COLUMBUS - Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said yesterday that, in the long run, terrorists don't care who the next president is.
"Their long-term goals are truly long-term, and the battle to confront terrorism internationally is something that's going to last through the next several presidents, from my point of view," the former Pennsylvania governor told reporters after speaking to a crowd of 1,400 attending Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro's 2004 Conference on Law Enforcement.
"While they may have a personal preference [in the next president], they haven't expressed it ...," he said.
"They're in this for the long haul. They know that Americans are going to be resolved to prevent terrorism.
"There may be a difference in maybe spinning it, it may be subtle, but in the end, it's not going to make much difference," he said. "There may be a difference in how we go after them."
During his 21-minute speech and his press comments afterward, Mr. Ridge never mentioned President Bush nor his Democratic opponent, John Kerry by name, even though the wars on terror and in Iraq have become focal points of the presidential campaign.
"I am absolutely convinced that we will prevent a terrorist attack or attacks because we have been willing to share the kind of information from the men and women in the car, on the beat," he told the crowd of police officers, prosecutors, and other law enforcement officials.
"There's a certain pattern or rhythm to communities," he said. "You know the folks who reside there. You know their habits. . . . Communication is the key."
Later, he said he couldn't point to a specific instance in which information from local law enforcement has prevented another terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11.
He said his department is working to address criticism that federal homeland security funds are flowing too slowly to states and local communities for equipment upgrades, communication improvements, and other programs designed to prepare them to respond to terrorism and other emergencies.
Kerry spokesman Brendon Cull said, "Over three years after 9/11, Tom Ridge's excuse is they're working on the problem."
"My advice is he should get off the campaign trail, get back to Washington, and work until he fixes the problem. George Bush has promised reforms and new training for first responders, and he has not delivered. John Kerry will."
Mr. Ridge said about $8.5 billion has been appropriated so far and he expects about $3 billion more in 2005. Ohio's share of that has been about $280 million, although he stressed that he realizes that not all of it has been spent.
He said the department is working on legislative changes to make it easier for local communities to work through government red tape to access these dollars.
"I assure you the federal government is prepared to write the checks . . . ," he said. "I don't want this money sitting in a bank account drawing interest."
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