BACKPEDALING JUST AS FAST AS HE CAN…. Tom Ridge, Bush’s first Secretary of Homeland Security, certainly caused a ruckus two weeks ago when he confirmed what many of us assumed to be true — the Bush administration based terrorist threat levels on political considerations.

As for the former DHS chief explained, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld pressured him to raise the threat level on the eve of the 2004 election, without strong evidence to do so. In his book, Ridge called it a “dramatic and inconceivable” event that “proved most troublesome” and reinforced his decision to resign from the administration after the election.

“There was absolutely no support for that position [raising the threat level] within our department. None,” he writes. “I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.”

Now, Ridge is walking the whole provocative idea back.

Former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, speaking for the first time about accusations made in his new book, says he did not mean to suggest that other top Bush administration officials were playing politics with the nation’s security before the 2004 presidential election.

“I’m not second-guessing my colleagues,” Ridge said in an interview about The Test of Our Times, which comes out Tuesday and recounts his experiences as head of the nation’s homeland security efforts in the first several years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. […]

Now, Ridge says he did not mean to suggest he was pressured to raise the threat level, and he is not accusing anyone of trying to boost Bush in the polls. “I was never pressured,” Ridge said.

No, of course not. Why would we get that idea?

Probably because Ridge has been saying it for years. As far back as 2005, Ridge acknowledged that the Bush administration periodically put the United States on high alert for terrorist attacks based on flimsy evidence. “There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we [at the Department of Homeland Security] said, ‘For that?’” Ridge told reporters.

Indeed, two weeks ago, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld leaned on Ridge hard enough that it contributed to his resignation. Now he wants us to know he was “never pressured.”

It’s literally unbelievable.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.