As Ridge Leaves, Here Come The Excuses
The Washington Post’s Page One post-mortem on Tom Ridge’s announcement and departure from the Department of Homeland Security is notable for the usual Bush Administration back-of-the-hand treatment given to those who are no longer on the team, as well as the media’s acceptance of whatever spin the GOP wants to put on its own failures. First, even before the ink is dry on Ridge’s departure statement, note how the administration spokesperson (read Rove or Andy Card) is already denigrating Ridge’s tenure by telling the media in essence what Ridge didn’t provide:
Administration officials said President Bush is seeking to replace Ridge with a tough manager who can set clear lines of authority and untangle overlapping responsibilities in the department. "This is a chance for a fresh start and a different approach," said the official, who added that Ridge and the president remain close.
Yikes! With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Second, in addressing why the DHS has faltered out of the gate already, the Post’s Allen and Mintz swallow whole this bit of spin:
Current and former Bush administration officials, as well as homeland security experts, were divided yesterday in assessing the department's first 20 months. They also disagreed about how much blame Ridge and other agency leaders should share for the department's weaknesses and how much is attributable to understaffing and lean budgets.
(A) former White House official, who requested anonymity, said, "There's not a lot of accountability there [at the department] now because people can hide behind the fact that the kinks haven't been worked out. . . . With the new secretary, people will be responsible for things, which is what the president wants."
Excuse me, but to complain about understaffing, lean budgets, and an overall lack of accountability as if Bush doesn’t directly control all of that is a little much. The last time I checked, if Bush wanted more staffing and better budgets for DHS, he could tell his toadies in the GOP House and Senate to make it so. If he wanted his pal Secretary Ridge to push the staff harder for delivering verifiable accomplishments, he could do so without waiting for a new Secretary to come aboard.