a book,” said Card.

So what you’re left with is Card claiming he never saw Bush overriding the decisions of the National Security Council and Department of Homeland Security, which is different than saying those in NSC didn’t push Ridge towards certain decisions. You’ve got Townsend, the woman whom the Bush Administration didn’t read into the warrantless wiretap program even though it was a core function of her job, claiming that (as with Jim Comey) she never saw any pressure exerted on Ridge.

“Never in my experience did I see any political influence exerted on the cabinet secretary.” 

And you’ve got Andy Card, the guy who, seven years ago, was just rolling out the September new product, claiming the Bush Administration never let politics influence national security decisions.

“We went over backwards repeatedly and with great discipline to make sure politics did not influence any national security and homeland security decisions,” former White House chief of staff Andy Card told POLITICO. “The clear instructions were to make sure politics never influenced anything.” 

If this is the best the Dead-Enders can do to rebut Tom Ridge, I expect Ridge will be having a long and very profitable book tour. Because this response is simply not credible.

Update: Card/Townsend error fixed.

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43 replies
  1. JimWhite says:

    Yeah, and Andy didn’t play any role in trying to move a political point past an Attorney General who was drugged and in intensive care, either. Didja go over backwards at the hospital, too, Andy?

    Give me a break.

  2. plunger says:

    Mary Matlin knows the entire truth…all of it. Somebody at Justice needs to start giving that woman a serious tittie twister. She was in on every political ploy they illegally concocted, in the name of national security. It is criminal.

  3. scribe says:

    You send Andy Card out when you need to break legs (or laws) and have to have someone there to mind the real nitwit who’s there to do the dirty work. In the other instance I can think of, Card got trotted out to make sure Gonzo found his way to Ashcroft’s bed and was not diverted by Mrs. Ashcroft.

    As to Townshend, that she wasn’t read in on the wiretapping despite it being a core function of her job, you overlook that this was a woman in a Man’s job, so the boys in the club weren’t about to let her in the treehouse to know all the secrets. (These are Republicans, after all.) Rather, she’s someone who gets sent to court to argue the motion, when the lawyer who provided the affidavit lied like a rug and would get called on it if he were there, but she knows nothing. “I was handed the file and asked to cover this motion. Lies? I can’t believe anyone would lie. Especially to a judge.” That’s her function. She never knew anything.

  4. Mary says:

    I’m going to give one minor quibble EW. He didn’t really say, “he never saw Bush overriding the decisions of the National Security Council and Department of Homeland Security” He says at one point that they bent over backwards to make sure that politics did not influence national security and homeland security decisions (like authorizations of the TSP I guess), but he won’t really come out and say that they didn’t override Homeland Security decisions. Instead, he passes the buck on that to the National Security Council and says,

    “That would definitely be an overstatement because to my knowledge the president always took the advice of the National Security Council,” Card said of Ridge’s claim

    . emph added

    Lots of whiffling there, with the approach being that DHS supposedly dealt with the President via the NSC and by going to the NSC. That’s why they trot out Townsend too. Card is carving out knowledge of NSC only, and even there saying that Ridge is only “overstating” and that is Card’s belief “to his knowledge.” Townsend is, then, the other piece that says, “oh, and NSC never turned down Tommyboy or pressured him”

    And she does, kinda.

    “Under no circumstance was Tom Ridge or anyone else directed to change the threat level,” Townsend said. “It didn’t work that way, and it certainly didn’t work that way in 2004. It was always an apolitical process.”

    Why would she know? How can she say how it worked, in 2004, when she never even knew about something like the TSP and the rationale that it was legal bc if the Presient does it, it’s legal? Apparently she “knows” bc it isn’t “consistent” with her worldview for him to have been pressured:

    “I’ve heard from folks asking me if this was consistent with anything I knew, and I just keep saying no.”

    Apparently the same answer she would have given to allegations of a massive illegal and unconstitutional domestic surveillance program that generated so many FISA felonies that the economic livelihood of most major telecoms would be in jeopardy if they were forced to pay the appropriate criminal fines. Which I guess makes her quite the source. Not a member of the NSC, not a member of Ridge’s DHS, but instead a member of the President’s Homeland Security Council. So of course, she and Card would “know.”

    BTW – apparently she’s now taken to the airwaves and is saying that the real political motivation in all of this is Ridge’s desire to run for office while distancing himself from Bush.

    http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs…..eader.aspx

    Lovely girl.

    • JTMinIA says:

      > BTW – apparently she’s now taken to the airwaves and is saying that the
      > real political motivation in all of this is Ridge’s desire to run for
      > office while distancing himself from Bush.

      Gosh. I could have sworn someone here suggested that yesterday in the other thread. Who was it?

      • scribe says:

        Not for nothing, Corzine has some nice posters up which have a nice, younger (2000 ish) picture of Bushie smilin’, and a current picture of Christie smilin’, and the legend:

        “Shared Values
        Same Result”

  5. LabDancer says:

    Well then: Ridge’s complaint must have to do with that big black monolith, the National Security Council — and NOBODY knows what was going on with THAT thing.

    • LabDancer says:

      There must be some misunderstanding about the NSC in wikipedia world, cuz this can’t be right:

      “The National Security Council is chaired by the President.
      Its regular attendees
      (both statutory and non-statutory)
      are the Vice President,
      the Secretary of State,
      the Secretary of the Treasury,
      the Secretary of Defense,
      and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (or National Security Advisor).
      The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council,
      and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence advisor.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U…..Membership

      • fatster says:

        from whitehouse.gov

        “The NSC is chaired by the President. Its regular attendees (both statutory and non-statutory) are the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council, and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence advisor. The Chief of Staff to the President, Counsel to the President, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are invited to attend any NSC meeting. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited to attend meetings pertaining to their responsibilities. The heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are invited to attend meetings of the NSC when appropriate.”

        Link.

        When you insert the BushCo names into that list, your mention of the Monolith conjures up some very frightening images and sounds. Shudder.

  6. Mary says:

    Interesting that no one wants to walk the cat back to Cheney and Rice and Rumsfeld to try to pit them and their “non-political” words against Ridge. When Card smarms that Bush never turned down the recommendation of — Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Hadley & Bush- that’s just darn shocking. Who would have ever guessed.

    Reminds me of the bit in Scahill’s Blackwater (which I am just now reading and doing it out of order to boot) where he talks about the private companies producing parts of the PDB these days and how easy it is for them if, for example, they also represent a right wing dicator who wants more help killing off political opponents, to “shape” the PDB to say what needs to be said, in the way it needs to be said, for the propagandizing of the Presidential decisions. Stack that NSC the way it was stacked and tell me how Ridge had a chance.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Reminds me of the bit in Scahill’s Blackwater (which I am just now reading and doing it out of order to boot) where he talks about the private companies producing parts of the PDB these days and how easy it is for them if, for example, they also represent a right wing dicator who wants more help killing off political opponents, to “shape” the PDB to say what needs to be said, in the way it needs to be said, for the propagandizing of the Presidential decisions. Stack that NSC the way it was stacked and tell me how Ridge had a chance.

      …hooboy…
      After insight like this, I got nuttin’ to add.

  7. Mary says:

    Is the CIA IG report supposed to come out Monday?

    LOL – just noticed the ad on the sidebar for “Careers in Homeland Security”

    And it doesn’t even include media schill and a pic of Townsend.

    I guess I’d be content (if not happy) if Politico or others would at least mention her staggering lack of awareness of the massive FISA felony program and her status as barred from the FISCt for participation in pecadillos when they trot her out as their unimpeachable source.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes. And I’m guessing we’ll get one hell of a document dump. It’s probably the best time to roll out a torture “investigation,” seeing as how it is still August. And hell, if you’re dumping you might as well dump the OPR report as well.

      • bmaz says:

        Is there any scuttlebutt that OPR will be released also? Knowing how the Administration wants to put all this behind them, it does kind of make sense to get it over with.

      • fatster says:

        Thank heavens we’ve got one hell of an analyst, backed up by many others who gather here, who’ll master it all in lickety-split fashion. Thnx so much for all you do, EW. Gonna motor over and see if I can’t put another penny or two of appreciation on your Pixie Dust lunch bag.

  8. emptywheel says:

    Oh my. I hadn’t read the full excerpts from the Post-Gazette when I wrote this. And once you do, the how and why of hte push-back becomes clear:

    Osama bin Laden had released a videotape with one more ominous sounding but unspecific threat against the United States. Neither Mr. Ridge nor any of the department’s security experts thought the message warranted any change in the nation’s alert status.

    ” . . . at this point there was nothing to indicate a specific threat and no reason to cause undue public alarm,” he writes.

    But that view met resistance in a tense conference call with members of the intelligence community and several other Cabinet officers including Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    [he describes how he pushed back against an election eve alert successfully–note I thought they were talking about their DNC one]

    “I believe our strong interventions had pulled the ‘go-up’ advocates back from the brink,” Mr. Ridge writes. “But I consider the episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington’s recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security.”

    This was not the former governor’s first unsatisfying encounter with Mr. Rumsfeld.

    While Mr. Ridge participated in daily security briefings for the president, his department was not granted a chair on the National Security Council and he never attended any of its meetings.

    So, first of all, Rummy and Ashcroft are the ones passing off journalists to Card and FFT. And there’s no indication either of them was on teh call.

    Furthermore, as I suspected, Ridge had no seat at the table at NSC. So if NSC was setting the level, then Ridge didn’t really control it.

  9. foothillsmike says:

    Gee do I remember a former Bush press secretary writing a book and saying everything was politicized.

  10. WilliamOckham says:

    Why Send Andy Card and Frances Fragos Townsend to Rebut Ridge?

    Well, because they’ll do what you tell them to do and they don’t know what they don’t know. That is, they can talk all day about how Ridge is wrong without actually saying anything.

    • fatster says:

      And when you factor in the rampant amnesia that infects that group, you can betcha bottom dollar nothing will emerge.

  11. BayStateLibrul says:

    Maybe Rove will pen a WSJ article defending the teror alerts.
    Do you thin he will recall the events?
    I’m pretty sure Mr. Rove had a willing hand in the fear-mongering…

  12. brendanx says:

    From the same Post-Gazette article, this cognitive dissonance:

    Mr. Ridge is adamant in rejecting the contentions of Bush administration critics that the often-derided color-coded warning system he helped devise was manipulated for political ends.

  13. oldtree says:

    I don’t know if this is inadvertent, or a sign of the continuation of the buchenical dynasty. The first paragraph appears to refer to a working organ, a thing that although dead, still has a life that should have been ended. Now more resembling a malignant tumor continuing to defy attempts to stop it. That the election really meant nothing in how things are done, or certainly worse, continued.
    I am afraid you are prescient in this.

    • fatster says:

      Bank failure tally climbs to 80
      Regional banks in Georgia and Alabama are closed by regulators as the financial crisis continues to take a toll on local banks
      By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff writer
      Last Updated: August 21, 2009: 6:44 PM ET

      More.

        • fatster says:

          I haven’t a clue, but tomorrow early I’ll see if I can find something for you. Prolly not, but I’ll try.

        • fatster says:

          Well, shoot, it was on my Bookmarks thingy all along. Here ya go.

          “The FDIC is often appointed as receiver for failed banks. This page contains useful information for the customers and vendors of these banks. This includes information on the acquiring bank (if applicable), how your accounts and loans are affected, and how vendors can file claims against the receivership.”

          Just go to the link and either bookmark it yourself or remind me next time that I do have it bookmarked.

          Link.

          • Hmmm says:

            Thank you very much, I know I should have looked myself and I appreciate the effort.

            That’s very interesting, it seems many/most of the failed banks are actually immediately acquired by another going bank. Somehow I had the (mistaken) impression that the FDIC generally owned the banks for a while and then sold them off by rooting around for a buyer. Not so. They must be very busy lining up acquisitions before they show up and shutter the bank.

            I notice one case where the FDIC created a new bank to take over, maybe that’s a situation where an acquirer hasn’t yet been found.

  14. Mary says:

    This isn’t strictly on topic, but I’m not sure it’s strictly OT either.

    http://borderlinesblog.blogspo…..urity.html

    A recent blog piece on the Chertoff consulting group, which is employing “Let’s ask Mikey, he’ll do anything” Hayden, and the Homeland Security “business.”

    As the latest homeland security consulting firm, Chertoff Group will be competing with two other security companies formed by top Republican Party figures: Ashcroft Group founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft; and Guiliani Group, formed by former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Rudolf Guiliani. Although not specially focused on homeland security, Ridge Global, formed by the first DHS secretary Tom Ridge, also has a piece of the expanding global security industry.

    The Chertoff Group has a leg up on its competitors. The revolving door between government and industry has brought a half-dozen former high government officials of the Bush administration into the Chertoff Group.

    I guess if you weren’t overly obsessed and paranoid about “Homeland” Security (why hasn’t that been changed to American yet, btw) before, knowing the ownership of the firms readying themselves to make money inciting fear and mismanaging resources would give you a bit of pause. Chertoff has a former acquisitions head for NSA (that’s going to be one financially transparent entity) and the ex-longstanding assistant director for “collections” at the CIA.

    Chertoff, Ashcroft, Giuliani, Blackwater – I think soon they’ll have to usurp “Xe”nophobia to a new meaning (a well based fear of homelanders vs. an irrational fear of foreigners)

    • prostratedragon says:

      On or off, thanks so much.

      As to the question of all these belated critics, Suskind was just on npr/atc with a pointed reminder from his days working with youngish, career-ahead-of-him DiIulio and older, independently wealthy O’Neill. Something about self-insulating capacity, or something.

  15. Leen says:

    Saw Townsend on CNN this morning ripping Ridge. Chris Matthews just had Ron Reagan and Joan Walsh on addressing this issue.

    Matthews asked “when do these guys stop sending out there spokesmen” to do their bidding?

    Rep Sestak was also on Hardball addressing this issue. His response was clear something like using “the national security of our nation as a political football” is so wrong

    Here we go. Sestak on Hardball
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/

  16. Mary says:

    Townsend would be what you would have gotten if Stefani had decided she WAS a Hollaback Girl after all (an if she were lots older).

  17. cinnamonape says:

    “I can honestly say I never saw with my own eyes any political pressure leveled against Tom Ridge to change his positions on the alert levels”- cinnamonape

    See how easy it is when you aren’t in the meetings or offices when the pressure is applied

    BTW We have it directly from Darth’s own filthy mouth that political decisions did play a part in Heimat Defenze und Nazional Sekurite issues. Cheney has recently said that Bush wimped out because of changed political landscapes after he won the election in 2004. So politics was a driving force in these decisions, according to Cheney, although Cheney would never admit it played a role before 2004.

    But by confessing that Bush weighed things politically AFTER the election they practically admit that it happened before then, too. There was no “system” that prevented it.

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