Ridge's suspicions, and that's all they were, of a political motivation for raising the threat level fly in the face of what we know to be facts in the weeks and months leading up to the 2004 election. In the fall of 2004, al-Qaeda's no. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, released two audiotapes calling for attacks on the U.S.
In the wake of the bombing of Spanish trains in the days before the Spanish presidential election, these threats were taken seriously, as they should have been. As reported in The Washington Post on October 2, 2004:
An audiotape attributed to al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman Zawahiri, 3merged yesterday [October 1, 2004], calling for preemptive attacks against the United States and its allies, and urging followers to continue fighting "if we die or are arrested."On the Friday before the election, Osama bin Laden released a videotape with a similar message:
The tape, broadcast on the al- Jazeera satellite network, is the second message in less than a month to be attributed to Zawahiri, who is believed to be directing limited al Qaeda operations from hideouts along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.The recording stoked fears among some U.S. and European intelligence officials that the terrorist network is preparing a significant strike before the Nov. 2 presidential election. The FBI and other agencies this week launched an aggressive campaign of interviews and arrests aimed at thwarting such an attack.
Osama bin Laden, injecting himself into the campaign four days ahead of presidential elections, said in a videotape aired Friday that the United States can avoid another Sept. 11 attack if it stops threatening the security of Muslims.
In the segment broadcast, the al Qaeda leader refrained from directly threatening new attacks, although he said "there are still reasons to repeat what happened."
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Within hours of the release, John Kerry tried to use the videotape to his advantage, as reported by The Guardian, even though Kerry had not actually seen the videotape (reinforcing the image of Kerry as a buffoon):
There is no evidence that raising the threat level [which was raised over the summer, not on the eve of the election] had any effect on the election. If anything, it was the release of audio and video taped threats, and John Kerry's foolish reaction, which swayed the public.
Kerry was the first to use the tape to attack his opponent, appealing for Americans to show unity, but then quickly condemning Bush for missing an opportunity to capture bin Laden. 'I regret that when George Bush had the opportunity in Afghanistan and Tora Bora, he didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden,' Kerry said.
Bush responded by lambasting Kerry's comments as 'shameful', and his aides followed up the attack. 'You would think there would be maybe 12 hours to let the American people absorb this [the video],' said White House spokesman Dan Bartlett.Democrats at first said Kerry had not seen the tape when he made his comments. However, his aides held conference calls with reporters and in their turn attacked the Republicans for using the video as a political tool.
If the Bush administration had not raised the threat level and Spanish-style election-eve bombings had taken place, Ridge would have written a book complaining that the threat level was not raised.
Tom Ridge has revealed himself to be a fool in the likeness of Meghan McCain. And that's not a pretty picture, even if it does sell books.
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