WASHINGTON – Tom Ridge, a decorated Vietnam veteran, Republican congressman and two-time governor of Pennsylvania, became the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 under George W. Bush. Ridge has joined a group that has grown to more than 600 national security officials, including more than 20 four-star officers, to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for president.
Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are preparing for possible clashes at polling places, violence and larger demonstrations similar to social justice protests that spilled into the streets of dozens of American cities. President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the legitimacy of the vote and refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, leading members of Congress and election experts to worry about violence after election day.
Ridge, 75, talked about his concerns regarding the election and the presidential candidates in an interview with USA TODAY. The questions and answers have been condensed.
Q: What is your primary concern about the election?
A: "I find unseemly, unworthy and unconscionable for an incumbent president to claim to know the heart and mind of Americans and to proclaim months before November 3, that he was going to win. And the only way that he couldn't win was through massive fraud. I never thought — I must tell you, from the day I was a soldier in the '60s to the present day — never thought that I'd see an American president try to undermine the most fundamental institution in our democracy. And that's our vote. That's the legitimacy of our elections."
What are your concerns about violence at the polls?
"I am hopeful and prayerful that Americans will let the votes be counted so that we can let America's collective voice be heard. It's no secret that there are a lot of patriots who are concerned that his rhetoric and subtle encouragement could lead to spasms of violence in a post-election environment. It's interesting for a man who claims to be so supportive of law enforcement to also potentially create an environment where law enforcement lives in jeopardy because of violent protests. Again, it's inconsistent, inconceivable, but not surprising."
Why, as a Republican, are you not supporting Trump?
"It's just that litany of objections and concerns I have about the rule of law, about the Constitution, about his push back against the institution, about his preference for his own abilities, as opposed to the military, as opposed to the intelligence community. The list is almost endless. When he's decided that he's the smartest person in the room, regardless of issues, including dealing with the coronavirus and ignoring the expertise brought to him by literally hundreds, if not thousands, of public health officials. So it's troubling to turn the reins of a country, the leadership of a country, to an individual who refuses to accept the guidance and counsel of experts across the board, when it doesn't suit his purpose."
Why, as a Republican, do you support Biden?
"Vice President Biden has certain personal qualities that I would like to see in my president: empathy, humanity, civility, character. They're more important to me before I worry or tax policy."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pennsylvania Republican, ex-DHS Sec. Tom Ridge endorses Joe BIden