Saturday, September 5, 2009 5:00pm Eastern

The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…And How We Can Be Safe Again

Chat with Hon. Tom Ridge about his new book. Hosted by Christy Hardin Smith, over at FDL.

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To prepare yourselves, read Christy’s post:

High Alert? Backpeddling Or Forging Ahead With Tom Ridge This Saturday

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And watch Rachel Maddow’s amazing interview with him
Part One:
Ridge Clarifies Quote on Politics and Terror
Part Two:
Ridge on What Happened During Katrina
Part Three:
Ridge and Maddow Debate Decision Behind the Iraq War

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The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…And How We Can Be Safe Again:

Before 9/11, Tom Ridge had what he called, “the best job in America” as the Governor of Pennsylvania. In the aftermath of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history, President Bush called on Ridge to head up domestic security in a newly established cabinet post: Secretary of Homeland Security. This new position was fraught with obstacles even while it experienced exhilarating success. In his compelling memoir, The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…And How We Can Be Safe Again, Ridge brings the reader inside the development of America’s new first line of national security.

Ridge, who clearly is not afraid to take his own Republican Party to task, presents a powerful and refreshing look at the inner workings of the highest echelons of our government. It was a difficult and often thankless job. As The Washington Post wrote November 12, 2001, “Congressional leaders and pundits are stuffing Tom Ridge into the Beltway meat grinder: Either he’ll fail because he has no money and authority to pummel bureaucracies into line, or he’ll fail because some disaster will occur, or he’ll fail for giving out too much information, or not enough information or conflicting information. Or he’ll fail because he can’t possibly succeed. He has the scariest and most difficult Washington job you could possibly imagine.” What made this such a no-win situation? Ridge lays bare the many incidences, including:

    • Being instructed by the White House to insert text into of a speech describing how issues of homeland security would be akin to “defensive measures away from the U.S.” (read: Iraq)
    • How difficult Ridge found it to meet face-to-face with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to discuss strategy
    • Ridge was never invited – not even once as a cabinet member – to sit in on National Security Council meetings
    • Ridge’s frustrations with being rejected when he proposed establishing Department of Homeland Security Offices in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, and New Orleans
    • Ridge’s desire to have a DHS office in New Orleans was brought forth – and shot down – long before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf of Mexico states in 2005
    • Near Christmas 2002, Ridge ordered the security level to be elevated to Orange – he received criticism for this despite info suggesting a warning to keep everyone on their toes was the wisest approach
    • Ridge often found himself blindsided during daily morning briefings with the President because the FBI withheld key information from him
    • Ridge refused to raise the security level on the eve of the 2004 Presidential election despite the urging of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft
    • Ridge’s efforts to get Hollywood involved in helping to get the word out about the citizens of the U.S. remaining alert

The first person to hold the seat of Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge was there during one of the more dangerous periods in our nation’s history. He went head-to-head with many colleagues in the Bush Administration, fighting for what he believed was right, but also fighting to actually make this new department viable. He believed that is what others wanted and why he took the job. But he found out there were other agendas in place. The Test of Our Times is an important and vital book on American politics and security. (Thomas Dunn Publishers)

The HON. TOM RIDGE became the first secretary of Homeland Security in 2001. The former congressman and governor of Pennsylvania is the president and CEO of Ridge Global, which consults on security, diplomacy, international relations, economic development, and other key issues. Ridge is based on Washington, D.C. (Amazon.com)