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Unplugged: Ridge On Homeland Security Frustrations

Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge said on "Washington Unplugged" Friday that "trying to match cultures and build the relationships necessary so you can better coordinate an effort to secure America" sometimes left him frustrated when he served as the head of the then-newly formed Department of Homeland Security from 2003 through 2005.

Ridge, who has a new book out called "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege," told host Bob Schieffer that he never attended a national security council meeting despite his role as director of Homeland Security. He said he was not involved in war planning decisions, something he said he did not find off-putting since his role was confined to homeland security.

Schieffer asked if the creation of the Homeland Security bureaucracy was a mistake, suggesting that "we just put a giant bureaucracy on top of other bureaucracies."

Ridge responded that he "still think[s] it was a good idea," but added that "the fact that I ran into so many challenges with having aggregated 180,000 people who were bits and pieces in other organizations, and then we bumped up against them – that was a challenge. And I think the challenge still exists."

Ridge told Schieffer that he did not believe that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wanted to raise the color-coded threat level on the cusp of the 2004 election for political reasons. In his book, Ridge wrote that he had been worried at the time that politics was playing a part in the decision. The threat was ultimately not raised.

"Neither on that occasion or the multiple other occasions that we sat down in the president's Homeland Security cabinet we never raised it unless there was a consensus," Ridge said, nothing that he opposed raising the threat level at the time.

Schieffer asked Ridge if John McCain would have done better in the 2008 presidential election had Ridge been his vice presidential nominee. Ridge said he didn't know and noted that "John was sailing into some strong headwinds."

Watch the entire episode of Friday's "Unplugged" above. It also includes an interview with Politico's Mike Allen and Sesame Street's Elmo. "Washington Unplugged" appears live on each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

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