WASHINGTON: The Bush administration, responding to criticism that
it lacked a central voice speaking on matters of national security,
dramatically increased media appearances last week by Tom Ridge, head of
homeland security and now unofficial point man on domestic
The criticism focused on conflicting messages coming from sources as
varied as attorney general John Ashcroft, postmaster general John E.
Potter, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding the threat
posed by anthrax-tainted mail.
Hence the White House announced on Monday that Ridge would begin holding
at least three press conferences a week - on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays - to address matters of domestic safety and readiness. He gave
four such press conferences last week, and granted on-air interviews to
nearly every network.
"We want to brand Tom Ridge," a White House official told The Washington
Post. "When people see him, we want them to think, 'My babies are
What remains to be seen, however, is whether Ridge has the authority to
coordinate information from the 35 federal agencies he was appointed to
oversee. Capitol Hill critics claim that without the power to control
budgeting for those agencies, they will not be compelled to answer to
him, a situation that would seem to jeopardize his ability to serve as
the single voice the White House intends him to be.
Until recently the governor of Pennsylvania, Ridge was appointed head of
the newly created Office of Homeland Security last month.
See Analysis, p. 11.