But, on the off chance that a few cynics won't take my word for it, I offer you data. Rasmussen Reports, the public opinion outfit, recently asked voters whether President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. The findings? Well, here's how the research firm put it: "Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know and 26% are not sure."
There are only three ways to respond to this finding: It's absolutely true, in which case the paranoid style of American liberalism has reached a fevered crescendo. Or, option B, it's not true and we can stop paying attention to these kinds of polls. Or there's option C — it's a little of both.
My vote is for C. But before we get there, we should work through the ramifications of A and B.
We don't know what kind of motive respondents had in mind for Bush, but the most common version has Bush craftily enabling a terror attack as a way to whip up support for his foreign policy without too many questions.
The problem with rebutting this sort of allegation is that there are too many reasons why it's so stupid. It's like trying to explain to a 4-year-old why Superman isn't real. You can spend all day talking about how kryptonite just wouldn't work that way. Or you can just say, "It's make-believe."
Similarly, why try to explain that it's implausible that Bush was evil enough to let this happen — and clever enough to get away with it — yet incapable either morally or intellectually of doing it again? After all, if he's such a villainous super-genius to have paved the way for 9/11 without getting caught, why stop there? Democrats constantly insinuate that Bush plays politics with terror warnings on the assumption that the higher the terror level, the more support Bush has. Well, a couple of more 9/11s and Dick Cheney will finally be able to get that shiny Bill of Rights shredder he always wanted.
And, if Bush — who Democrats insist is a moron — is clever enough to greenlight one 9/11, why is Iraq such a blunder? Surely a James Bond villain like Bush would just plant some WMD?
No, the right response to the Rosie O'Donnell wing of the Democratic Party is "It's just make-believe." But if they really believe it, then liberals must stop calling themselves the "reality-based" party and stop objecting to the suggestion that they have a problem with being called anti-American. Because when 61% of Democrats polled consider it plausible or certain that the U.S. government would let this happen, well, "blame America first" doesn't really begin to cover it, does it?
So then there's option B — the poll is just wrong. This is quite plausible. Indeed, the poll is surely partly wrong. Many Democrats are probably merely saying that Bush is incompetent or that he failed to connect the dots or that they're just answering in a fit of pique. I'm game for option B. But if we're going to throw this poll away, I think liberals need to offer the same benefit of the doubt when it comes to data that are more convenient for them. For example, liberals have been dining out on polls showing that Fox News viewers, or Republicans generally, are more likely to believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Now, however flimsy, tendentious, equivocal or sparse you may think the evidence that Hussein had a hand in 9/11 may be, it's ironclad compared with the nugatory proof that Bush somehow permitted or condoned those attacks.
And then there's option C, which is most assuredly the reality. The poll is partly wrong or misleading, but it's also partly right and accurate. So maybe it's not 1 in 3 Democrats suffering from paranoid delusions. Maybe it's only 1 in 5 , or 1 in 10. In other words, the problem isn't as profound as the poll makes it sound. But that doesn't mean the Democratic Party doesn't have a serious problem.