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THE WHITE HOUSE
In This Installment (06.06.2003):
TOM RIDGE: SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Secretary Ridge: Good evening. I'm Tom Ridge. In October of 2001, I selflessly accepted a field promotion from President George W. Bush which freed me from my drearily regional duties as the two-term Governor of Pennsyltucky, and catapulted me onto the national stage as America's first ever Office of Homeland Security Advisor. As a former Army staff sergeant and child of genuine non-rich people, I promptly set nose to grindstone developing the categorically perfect, non-frenzy-inducing Terror Color Alert System, which offers Americans 100% foolproof protection against boxcutter-wielding Arab kamikazes.

We'll be taking nine of your questions today, so let's begin.


Woody Poleski, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
Hi Tom - First off, you're doing a terrific job for America. Most of us don't know exactly what that is, but if George Bush says we need you, then we need you! I wanted to know, how did you come up with the color-coded terror alert system. It's pretty sophisticated, and I'm always inspired to hear the inside story of how truly brilliant men like yourself get the genius ideas that help mold and constrict our society.

Secretary Ridge:
Thank you, Woody. And may I say what a pleasure it is to inaugurate this afternoon's chat with a high quality inquiry such as yours. As for the genesis of the color-coded Terror Alert System, much as I'd like to take credit for the idea myself, I'm afraid Clause 2 of my White House employment agreement clearly states, "As a condition to my acceptance for inclusion in the eternal reign of His Excellency George W. Bush (GWB), I shall relinquish and assign to GWB all bragging rights and political interests, if any, to any and all brilliantly perfect concepts, ideas, and/or color-coded paranoia catalysts invented and conceived totally and completely by myself."


Quentin, from Boston, MA writes:
I have thoroughly sealed my home with duct tape and plastic and stored 3 weeks worth of Coca Cola, pretzels and cheez whiz. What else can I do to prepare for the next raghead attack,Tom?

Secretary Ridge:
First, you are to be commended for having carefully followed the preparation guidelines I authored for ready.gov. I sincerely wish that more Americans would accept the reality that only by mummifying ourselves and our families in airtight habitation cocoons can our nation ever hope to triumph in the psychological war being waged so unsuccessfully against us. And though it honestly sounds to me as if you're fully prepared, Quentin, I'd be lying if I said that I myself hadn't taken the extra step of investing in an advanced filtration system that will allow my family and me to bathe in, cook with, and drink our own recycled urine.


Matt Lemanski, from St. Clair Shores, MI writes:
From what I understand, there are portions of the Patriot Act that mandate certain security procedures for airports, power plants, etc. However, the federal government has not set aside sufficient funding for these mandates. With the nation deficit skyrocketing, and most states running deficits themselves, how are we going to pay for all of this?

Secretary Ridge:
I'm glad you asked that question, Matt, because it's round about time we address all these silly hang-ups about "debt" head-on. Truth be told, budgets are for the little people – inconsequential nobodies who have nothing better to do than sit around and balance every last penny in their sorry little checkbooks. There's an old adage which says, "You've got to spend money to make money." Well in this case, you've got to spend money to continue spending money to not care whether or not you ever make money so long as people are so scared shitless of being killed that they keep voting for you. Understand? Sure, we Republicans like to pigeonhole our ideological enemies as big "tax and spenders," but as even a cursory review of the last few budgets will reveal, it's the G.O.P. that's spending faster than Michael Jackson at a Thai black market orphanage. The real problem with the Democrats these days is they're too chicken to rack up a teensy-weensy bit of multi-gazillion dollar debt to keep America's babies safe from getting reamed up the pooper by an army of anthrax-covered Arabiac demon people.


Holly, from Sacramento writes:
Dear Sir~

Though I realize that my chances of being killed by terrorists are roughly equal to that of being eaten by a shark, I don't feel safe anymore. Why is this?

Secretary Ridge:
Well Holly, while I don't know you personally, if I had to venture a guess, I would say that the crushing anxiety you're experiencing is NOT attributable to the imminent reality of your being ritually disemboweled by a marauding horde of saber-wielding terror-tourists. Instead, I'm fairly confident that you are suffering the deleterious psychological effects of living in the cesspool-like capitol city of liberal, homo-controlled California. So might I advise that you wake up and smell the coffee, rug-muncher? Because if you and your kind don't get with the program, be afraid, and start voting party-line Rush Limbaugh – every last one of you is going to DIE!


Dexter, from Atlanta, GA writes:
What attempts are you making to hire more African Americans onto your staff; and what will be their role?

Secretary Ridge:
Well, to be honest with you, there are no such efforts – but that's only because I know you coloreds are needed elsewhere right now. You see, both the FBI and CIA are currently mounting aggressive recruitment campaigns for African Americans – specifically those of the smaller-nosed, Oreo Cookie variety. Yes, it seems that some of you are just the right shade of brown, that if you dress them up in dirty sheets and in turbans, then put them on the backs of Kalashnikov-laden camels, they can slip right in those terrorist training camps. Hell, I've heard that one or two have managed to gather intelligence for as long as 15 minutes before being discovered, drawn, and quartered.

If you're interested, I'd encourage you to apply direct through firstgov.com. Of course, I should mention that all eligible candidates must possess PhD's in Middle Eastern Studies, and be fully fluent in Arabic, Pashto AND Farsi.


Tony Ridnell, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
Did Mr. Delay actually contact the Homeland Security to have Texas Democrats be returned to Austin for a vote on re-districting?

Secretary Ridge:
I'm sorry, but I can neither confirm nor deny the alleged illegal, unethical, and more-than-slightly-smacking-of-totalitarianism actions of any hypothetical House Representative from the 22nd District of Texas.


John, from Hammonton, NJ writes:
I'm color blind. How do I know if we are going to have a terrorable day or not?

Secretary Ridge:
(Laughter.) Good question. Hell if I know. I mean look, the system is perfect as is, but it's designed for regular people – not you folks in the Helen Keller crowd. And don't go crying discrimination either. The government makes all kinds of things that aren't for everybody. Like tax cuts, for instance.

OK, one extra question.


Expat American, from Europe writes:
I moved to Europe after Patriot Act I was passed, completely disgusted by the wholesale attack on our American rights and liberties under the Bush administration. Will moving out of the country mean I am likely to have my American citizenship revoked under the forthcoming Patriot Act II?

Secretary Ridge:
What was that? I thought I heard a human being talking for a moment. Clearly it must have been my imagination.


Secretary Ridge:
That's all the time we've got tonight. It's been my pleasure chatting at just seven out of the thousands who fruitlessly attempted to interact with me, and I hope you'll carry with you the kind of long-term memories of this event that will resurface fondly when I announce my 2008 bid for the Presidency.

Thank you, and Good Night.

- Tom

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