Can this be true?

Via Captain’s Quarters, in response to the Rasmussen poll question

Did Bush know about the 9/11 attacks in advance?

allegedly 35% of American Democrats answered “yes” and another 26% said they are not sure.

If that’s accurate, America’s system for communicating facts and ideas is seriously broken. I’m wondering if that breakdown might be related to the following dilemma. If you are a liberal elected official or opinion maker who is shown evidence of such massive delusion, do you (a) try to correct it, or (b) try to exploit it?

118 thoughts on “Can this be true?

  1. supersaurus

    you can easily find experimental evidence for the outcome of a similar question on the conservative side by viewing the historical record: did bushco use and amplify the fact that a majority of americans thought saddam hussein was directly involved in 9/11 or did they try to inform people that no such connection existed?

  2. C Thomson

    I wouldn’t read much into this.
    Poll after poll shows that about 25% of Americans believe that aliens have landed and taken people up and away.
    The only defense of democracy is the belief that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Assuming a great deal of rationality in human behavior flies in the face of experience.

  3. supersaurus

    the question was not whether people are dumb enough to believe factoid X, but whether politicians would rather correct or exploit an erroneous belief.

  4. spencer

    Note that 15% of republicans also said yes.
    There is some question about what yes means,
    it could be read to mean that he had warnings in general that there would be an attack but not a specific warnings that airplanes would be hijacked on 9/11.

  5. Dan RIley

    As reported, it’s a poorly constructed question–“know about” is a vague phrase that people will tend to interpret to suit their partisan predilections. Some of those that answered “yes” may have a vague recollection of the August 6 PDB and a very, very loose interpretation of “know about”, while others will interpret it to mean specific detailed knowledge or even complicity. Unless the actual question was substantially more specific, I would be very cautious about interpreting the result.

  6. Charlie Stromeyer

    Americans also buy lottery tickets and expensive bottled water. Does anyone know what behavioral economics has to tell us about such massive delusions?

  7. T.R. Elliott

    I really find this question of yours biased. The poll question itself is ambiguous, unless there is more to it. Bush received a warning “Bin Laden….” Some people might interpret it as knowing something about 9/11, don’t you think?
    So are you suggesting that liberals are allowing this idea to be propagated? I actually find that offensive. Which liberals? Any data to back this up? Or just speculation, like those crawlers with question marks across Fox News’ programming? “Are Democrats responsible for stock market drop?”
    70% of people in 2003 thought Saddam Hussein was directly involved with 9/11. I think the more important question to ask is whether George W Bush and the neocons (a) created that impression and (b) used it to argue for an unnecessary, immoral, and inneptly executed war. I think the answer is Yes and Yes.
    Should liberals take advantage of this delusion? No. More importantly, are there any that you know of? I doubt it.
    As noted above, there are an awful lot of strange things people believe. Astrology–remember the Reagans?–alien visitation, Golden Tablets that were translated before mysteriously disappearing, big ships loaded with animals to circumvent a flood–many strange things.
    Bryan Caplan finally has his book out: The Myth of the Rational Voter. My response is: huh? Who ever said people were rational? People aren’t rational. Some individuals are more rational than others. But people at large aren’t rational.
    I need to write a book: The Myth of the Myth of the Rational Person.
    Here’s a poll that should be taken: How many eocnomists think people are actually rational?
    As far as the system for communicating facts and ideas, I just think people are too busy with important stuff, like working and shopping. Let Leo Strauss and Caplan’s elites take care of all the important stuff and let the sheep leverage and consume.
    Finally, why pick on liberals in this poll? Why not the 18% of Republicans? Or all those minorities?

  8. Joseph

    If you are a liberal elected official or opinion maker who is shown evidence of such massive delusion, do you (a) try to correct it, or (b) try to exploit it?
    Funny that you didn’t ask the same question about the massive delusion that Bush and Cheney propagated about Saddam Hussein’s involvement in 9/11.
    Name me one major liberal elected official who is either promoting or exploiting your issue.
    On the other hand we know that Bush and Cheney and a whole host of dishonest Republican congressmen absolutely conflated 9/11 and Hussein in order to start a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. As many as 70% believed this delusion.
    Here is the Christian Science Monitor discussing the implications of these false claims by Bush and Cheney in the lead up to the war.
    To this day, Cheney is still giving speeches claiming ties between Hussein and al Qaeda.

  9. Idaho_Spud

    Thank you T.R. Elliott, for addressing the bias and prejudice evident in the original post.
    I’m not sure what the point of the post is, unless it’s to paint an unflattering picture of the left. Understandable considering the incredible amount of unflattering *behavior* on the right.

  10. Anonymous

    Here is a report about an interesting study from the University of Maryland that shows that 48 percent incorrectly believed that evidence of links between al-Qaida and Iraq had been found; 22 percent that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq; and 25 percent that world opinion favored the United States going to war with Iraq.
    “A walloping 60 percent overall held one or more of these misperceptions.”
    Watchers of Fox News scored the lowest with 45% believing all three misconceptions.
    The funny part is that the study authors issued a clarification that their study does not prove that Fox News was the cause of the misconceptions. Instead, I guess, we can only conclude the weaker claim that Fox News watchers are stupider than other people.

  11. Detlef

    Zogby Poll, September 05, 2006:

    “Do you agree or disagree that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terror attacks?”

    Agree: Overall 46% / DEM 32% / GOP 65% / IND 39%
    Disagree:Overall 50% / DEM 65% / GOP 30% / IND 56%
    That is a poll from 2006!!!
    Now if you were a Republican elected official or opinion maker who is shown evidence of such massive delusion, did you (a) try to correct it, or (b) try to exploit it (between say 2002 and 2006)?

  12. Chris Vickers

    I’m not sure what the point of the post is
    The point is that Professor Hamilton thought it was interesting and wanted to discuss it, and as guests of his site we were offered his opinion about what this poll might say about the political system. On an internet of billions of pages, complaining that one person spent one post discussing a poll instead of what you want to hear about is foolish.
    Screaming about the horrors of 4.5% unemployment and a ‘growth recession’, and the need to run to the hills and pray, is fun, but we can wait until the next post. Plenty of room on the excellent Econbrowser for both!

  13. JDH

    Supersaurus, T.R. Elliott, Joseph, Detlef, and others, your point about Republicans pursuing option (b) is well-taken. Are you arguing on that basis that Democrats should do the same?

    As for naming names, what about Howard Dean or Cynthia McKinney? And who are the leaders that you think are most clearly trying to repudiate these paranoid delusions?

    The purpose of the post was to take one small step in the direction of option (a). Are you with me or against me?

  14. T.R. Elliott

    Chris Vickers wrote: “The point is that Professor Hamilton thought it was interesting and wanted to discuss it.”
    True. But there’s more to it. Hamilton is implying that liberals are responsible for the breakdown of communication. Look at the wording of his post:
    “If that’s accurate, America’s system for communicating facts and ideas is seriously broken. I’m wondering if that breakdown might be related to the following dilemma. If you are a liberal elected official or opinion maker who is shown evidence of such massive delusion, do you (a) try to correct it, or (b) try to exploit it?”
    The statement above says that the “breakdown” may be “related” to a “dilemma” faced by “liberal elected officials.” I’m not reading between the lines to summarize his statement: liberals are responsible for the breakdown of our
    That’s not just wondering. It’s like someone wondering whether you are still beating your wife. Or those Faux News crawlers/questions traipsing across the bottom of the screen. Loaded.
    The jumping off points of this post, the reference, speaks about BDS, which I assume has to be Bush Derangement Syndrom. Apparently, those who find Bush incompetent are “deranged” and the poll provides more evidence of it.
    Which is strange. My many years of experience i business tells me that Bush is incompetent. Now who is deranged? Those who think as such, or those who coin the acronym BDS? I think the latter.

  15. Joseph

    As for naming names, what about Howard Dean or Cynthia McKinney?
    Cynthia McKinney is not an elected official. She is an obscure former politician who was soundly rejected by Democrats in the 2006 primary and nobody listens to her. As for Howard Dean, you need to provide a link for your outrageous claim.
    Why should it be liberals politicians responsibility to refute false beliefs? They are not the ones making the false claims (Cynthia McKinney hardly counts.) On the other hand, there are plenty of Republican politicians at the highest levels making false claims.

  16. Chris Vickers

    Now who is deranged? Those who think as such, or those who coin the acronym BDS? I think the latter.
    And yet, on a post that had nothing to do with Bush, here we are! That’s what people are talking about (I think) when they mention BDS: the inevitable fall of every conversation, on every topic, down to discussing George W. Bush. The very first commenter, instead of responding to the topic at hand, went right to Bush. (Oh, I’m sorry. He went to ‘bushco’. What a giant step forward for rational political discourse!)
    This is just silly. Professor Hamilton, nor any other commenter, is not required to go on a tangential condemnation of everything conservative when writing something that might be critical of liberals. The very fact that almost all of the liberal readers went straight to Bush instead of answering the question or discussing the topic is telling.
    I’m not reading between the lines to summarize his statement: liberals are responsible for the breakdown of our
    I agree, clearly you are not reading between the lines, or indeed reading anything vaguely resembling what Prof. Hamilton said. He pointed out a poll that in some sense ‘looks bad’ for liberals, and then asked about the implications of that poll for what liberals should do. Obviously it makes no sense to talk about the implications for conservative lawmakers , because by and large it’s not conservatives who hold those particular beliefs. If indeed we were discussing the other issues (about Republican beliefs), then maybe you’d have a point. But we weren’t.
    And in any case, even if I am totally wrong about what Professor Hamilton believes, it’s irrelevant. If he had taken out the offending word ‘liberal’ before ‘elected official’, would anything have changed? Would his point be different? It’d be bipartisan enough (and exactly equivalent in meaning anyway). But parsing the off-the-cuff comments of a blog to make sure they have the adequate degree of Bush bashing is what’s really important in life, don’t you agree?

  17. JDH

    Joseph, here’s a link on Howard Dean.

    Joseph and T. R. Elliott, if it is Democrats who hold these beliefs, then how can anybody but Democrats talk them out of them? I say responsible Democrats should, and I still urge you to clarify whether you agree with me that they should.

  18. Joseph

    Good golly. You have to go to NewsMax to get your information. That explains a lot. Next you will tell us that you watch Fox News.
    This is what Dean said from your link: “But the trouble is, by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not.”
    Dean warned that the more theories like his “get repeated,” the more people tend to believe them. “So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that should go to the Kean commission” investigating the 9/11 attacks.
    He is making the very valid point in 2003 that Bush, by thwarting and stonewalling the 9/11 commission, was giving fuel to conspiracy theories. I think if you are an honest person you would retract your baseless accusation.
    As to the original poll question, some people may honestly feel that the CIA provided ample warning to Bush which he ignored and went fishing. After all the title of the Presidential Daily Brief was “Bin Laden determined to strike in US.”

  19. T.R. Elliott

    JDH wrote: “Supersaurus, T.R. Elliott, Joseph, Detlef, and others, your point about Republicans pursuing option (b) is well-taken. Are you arguing on that basis that Democrats should do the same?”
    Here’s what Howard Dean said: “Dean: I don’t know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can’tthink it can’t be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is that by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and then eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the clear, the key information that needs to go to the Kean commission.”
    That is all Dean said. We know Bush received a vague warning “Bin Ladin determine…” and we hear that the French also warned of chatter.
    In what way has Howard Dean said that Bush was responsible for 9/11? He said Bush should be forthcoming with data. That’s all as far as I know.
    Could Dean have quashed the rumors. Yes. Should he have. Yes. How many people in the poll even know Dean said this? Probably few. As someone said above, the poll results probably demonstrate biases–nothing more.
    Should Democrats do ths same as Republicans have done? As an independent, I say absolutely not. That’s why I emphasized that they should not do so. My consternation is based upon the following: Republicans committed an act, that of creating and exploiting a falsehood. Saddam Hussein never had anything to do with 9/11, yet they tied Hussein to Al Qaeda. They did not clarify. They mislead. Basically they lied. And then took the country into an unnecessary war, creating an absolute mess.
    Then, what do we hear? Do we hear complaints about that? Not here, today. What we are hearing is that the Democrats should be doing something about an issue that–now what harm have the democrats caused? Should the democrats be responding to all poll results? On aliens? On golden tablets? What else should liberals be rectifying? Should they put out press releases on all these matters? Setting the record straight on all issues large and small, for humanity?
    Republicans create a mess–silence. Democrats–now what is it the democrats have done? Oh right, they’re responsible for the misleading perception of the American public, including those 18% of Republicans, those minorities, and while they’re at it–what ever happened to those golden tablets?
    All I care about is the truth. Bush was incompetent before 9/11, and he’s been incompetent after 9/11. The opinions of the public at large will always be baffling because people are baffling. I know an engineer–as an example–whose wife thinks she can bend spoons with her mind. The world is full of bizzare ideas. Golden tables, burning bushes, virgin births, Bush knowing about 9/11.
    Those opinions don’t surprise me. What does surprise me is the focus on the Democrats in this post, when the Republicans have been the sinners.
    Just seems to be the wrong villain. That’s all.

  20. Chris Vickers

    Hilarious. Even when asked a point-blank question with a seemingly obvious response (should politicians correct or exploit misinformation?), the answer comes loaded with extra commentary about Bush, telekinesis and Mormonism.
    Here’s the question:
    “Do you (a) try to correct it, or (b) try to exploit it?”
    T.R. Elliot’s is answer 513 words. Here’s mine: “(a)”

  21. Joseph

    What should Democrats do? Exactly what Democrats did to Cynthia McKinney. Democrats rejected her in the Democratic primary. So far, that is the only Democratic politician who has supported the conspiracy theory and the Democrats got rid of her. Yet you demand more.
    So what about Cheney, who just days ago, was still repeating his lies about Hussein and 9/11? Not a peep from any Republican. In fact, he was wildly cheered.

  22. Jeffrey Miller

    I have to second TR Elliott’s remarks.
    Given the plethora of recent examples demonstrating that “America’s system for communicating facts and ideas is seriously broken” (we need only consider the many lies that were used by Bush and Cheney to justify invading Iraq) I find it strange that you choose this one and stranger still that you insinuate that this is an issue of particular concern for “liberal elected officials”.
    To this day Cheney insists that Hussein was involved in 9/11 – a serious lie, that has had tragic consequences, and which is still widely believed. Refresh my memory – have you (JDH) posted on this topic asking “If you are a conservative elected official or opinion maker who is shown evidence of such massive delusion, do you (a) try to correct it, or (b) try to exploit it?”. I may have missed that entry, in which case I apologize for taking you to task.
    Of course you’re free to write what you please. It’s your blog. But I think you’ve missed the mark on this one.

  23. jm

    During WWII, our most important military secret was not the Manhattan project*, but our ability to decrypt and decode our enemies’ most secret communications. Although the value of this secret continued to be enormous after war end, it was divulged within months by Republicans who were determined to show that Roosevelt had known in advance of the Pearl Harbor attack. (In fact, they had wanted to divulge it while the war was still on — in the 1944 election — only Dewey’s integrity prevented it.)
    The notion that Roosevelt was willing to let the Pacific fleet be sunk at Pearl Harbor in order to get the US into a war was far more absurd** than that Bush was willing to let two NYC office towers be destroyed for such a purpose. But a large fraction of the Republican party not only believed it — they acted on it — and in a way that seriously damaged our nation’s interests.
    *Our foes couldn’t have obstructed it or matched it even had we openly published monthly progress reports.
    **Had Admiral Nagumo allowed the additional attack his subordinates wanted to launch, the oil tankage and repair facilities could have been destroyed, making it impossible for the US to mount the successful operations it executed in 1942. That Roosevelt would have risked such an outcome is impossible to believe.

  24. odograph

    spencer at May 6, 2007 10:22 AM answered as I would have done.
    I think the question is being treated as “fuzzy” by people who feel a frustration about the “Bin Laden determined to strike in US stuff.”
    Even if they are aware that the question could be treated concretely, I think they’re bending it a bit, to give the President a knock.
    When you (JDH) later (May 6, 2007 01:02 PM) act as if there is this were a literal belief, you lose me.
    If anything, we might see the old briefing papers put in a _less_ biased light as time goes on.

  25. odograph

    BTW, I’m seeing basics (flour oatmeal) climb sharply in price here in California (5.75 -> 6.99, 2.75 -> 3.35, respectively) and without as firm note-taking I think I’m seeing a surge in fast food (Arby’s, Pollo Loco) prices. How about an inflation post? Esp. one that explains what ‘independent measures’ there are? Sorry to go OT with the request.

  26. self

    JDH and Chris Vickers,
    The construction of your post is what has incited this mini-riot.
    Let’s review:
    1.If ‘outrageous beliefs’ are true then the American system for communicating facts and ideas is broken.
    2. Then you ‘wonder’ if Dems’ choice whether to exploit outrageous beliefs is related to this massive delusion.
    How you arrive at a relation and what that relation is seems to be the unspoken irritant at work here. Seems to me you’ve left yourself open for some unflattering interpretation.
    You knew this to be an inflammatory topic. Why didn’t you put more work into phrasing the statement if you wished to avoid these types of responses ?

  27. Charlie Stromeyer

    T.R. Elliott and Jeffrey Miller, you say that Bush and Cheney lied to get us to attack Iraq. However, it may be that Bush and Cheney are just plain stupid.
    Given the high level of incompetence in the Bush administration, I would say that stupidity is more likely than deception.
    Also, today George Tenet took the blame for faulty intelligence about WMDs befor the Iraq invasion (and he was appointed Director of the CIA in 1997):

  28. pgl

    Was Michael Moore the pollster? Look – I’m extremely critical of this Administration on their sleep at the wheel before 9/11 and they abuse of this disaster for partisan purposes, but I would never begin to think Bush knew in advance. Then again – some Americans thought FDR knew in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

  29. JDH

    Note to self–

    I thought I was following everybody here up until your summary. Here’s my summary. I had regarded the claim that Bush had deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks to proceed out of some master plan to go to war as something subscribed to by only a lunatic fringe. My reaction to being told that a strong majority of Democrats give this theory at least some credibility was one of disbelief (hence the title of the post) and complete shock. I was not seeing this poll result widely discussed, and thought it should be. Therefore I gave it some publicity here. I thought perhaps some readers might explain why I might be misreading this poll or call attention to some methodological problems with it– Spencer’s and Odograph’s comments were helpful in this regard.

    You are correct that I anticipated perfectly well that I would be roundly and vigorously criticized for calling attention to this poll. But I disagree with you that this response has anything at all to do with my choice of words.

    And I quixotically choose to continue to throw gasoline on this fire– those who seek to defend the integrity of the Democratic Party would do better to address the deep problem this poll seems to identify rather than attack the messenger.

  30. Joseph

    I had regarded the claim that Bush had deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks to proceed out of some master plan to go to war as something subscribed to by only a lunatic fringe.
    Well right there is your problem. The poll did not ask the question as you frame it so you are being quite disingenuous. If they had asked it as you stated it, the response would likely have been quite different, so it says nothing about the prevalence of a lunatic fringe.
    My reaction to being told that a strong majority of Democrats give this theory at least some credibility was one of disbelief (hence the title of the post) and complete shock.
    Well, my reaction is disbelief as well, because if you read the poll you linked to, only 36% answered yes to the question, and then, not to the question you pose(and 18% of Republicans, as well.)
    But the worst part was your implication that it is Democrats responsibility to respond to an obscure poll and your insinuation that Democrats were exploiting it. Your only example of a one doing so was McKinney who was rejected by Democrats.
    And what “deep problem” does this poll reveal. It simply says that some Democrats and Republicans believe that the Bush administration did not respond sufficiently to warnings of an imminent attack. I don’t see a problem with that at all.
    But since you bring up the lunatic fringe, you may recall this from the Downing Street memo that “Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours”. Mr Bush added: “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach of UN resolutions.” Now that’s lunatic.
    As Teresa Nielsen Hayden put so well “I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.”

  31. T.R. Elliott

    Chris Vickers: I disagree. Bush was mentioned. By referencing Captain’s Quarters, which immediately refers to the results of the poll in terms of BDS, the issue of BDS is open game and in fact now part of the discussion. It is a highly partisan and maligning interpretation of the poll results and since JDH references it I find it appropriate to provide context, the elephant in the room, the big lie that has cost us $100s of billions of dollars and created a mess. That’s all. BDS does not afflict the 72% of Americans who find Bush incompetent. As William F Buckely recently said, he’s not sure the Republican Party will survive Bush. His implication, not mine. So referencing BDS to discuss poll results requires a response. Because BDS is inflicting the 28% who still support himas Buckley points out.
    JDH: I’m not sure what the Democrats should do about a poll result like this. For two reasons. (1) Some people probably interpret “know about the 9/11” attacks as “did Bush have some form of advance warning” and people will answer “yes” because of “bin laden determined…” warning. I think it’s a bad poll question, pure and simple. (2) Howard Dean only implied that conspiracy theories will find homes when the administration stonewalled and (3) the Republicans have played a Machiavellian game for so long that its possible the appropriate response right now, for Democrats, is to use whatever advantage they have to drive the Republican party into the ground.
    And as Ive pointed out here before, the only party Ive ever been registered with is the Republican party. But as someone with business experience, what I currently want to see is that parties incompetence rewarded with what it deservesbankruptcy.
    A couple questions: (1) Do you think the Bush administration stonewalledfor a timethe attempts to investigate 9/11? If so, why do you think they did that? (2) What do you suggest the democrats do with a poll result like this? A press release? What?
    My answers: (1) Yes, they stonewalled. Why? Because of an obsession with power and secrecyand utter stupidity. (2) Nothing. At this point, nothing. Unless asked.

  32. inoverhishead

    We know Bush had been informed that bin Laden was determined to attack. He wasn’t complicit, just immobilized and overwhelmed. That’s how I would interpret the affirmative response.

  33. T.R. Elliott

    I’m with Joseph. The post, including the question, is framed in a way that, of all possible interpretations, the one that should be focused on is the complicity of the Democrats in conspiracy mongering.
    True, lots of ambiguities and outs in the wording, much plausible deniability. But after six years of our cocktail circuit press corp more concerned with good relations and contacts than with accurate reporting, after years of “Gore invented the internet,” “has a lying problem,” “swift boating” “Hussein and Al Qaeda” and related polluting and propagandizing injected into the media, it just strikes me as absurd that the Democrats are now under the gun to address a poorly worded poll question.
    It strikes me as–biased. Honestly. I thought for certain I’d stumbled into Bill O’Reilly’s talking points site, not Econbrowser.
    I still say the democrats have no responsibility to say anything to a poorly worded poll. What should Republicans do about that 18%?

  34. Dan

    Heh heh, JDH really uncovered a hornets nest here. From some of the replies here one would think the Democratic party is run by the most selfless and pure politicians in the world.
    Regarding delusion and the expoitation of such by the Democratic paraty, here is a question to ponder: Is it true that Michael Moore was *given* a seat of honor (near President Carter) in a prestigious box at the 2004 Democratic convention?

  35. lerxst

    I read you regularly and typically don’t comment. I think you’re way off base on this one…conflating the view that Bush was specifically aware of all of the details, timing of 9/11 etc with the quite reasonable view that his administration knew enough that an attack was being planned (e.g. Aug 6th PDB and the accounts of Tenet –as many others have pointed out).
    I think what brings out the ire in Democrat readers of yours is the implicit criticism of Democrat leaders to educate their side at a time when we have a group of delusional leaders who still have no clue how massively they have ^%&^** things up. Everything they do…I mean EVERYTHING they do is about manipulating the public…and you are complaining about this?

  36. zudumm

    At this point even the people who hate Bush most see him not as a fiend but as a helpless simpleton. If anyone had given him actionable advance knowledge of a provocation plot, he would have fcked it up somehow, resulting in planes accidentally squashing some foreign head of state and extinguishing all life on earth in a nuclear holocaust, or something like that.

  37. odograph

    It might be worth noting that I am actually a registered Republican, and see this more about the nature of polling than the nature of Democrats.

  38. T.R. Elliott

    A couple final comments:
    1. Everyone does realize it’s blog sweeps week. JDH saved this post for just the right time to boost his ratings. 🙂
    2. The Republicans have put up with Rush Limbaugh and his nonsense for years. By nonsense I mean scandal-mongering (remember Vince Foster?) amongst other things. Republicans have also put up with racism. E.g. Atwater’s comments to Bob Herbert: “You start out in 1954 by saying, “N – word, N – word, N – word.” By 1968 you can’t say ‘N – word’that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow mebecause obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N – word, N – word.”
    In other words: Coded messages to the racists get votes. Republicans have put up with this as much as possible–because it gets them votes. They then step back if and when it backfires.
    3. Liberal talk, and Michael Moore, have been massaging the facts in order to support conspiratorial thinking. No doubt about it. I cant stand it when I see it, but then again, I cant stand Rush Limbaugh either.
    4. There isnt any thinking on my part that the Democrats are innocent high minded saints only interested in the common good. Thats not the issue, to me. Politics is said to be a contact sport. The Republicans have been lowering the bar for years.
    So my questions to anyone, including JDH, are:
    1. Have republicans drawn on the popularity of Rush Limbaugh and his conspiracy mongering, e.g. Vince Foster, to further their cause?
    2. Have republicans used mud-slinging tactics and innuendo to further their cause?
    3. Have republicans used racial stereotypes or coded racist messages to further their cause?
    4. Have republicans warped andperhapsoutright lied in order to carry out a war that they wanted?
    5. Have republicans draw upon organizations and individuals a bit removed to slime and lie about public officials in order to degrade the level of political discourse, e.g. Gore and the internet, McCain and his black love baby, Kerry and his self-inflicted wounds, etc.
    Remember: these are specific accusations of what the republicans have done to further their cause. I think the answer is “Yes” to all of them. I believe their actions have seriously degraded the political discourse in this country. And put us into an unnecessary and financially disastrous war.
    Now what is the horrific issue that this post was addressing? And why are we focused on the sins of the democrats?

  39. donna

    Thanks, T.R. Elliott. One would think after the horrors of this administration even Prof Hamilton might start to realize where the real problems in our society lie, rather than making up crap about the Dems from some bogus poll.
    And thanks, Prof Hamilton, for lightening the load on my blogroll. One less blog to bother reading for me.

  40. Erik

    Yeah, what Dems and “liberals” are exploiting the theory the govt was involved? They bend over backwards to disassociate themselves from asking any of the hundreds of questions millions of Americans are still asking about the 9/11 attacks, because the official story is filled with holes and based on lies.
    btw- people are deserting the Republican party- about 1/8 to 1/7 less people claim to be a Republican now- but 1 out of 7 Republicans is 10-15 million
    I can understand why people think Bush is so stupid he would sit in his chair for 7 minutes after being told a 2nd plane had hit the tower- but why would the Secret Service, who slammed Reagan into the limo after Hinckley shot him, leave Bush in his publicized location a fully half hour after the 2nd hit? And it’s total BS they didn’t know the country was under attack even before they got to the school- reporters asked Bush when he was leaving his hotel if he knew what was going on in NYC, and he said he did
    Link to video
    115 ommissions and distortions of the 9/11 Commission:
    The Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the 9/11 Story

  41. Jeffrey Miller

    “T.R. Elliott and Jeffrey Miller, you say that Bush and Cheney lied to get us to attack Iraq. However, it may be that Bush and Cheney are just plain stupid.
    Given the high level of incompetence in the Bush administration, I would say that stupidity is more likely than deception.”
    I agree that Bush and Cheney are stupid. If they were not, they would not have thought that invading Iraq was such a brilliant idea.
    I agree that they are incompetent, because if they were not, they would not have mismanaged the war as badly as they have.
    They are also liars. The claim Hussein was involved in 9/11 has been widely discredited, and yet the Vice President continues to claim otherwise. One can list many other examples (e.g. the yellow cake from Niger) but this one seems to suffice.
    JDH. You are a careful statistican if I can judge by your papers. Could you provide then some hint of the reasoning behind your assertion that this poll (which I had never heard of before this) reveals “a deep problem” with the Democratic Party?

  42. TruePress

    “Can this be true?”

    Econbrowser notes poll results that indicate that 35% of American Democrats said that Bush had advance warning of the 9/11 attacks, 39% said he did not know and 26% said they are not sure. They then ask the question;
    If that’s accurate, America…

  43. Anonymous

    I seem to recall elsewhere on this blog that anybody who thought that housing was going to be majorly effected by subprime lending was also judged similarly delusional and unstable.
    I see the massively delusional bloomberg news are now talking about a housing slump.
    “Michael Rubens Bloomberg (born 14 February 1942) is an American businessman, philanthropist, and the founder of Bloomberg L.P., currently serving as the Mayor of New York City. He was a general partner at Salomon Brothers before founding the financial software service company in 1981. He was elected mayor as a Republican in 2001”
    Nice to see massive delusion is visible across the political spectrum

  44. GWG

    JDH. Seems you have stirred up a hornets nest, but for my part thank you for shedding some light on this topic. I fear that both the left and right are often more interested in trying to find a political advantage than doing what is in the best interests of the nation. That was one thing pre-Sept 11, but it is a much more serious problem now.

  45. DickF

    From the beginning of our republic politicians have created lies and then attempted to perpetuate them to gain political power. Jefferson did this to Washington and Hamilton, then when he stopped paying his media hit man the man turned his literary guns on Jefferson. And the hit job has persisted down the ages to the point that we have conducted DNA tests to prove or disprove the news reports that Jefferson had sex with his slaves.
    This is not an unusual situation. But I think what drives me crazy is how so may people justify the lies. As they say truth belongs to the victor.

  46. JDH

    Jeffrey, forget about the poll. The responses here alone are enough to convince me that there is indeed a quite serious problem.

    So again I restate my concern: because the Truthers are not being repudiated by the people who receive some political benefit from their delusions, they are achieving a disturbing degree of credibility and influence.

    Have you no remarks for Erik, whose comment precedes yours?

  47. Charlie Stromeyer

    Jeffrey Miller, I checked some sources and now agree with you that Bush and Cheney are also liars.

  48. self

    Fair enough, I’m quite shocked by the poll yielding those responses myself. I would like to warn you though, THREE Republican candidates for president publicly stated they did not believe in evolution.
    So you have equally disturbing beliefs on the other side of the spectrum, probably more disturbing considering these would be office-holders not survey participants.
    The approach your taking could have been better on several counts if a simple discussion is what you intended.

  49. self

    by the way, “strong majority of Democrats” (from 4:12p) is either a poor choice of words or a dead giveaway.

  50. odograph

    You seem to be asking me now to “repudiate” a position that I do not believe exists. I do not believe that the President knew in any great detail or timing of an upcoming attack. I do not believe that many other people, Republican or Democrat, believe that either.
    I think the historical record does show that various elements of government had clues and/or had raised warnings.
    I _believe_ that is what is showing through the poll.
    If you want to challenge me, first show me a poll that says the President knew _in detail_ of this specific plot beforehand.

  51. odograph

    Shorter: if the poll had said “Did the President know Bin Laden was determined to attack the US” … how do you think it would have gone? How do you personally think it should have gone?

  52. M1EK

    “So again I restate my concern: because the Truthers are not being repudiated by the people who receive some political benefit from their delusions, they are achieving a disturbing degree of credibility and influence.”
    You are ignoring Mount Everest in your backyard and focusing on a foot-tall pile of rocks in your neighbor’s backyard. Until you acknowledge this, you’re not going to make any headway.

  53. Robert Bell

    I’m not sure it’s just the system of transmitting of facts that is broken, but it does seem like some people have thought about it.
    Andrei Shleifer and co-author believes that in the market for news, prior beliefs of consumers drive sales.
    In a market where consumers can voluntarily choose what they want to hear, they may choose *not* to patronize a news outlet that would correct their preconceptions.
    2. Even if a misinformed individual *did* hear a contrary view that would cause them to update their prior view into a posterior view that was less conspiracy-theory minded, the brain seems to have a design flaw that limits how much this can happen in certain kinds of partisan situations. ( Readers who know Drew Westen will know that he went on to do fMRI experiments which actually show that the cognitive areas of the brain are actually dormant during emotionally charged politically debates.
    In other words, it’s not clear what the a leader trying to correct a popular misconception could necessarily do about it.
    3. As to whether they *should* try to correct dangerous misconceptions, I thought Thaler and Sunstein had a thoughtful take on a related question with their notion of “Libertarian Paternalism” (
    4. Finally, it seems axiomatic that somehow social welfare would be enhanced by having an informed electorate (i.e. arguing that politicians should always attempt to disabuse voters of misconceptions) but at least one paper I read in Harvard Business suggested that the best CEO’s aren’t necessarily the best informed. (Somewhere in the 2003-2005 range)

  54. Robert Bell

    P.S. All voters should attempt to master JDH’s “Time Series Analysis” so that they can evaluate statements on the basis of whether or not those statements are implied by the data.

  55. odograph

    I went looking for another poll, and found one that seems to support JDH’s contention:
    “Third of Americans suspect 9-11 government conspiracy”
    The only problem is, damn it, the question they asked was quite a bit broader than that:
    “More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll.”
    Whatever you think of the truth here, at face value we should agree that things like “assisted” and “took no action” go in entirely different buckets.
    I might say that the administration had people warning of attacks, but for reasons I cannot know, took no strong actions. There was no break from status quo.
    (I suspect that it was a combination of wishful thinking and focus being elsewhere, but what can I know from the outside?)
    Would someone’s poll pull me into the “loony” group with the right question? Maybe. All it takes is a question broad enough to pull in people with the idea that the government had hints, but took no action.
    (There is also the factor that people taking polls know they are taking polls. They balance what they believe with the message they want to send. That’s another thing skillful poll-writers can play like a violin.)

  56. Shoot

    Shoot. I’m not smart enough to get what’s implied by JDH’s statement “Note to self– 35 + 26 = 61”.
    However, I’m sure its hilarious. Can someone help me out?

  57. Anonymous

    JDH, what is a “Truther”?. I’m not familiar with the term.
    I’m glad you’re concerned with the truth. So am I.
    So I take it are most of the people reading and posting on this blog. We would like to see all lies exposed, all falsehoods denounced, all conspiracy theories ridiculed, all false science revealed for what it is, all claims backed by solid data. We all agree on this I think.
    What I don’t understand – and what other commenters don’t understand – is why you are singling out the Democratic Party for criticism. Three of ten Republican predidential candidates don’t believe in evolution. I find that amazing. A large number of Republican elected officals think global warming is a hoax. I find that amazing. Our Vice President tells self serving lies at every opportuinity about the reasons we went to war in Iraq. I find that amazing. All of these falsehoods and lies are quite serious and are endemic to the Republican party. Not only do Republicans not repudiate these falsehoods, they actively encourage them because they benefit from them. By doing so, they (the falsehoods) achieve a disturbing degree of credibility and influence.
    Where is your criticism of all this? If you proposing a statistical model, I’d have to say it it appears very biased indeed.

  58. odograph

    I, a Republican, repudiate global warming as a “hoax”, evolution as nakedly “false”, and the Vice President as “sane.”
    Hope this helps.

  59. spencer

    I think the reason this thing got so many comments is that it was so out of character. I, and others come here to see good, objective economic analysis.
    But all of a sudden you post this crazy wingnut talking point. If this were some wingnut blog we would not be surprised or commenting like we are.
    It really causes me, at least, to question your judgment.

  60. c thomson

    This is the funniest one yet. Please Professor Hamilton, say something about gold. That gets the real fruit and nut cakes coming out of the woodwork.
    Most Americans are average. The average is pretty dim. Most voters – duh – are also average. They get the politicians they deserve. Politicians, of whatever variety, mostly have to go with the flow.
    Economics professors can teach…

  61. Charlie Stromeyer

    Robert Bell, it turns out that libertarian paternalism and asymmetric paternalism are both examples of “soft” paternalism. Here is a short, easy-to-read and good article by Edward Glaeser on the subject called “Paternalism and Psychology”:
    Glaeser asks the question if individuals’ ability to make rational decisions is limited then won’t their ability to make political decisions also be limited? I would be curious to know what you think of this paper.

  62. Idaho_Spud

    “I’m not sure what the point of the post is”
    “The point is that Professor Hamilton thought it was interesting and wanted to discuss it, and as guests of his site we were offered his opinion about what this poll might say about the political system. On an internet of billions of pages, complaining that one person spent one post discussing a poll instead of what you want to hear about is foolish.
    Actually now that I’ve reflected, I do understand the purpose of this post. It’s an attempt to de-legitimize those who JDH views as political opponents. No more than that. This ‘swiftboat’ play book is well worn.

  63. self

    Memo to JDH,
    35 + 26 – 26 = not even a majority, much less a strong one.
    Do due diligence and define “not sure”. Then tell us how the “not sure” category represents the lunatic fringe. Otherwise, you’re spinning and it’s not pretty.

  64. Rich Berger

    Congratulations Professor-
    Boy did you strike a nerve! Many of your commenters are interpreting “know…in advance” to mean “think it was possible that an attack could take place at some point in the future”. I think that is a stretch, and based on my experience with friends who are Dems, I think the know in advance means specific knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.
    I read that PDB again and can’t believe it is used to beat Bush over the head. Using planes to free the blind sheikh? By crashing them? And if the 1998 attacks should have put Bush on notice, what about Clinton? Not much there, and I do believe the Dems on the 911 commission tried to play it up and it fell flat.

  65. JDH

    Self, I equate “not sure” with “give this theory at least some credibility”. Keep your comments civil, or you will be banned.

  66. Contempt is Ugly On You

    “..evidence of such massive delusion..”
    Prof Hamilton should consider that delusions of grandeur also fit the diagnostic criteria. The Bush administration’s 9/11 “official story” does not add up. Sometimes, the conspiracy consists of those who are contemptuous of any deviations from the official “party line.” In those circumstances, one can reasonably ask: Just who is the patient here?

  67. lerxst

    I agree with Spencer, this post and the followup comments from JDH are out of whack with the quality of analysis that I typically see here.
    If JDH wants to pass on Captain’s Quarters while never discussing the kinds of political points made by folks like Josh Marshall, Duncan Black or Matt Yglesias, it makes me suspicious about whether we’re going to see balanced analysis of economic policy in the runup to the 2008 election.

  68. rundown

    The problem here is precisely the one Howard Dean pointed out: The Bush administration has refused to release key documents that might refute or confirm(?!) that theory. So given choice a) or b), I guess you go with b) until and unless the other side makes a token effort at a). Why clean up the other side’s mess if they don’t do their own due dilligence?

  69. Chris Vickers

    T.R. Elliot, among others:
    What exactly do you mean when you say he was ‘passing on’ Captains Quarters? He was providing what academics call a ‘citation’, or what bloggers call a ‘hat tip’. It is just common courtesy, not to mention the standard among academics. How can that possibly be interpreted as supporting whatever is posted at CQ is beyond my comprehension. Not only that, it’s totally non germane to the topic of the poll itself. If someone finds a story about a poll at Faux News (another beautiful example of discourse used here) or at the BBC, it’s the same poll, and the focus should be there and on Prof. Hamilton’s question.
    Spencer England, whose views I generally respect, claiming that it’s a “wingnut talking point” to point out this poll is jaw-dropping. It’s not trutherism isn’t out there. Somebody out there is buying Loose Change, and I’m guess it’s not right wingers.

  70. Robert Bell

    Charlie: Thanks for the tip on the paper – like the Thaler paper it may not be directly relevant, but I think it’s at least peripherally so. The thought I had was that JDH’s putative liberal was similar to a politician thinking that smoking was bad, and that a well-intentioned politican wanted to reducing the amount of smoking, or in this case, misinformation about the causes of 9/11 which is thought to be harmful to political discourse, the choices the society makes, etc.
    The general conclusion I get from it is that while a moral and honest politician might notice a situation where voters are misinformed, and that misinformation causes some societal harm, the incentives suggest that less moral and honest politicians will be able to exploit misinformation for a relatively concentrated personal gain (say reelection) versus widely diffused societal harm (a policy that causes negatively affects a large number of people).
    While that doesn’t tell us what JDH’s particular putative liberal politician *should* do, it suggests that politicians are not necessarily the ideal people to attempt to correct misconceptions, either because they are not (a priori) more likely to be correct than average voters, nor are their incentives likely to be lock-step aligned with those voters.
    Glaeser also identifies the importance of third party reporting (he talks about Consumer Reports) and I think there is a great deal of value in that. In particular, rather than ask whether the putative liberal should attempt to correct the information, we should look towards mechanisms that ensure that the politicians views are put on record and subject to widespread analysis and critique.

  71. John Elder

    I am a bit surprised by the reaction to JDH’s original post.
    I read the original post not as a condemnation of a political party, but as a condemnation of popular political discourse. And I thought it equally likely that JDH might have implicitly criticized Republicans, rather than Democrats, in order to illustrate the point.
    I am not sure it is possible to discern JDH’s political persuasion on the basis of his previous posts, and I am not sure it is possible from this post, either.

  72. odograph

    “While that doesn’t tell us what JDH’s particular putative liberal politician *should* do, it suggests that politicians are not necessarily the ideal people to attempt to correct misconceptions, either because they are not (a priori) more likely to be correct than average voters, nor are their incentives likely to be lock-step aligned with those voters.”
    They might even take the opposite view. That is, if truth is malleable, it can be bent to some purpose.
    I don’t think the 9/11 conspiracy theories actually are plausible enough for that. I don’t see any mainstream politician touching them. They are too fringe for that.
    On the other hand, someone above mentioned the Downing Street memo … there might be a case where someone did bend the truth and the electorate to their whim.
    And so a little, yeah, I wonder why JDH get off topic for this tempest in a tea pot. I don’t see conspiracy theories leading us toward threat of war, or anything else.
    Are these conspiracy theorists really the biggest fish we have to fry, in terms of defending the democracy?

  73. T.R. Elliott

    Chris Vickers: Though I’m not saying JDH intended it, his post is classic right-wing echo chamber. Captain’s Quarters refers to the democrats or liberals as suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome. JDH refers to post, then asks whether the significance of it all is that liberals are Machiavellian. A quick search of econbrowser doesn’t find any similar concerns about americans thinking that Iraq had something to do with 9/11.
    So I find the post either partisan or very poorly framed.
    And unlike JDH, I don’t think the comments and responses are providing greater insight into “the problem” than the initial post or the confusing poll results. Out of a universe of topics one could discuss, an ambiguous poll result that is the framed to malign liberals as Machiavellian seems partisan.
    It is not framed in a non-partisan nor balanced way. If had desired to do as such, I would have brought up the similar problem of the Republicans and Iraq.

  74. esb

    The politics of the United States is of a “he who tells the best lie wins” sort.
    Because the “American People” want it that way.
    In November 2004 I surmise that the majority of the voting public had reached the conclusion that Bush/Cheney were either not up to the task, lacking in integrity, evil or some combination of the three. Still, the duo was kept in office.
    And after the ’04 election the view of the American people by observers abroad began to converge with their view of Bush/Cheney. In other words, they saw us for what we really are, and their opinions adjusted accordingly.
    Over the weekend I watched the Tim Russert interview of Lee Iacocca and was nothing short of floored by his near despair over the “bunch of bozos” in charge in Washington and the ruination of our reputation abroad.

  75. joe

    This has evidently generated (far) more comments than any other post going back to 4/8. An analysis looking farther back (into the post history and number of comments per post) would be interesting.

  76. Rationalist

    Polls based on telephone calls shouldn?t be taken seriously. When someone calls people up, they might react depending on their mood at that moment.
    JDH probably thought he would balance out Chinn’s previous posts on the Iraq war. But the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘lunatic’ fringe are loaded terms.
    I always thought that the ?lunatic fringe? on the right is far more of a problem than the lunatic fringe on the left. Some poll-driven data reflecting hatred of Bush-Cheney is not in itself evidence of such lunacy on the left. Based on Bush/Cheney’s shifting rationales for the war and their delusions that the U.S. is ?winning? the war in Iraq, that some people have such hatred is not surprising.
    If he wants to avoid being seen as partisan, JDH should include criticism of the right as well when he uses terms like ?liberal?, ?lunatic fringe,? etc.

  77. odograph

    Joe, you get the biggest thread responses when Party A feels some Righteous Indignation, and makes a post about it, which inspires an opposite Righteous Indignation in Party B.
    That creates a feedback loop, with each side becoming in turns more Righteously Indignant.
    When people don’t step back from their Indignation to view the broader problem(s), it can go on for quite a while.

  78. prigwatch

    This is a classic strain of right-wing authoritarian pecksniffery: “You are attributing malign motives to our leader!!!’ The idea seems to be that he deserves forelock-tugging for being well-intentioned, despite the fact the country will take generations to live down the epochal disgrace he represents. No one cares what Bush hears when he talks to that Senor Wences fist he calls Jesus, because we’re distracted by the approx. 104,000 dead and the defiled human rights and stuff.

  79. Patrick

    “So are you suggesting that liberals are allowing this idea to be propagated? I actually find that offensive. Which liberals? Any data to back this up?”
    Sure they are. I find what Rosie O’Donnell said when she called 9/11 an inside demolition job offensive. Rosie has given aid and comfort to a bunch of kooks:
    Howard Dean some time ago gave some credence to the conspiracy theories, then backpedalled.
    One of the leftist Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, played up the ‘inside job’ line.
    Why are people offended by the mere suggestion of such kook-pandering, when in fact it has happened?
    Most of the Democrats politicians are responsible on this point, and yet there is the trashy left flank that serves up red meat to the juvenile BDS left.
    “The idea seems to be that he deserves forelock-tugging for being well-intentioned”
    No, sir, the idea is that people shouldn’t be slandered, even if you don’t like their political views or would gain some political advantage to see them have to debunk absurd lies. The claims that Bush knew are not just a smear against one man, but against the US Government as a whole, since it would take a massive, bizarre and completely irrational conspiracy for something like that to be true. Actually, Rosie’s accusations even smear the NYFD, since according to her, *they* would have to be in on the conspiracy. phew!
    “despite the fact the country will take generations to live down the epochal disgrace he represents. ” LOL. Your biased opinion. This country survived Jimmy Carter, it can handle anything. And Lemme guess, a partisan Bush-hater who cant admit who he is. What’s funny is why would a Brit go out of his way to bash our US President to make a trite point. please, go pick on Gordon Brown on someone you’ve got some understanding of.

  80. Patrick

    “The Bush administration’s 9/11 “official story” does not add up.”
    Thus speaks a member of the OJ jury. The 9/11 Commission is *not* the Bush Administration. Their account is detailed and fairly complete, even to the details of phone calls among conspirators and exact statements in the cockpit of airplanes that got destroyed hitting buildings – it does add up. Simply because there might be a discrepancy (unstated here) doesn’t mean the outline of the chain of events isn’t true.
    Just like the Warren Commission, this correct finding by the 9/11 Commission of what really happened is getting trashed by idiotic, counterfactual, full-of-holes conspiracy theories. As with JFK assassination, 30 years of kookdom awaits.
    I too find the responses as disturbing as the poll, and proof indeed that partisan political motivatations are the underlying reason for this acceptance of what is at heart a complete kooky ball of nonsense.
    “Also, today George Tenet took the blame for faulty intelligence about WMDs befor the Iraq invasion (and he was appointed Director of the CIA in 1997):”
    Well then it’s Bush’s fault that Clinton appointed him!

  81. Valuethinker

    It’s abundantly clear that the Bush Admin story on 9-11 doesn’t stack up:
    – they denied, but it has become clear from released memos, that members of the admin sought to link the event to Saddam Hussein, immediately after it had occurred. Stephen Cambone doesn’t write things down on memos in meetings with Donald Rumsfeld present, that are not in accord with Donald Rumsfeld’s thinking.
    – Cheney gave an order to shoot down airliners which were reported to be approaching Washington (this may have happened after Flight 93 crashed). Cheney can’t give that order, legally, only Bush can. For whatever reason, Bush was ‘out of the loop’ for a period on 9-11, and Cheney acted in his stead. That’s got to be the logical conclusion from what we know of that day’s events and actions.
    – they pointedly ignored warnings from senior intelligence officials, including a personal briefing of Rice and Rumsfeld, and a personal briefing of Bush in Crawford, that Al Quaida was determined to attack, that signals and other intelligence said they were close to an attack, that aviation was a likely or possible target, and that the attack could fall inside the United States.
    The real cover up is of their incompetence, and their callow, and immediate, resort of the events of 9-11 to further the agenda of invading Iraq.
    The interesting question is why Bush was out of the loop? Whether it was communication problems, or in fact the worst stories really are true, that this is a guy who either can’t make up his mind, or is protected by his innermost circle who don’t think him smart enough to make his decisions, is one we just don’t know. They stonewalled the establishment of the 9-11 Commission, under resourced it, and stonewalled its’ fact gathering.
    Why did Bush insist on Dick Cheney’s presence when he briefed the 9-11 Commission on his actions on 9-11?
    We know now that Ronald Reagan was in a lot worse shape in the presidency that we thought. Probably the injuries from his bullet wounds. But he displayed worrying signs of absentmindedness even as governor, and then in the White House. 2 examples:
    – last day as Governor. Mixup in the piles of paper on his desk. He vetoed the bills to be signed, and signed the bills to be vetoed.
    – John McCain’s anecdote. 2 state dinners, first and second term, 4 years apart. Reagan told *exactly the same* jokes and anecdotes.
    Reagan apparently spent a lot of his time at the White House asleep. This guy was in worse shape than we realised (so was JFK of course).
    So by analogy, maybe Bush froze, and Cheney just filled the gap? Maybe it is the case that in that White House, nothing happens without Dick Cheney ticking the box?

  82. DickF

    After post after post of inane comments it seems clear that conspiracy theories are much more popular than logical debate. I believe it; that settles it; don’t confuse me with the facts.

  83. Rich Berger

    How many comments were not posted, due to inappropriate language or really loony viewpoints?
    The results of the poll do not surprise me. Stroll down any bookstore in the current affairs section and feast on the many books elaborating on one of two themes: Buschco is stupid or Bushco is evil. There’s a market for these books.

  84. TedK

    The basic issue here is that people have lost whatever trust they had in Bush and Cheney.
    After Richard Clarke, Bob Woodward(?) and others came out saying that the Bush administration’s plan to invade Iraq was hatched well before 9/11, how can anyone trust them.
    And once there is that mistrust,conspiracy theories will take a life of their own.
    Why not focus on how Bush lost all his credibility in the first place, instead of blowing a trivial poll into a big issue?

  85. JDH

    Rich, all comments were accepted, except those that were automatically deleted by our spam filters.

  86. Factory

    Well I’ll take an unusual step and actually answer the question.
    No, I don’t think that Democratic politicians should try to drive these opinions to zero. Why?
    1) Politicians only have a certain amount of influence and/or political capital.
    2) Given that they have limited resources they should concentrate on maximising their results.
    3) Which should be getting good policy in place, which they can do by either getting into office, or by spending time advocating these policies.
    4) Since the posed problem (conspiratorial thinking from democrats) doesn’t fit in the above criteria it’s going to be very low on the list, and thus won’t get much airtime.

  87. odograph

    Even as I saw the Indignation-Indignation feedback, I couldn’t reign in my own. Apologies for 2 or 3 too many posts.
    (But I am a rational economic agent, really! 😉

  88. J

    With this post, you are seeing the fruits of blogging with Menzie Chin. Looks like its attracting a lot of traffic, but quite a bit of it is political rather than economic in interest.

  89. prigwatch

    Does this school have some kind of exchange program with Regent & Messiah? The discourse is kind of, er, diverse in terms of candlepower.

  90. T.R. Elliott

    J: I disagree with your assessment. (1) JDH’s post is political. It is about Machevellian liberals. Period. No two ways about it. I really don’t care for the attempts I see from some to claim the higher ground in their dismissal of comments. Their arguments border on ad-hominem. Similarly (2) I dislike the illogical claims that the number of comments on an issue implies imbalance or impartiality or that the nuts have escaped the asylum, so to say. Interest or advocacy does not have any bearing upon merit. (3) I’ve been watching this blog for years. I rarely comment because I usually don’t have much to add. I’ve noticed Menzie Chin has addressed issues specifically related to Bush, Iraq, and others, thought from what I can tell he’s done so in a factual economic way–thought I don’t watch that closely because I’m primarily interested in energy issues in this blog. To say that the comments is a result of Chin makes no sense to me. The comments are based upon the post.
    JDH’s post was political and the quality of it, in my mind, had the stench of partisanship, whether he intended or not. I think the response was appropriate to the post.

  91. RD

    Keep up the good work JDH. Many economists, myself included, read your site daily. Don’t infer from the postings here that your audience consists of a political fringe group with axes to grind.

  92. Doug

    Here is why the citation of the Aug 01 Bin Ladin memo is another falsehood on behalf of liberals. That PDB was very similar to one given to Clinton while he was still in office. It was well established long before Bush came into office that Osama wanted to hit us on our home turf.
    Relating that August briefing to Bush knowing in advance about 9/11 is a stong bit of dishonesty that has been push on us by liberals such as Al Franken, and pretty thoroughly debunked on Liberals have been overstating that daily briefing for years now. If anyone thinks that the knowledge of the idea the Bin Ladin wanted to strike at the US equals knowing about 9/11 in advance, then one would have to equally conclude that Bill Clinton knew of 9/11 in advance.

  93. Buzzcut

    The news broke today that top Congressional Democrats are having telecons with anti-war groups EVERY DAY.
    Repeat EVERY DAY.
    Elected Democrats are in bed with the MoveOn.orgs of the world. Why would they correct any mistaken notions held by these groups?
    It was reported that elected Democrats actually respond to the results of online polls from these websites.
    I guess I have newfound respect for Bill Clinton. At least he only changed policy based on his own internal polling! What courage of convictions.
    I don’t think the comparisons to global warming denial or creationism are apt. First of all, there are no equivelent groups to MoveOn or even Greenpeace on the global warming denial side.
    Creationism is a little different in how it is wrapped up in religion. But even there, where 3 Republican candidates claimed to be creationists, they were 3 pretty obscure candidates. How’s Huckabee polling? 0%? Are negative numbers possible?

  94. Menzie Chinn

    Rich Berger and Doug: I think Richard Clark’s take on the importance of the PDB of August 6, 2001 is different than yours. As I recall the discussion in his book, he believed more strenuous action should have been undertaken. In addition, George Tenet’s recounting (verbal — I haven’t read the book yet) of the events leading up to his bringing the subject up with National Security Adviser Rice suggests a greater urgency than the standard advisory. I might also note that failure on the part of Clinton — if it were so — does not necessary absolve Bush.

  95. Dirk van Dijk

    Would it have really made that much difference if the communists had indeed been responsible for the burning of the Reichstag? It was a plausible claim at the time and those were Stalinist Communists, ie only marginally better than the Nazi’s. I would contend that the answer is no, it would not have made much of a difference, Hitler would have still used it as an excuse to extinguish liberal democracy in Germany. I lost two childhood friends when the towers came down. It is the ultimate disgrace to their memory that 9/11 has been used as an American version of the burning of the Reichstag. I seriously doubt that Bush had any spicific forwarning. Certianly nothing directly actionable. His crime is how he used 9/11 afterwards. The difference between what happened after 9/11 and what happened after the burning of the Reichstag is one of degree, not of kind.

  96. T.R. Elliott

    Some interesting numbers for the percentage of the american public, through the years, who believe in a conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination:
    Time Suspect a Plot
    Sep. 66 46%
    Feb. 67 44
    Sep. 67 60
    Nov. 83 80
    Dec. 91 73
    Nov. 03 70
    In both cases, Kennedy and 9/11, I’m assuming a bipartisan commission analyzed the evidence. In both cases, both paries seem to have supported the conclusions of those commissions. I’ve not heard of any Democrats denouncing the 9/11 commission or its results, except to complain about the difficulties getting the administration to provide assistance.
    The support of the commissions seems to imply support for the findings. I could be wrong and would happily stand corrected.
    I think liberals could denounce the Rosie O’Donnells of the world when they popularize the wildest of conspiracies, but in the same way conseratives could spend more time denouncing the Limbaughs. But they aren’t going to. And there isn’t anything new in this piggy-backing on extremists who talk to a segment of the electorate.
    I also want to emphasize that liking or disliking a particular post on a blog does not imply an attitude towards the blog in general. I’ve commented on this site and others that I find JDH’s analysis on matters such as energy (and other economic issues) amongst the best and most sane I’ve come across. But it’s not going to be hugs and kisses all the time.
    (Poll numbers from

  97. odograph

    I’m with you Dirk, but the sad thing is that when we feel an Indignation we are rapidly classified by the ‘side’ we’re on in (apparently still) polarized America.
    OK, maybe America is less polarized, and more agreed on where they truth lay in the run-up to Iraq II. It is just tragic that it had to play that way at the time.
    As a note:
    I as I said am a Republican. I’m a life-long one as it happens. Though the last time I took on-line ‘political compass’ tests I scored as a solid moderate (

  98. Doug

    Menzie, I have no doubt that the government underperformed for years on terrorism. Mainly because of systemic problems in our government that hindered a proper response that were present under Democratic and Republican Admins. My point was to state that certain liberals have greatly overstated the PDB as a smoking gun. They take the phrases Bin Ladin, planes, and federal building and connect the dots and say the memo stated that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack planes and fly them into the Pentagon.
    Yet the PDB said that the federal buildings were in New York, and that the actions involving airplanes were to use them as a negociating tool to free their people. The briefing never mentioned flying planes into buildings. The details in the briefing were items that were passed along to Clinton years ago and were plans that were no longer in operation by the terrorists.
    I am no fan of Bill Clinton on may accounts, but I don’t think he is to blame for terror attacks that occurred under his watch or those that happened after he left office.

  99. DickF

    I am angry.
    I have my differences with the analysis of Menzie Chinn and I have stated them, but the personal attacks and unfounded accusations make me sick. I for one will vehemently support Minzie in his posts and analysis.
    I have at times criticized the economic motivation of Menzie’s analysis, but that was to set his analysis in proper perspective. His analysis is important to discussion and I respect his intelligence and diligence.

  100. Rich Berger

    I think both of the professors can hold their own in debate, and keep their cool.
    Prof. Chinn – I am not sure that I consider Dick Clarke the most reliable witness. Your comments do inspire me to go back and read the 9/11 report.
    Finally, I would like to thank you both for maintaining this valuable site.

  101. gillies

    JDH your enquiry is not as methodical as it should be – you really need to divide it into two parts, thus : –
    “what are the implications for the system of communicating ideas
    (a) if the official version of 9/11 is true and yet a third of americans (‘lunatic fringe’) still do not accept it.
    (b) if the official version of 9/11 is false and yet official control of propaganda is so dominant that two thirds of citizens can still be persuaded to swallow it.”
    i also note that if such a large percentage of citizens can be labelled a ‘lunatic fringe’ than the current president’s popularity would seem to exist only among a lunatic fringe. that is not my opinion, it is simply the implication of the various statements made above.

  102. jsmith

    This seems somehow relevant:
    I’ll also note that there seems to be a lot of reading between the lines on the left.
    “…Bush and Cheney and a whole host of dishonest Republican congressmen absolutely conflated 9/11 and Hussein…”
    Well, Bush, Cheney, and a whole host of Republican congressmen simply noted that we’d been hit by Al Quaida, and we couldn’t take the risk of getting hit by a madman who had used WMD before (nevermind the documented connections between Al Quaida and Iraq).
    And JDH saying “…America’s system for communicating facts and ideas is seriously broken. I’m wondering if that breakdown might be related to the following dilemma. If you are a liberal elected official or opinion maker who is shown evidence of such massive delusion, do you (a) try to correct it, or (b) try to exploit it?” obviously means “liberals are responsible for the breakdown of our…”
    Well, yes, that is reading between the lines. “Might be related” is not “is a direct result of…”

  103. jasonston

    I’d just like to say that you don’t have to be on the lunatic fringe to take issue with the official 9/11 story. While I hardly believe the extreme conspiracists (e.g., Loose Change), I have yet to find a reasonable explanation for the collapse of WTC7. On a statistical level, a physical level, and a gut level, it doesn’t work out. It’s the only building in history to collapse due to a fire and it collapsed in what, by all measures, looks like a controlled demolition.

    And every time I’ve asked someone about WTC7, it’s news to them that a 47 story building that was not hit by an airliner collapsed 8 hours after the towers.
    I think it’s a good exercise to forget everything you know or believe and try to explain that collapse. (I might point out that I want to believe the official story so I can just put it to rest.)

  104. Buzzcut

    Did you guys see that John Edwards took a question from a Truther yesterday? He said that he would look into the allegations about WTC7, and he took the Truther’s contact info.
    There you go. Proof that Jim was right. A certain part of the Democrat electorate are lunatics, and the candidates are doing nothing to “educate” them.
    If they really are lunatics, maybe it’s just easier for Edwards to humor them and move on to the next question.

  105. T.R. Elliott

    Buzzcut: I watched the video. Seems to me Edwards didn’t have a clue what the guy was talking about. Even when he took the contact info, I’m not sure he knew what the guy was talking about, i.e. the conspiracy theory.
    Sean Hannity just ran a segment on Kerry and 9/11 conspiracies. Seems to me what we’re seeing is as much the right wing echo chamber operating in standard operational mode, looking for ways to smear democrats.

  106. Ravnen

    If I were a liberal elected official or opinion maker who was shown evidence of such massive delusion, I would try to correct it.

    It’s shocking to read that so many Americans believe this: I would have expected numbers like this only from a country in the Middle East. Some of my friends would say it’s a typical example of how poorly informed Americans are, but I now wonder what polls in countries over here in Europe would show. I would say I’m generally anti-Bush, but not emotional about it, and I sometimes think the more extreme anti-Bush people would believe any negative story about him, so maybe it’s the same with some of the US Democrats.

    Is the American system of communication the problem, or has modern technology, eg the Internet, something to do with the spread of these conspiracy theories? I actually found this site through reading about the “petrodollar warfare” conspiracy theory, which as an economics student I think is ridiculous, but seems to have a strong following on many websites. It’s very worrying that these theories have such strong support, even in countries with high levels of literacy and education.

  107. Anonymous

    A certain part of the Democrat electorate are lunatics, and the candidates are doing nothing to “educate” them.
    i’m one of those lunatics & yes i do believe that at a minimum they knew an attack was imminent & chose to ignore it for their own political interests

  108. Buzzcut

    Since I was a kid, there’s been a cultural meme, whether true or not, that Americans are prone to conspiracy theories.
    Agreed, although it has been around a long time. It goes back at least as far back as the “Red Scare” of the twenties. It continued through the post war Red Scare/ McCarthyism (which at least involved actual conspiracies, although was an overeaction).
    It took off after the Kennedy assasination and the cultural turmoil of the sixties. Watergate was an actual conspiracy (although a petty one), so that just fueled the fires. Iran-Contra didn’t help either.

  109. Jack

    Then what do you think about Senator Clinton’s recent comment during the democratic primary debates. Someone asked what she would do if the US received another 9/11 attack. She responded “I believe that an attack is imminent during the next presidential term…” followed by statements that she would retaliate against the offending party causing the attack. Using your logic, apparently if an attack occurs between 2008 and 2012, then she is already claiming knowledge about its imminence and it would therefore seem to be using it to her political benefit. Is that what you really want to imply? Please reconsider your conspiracies.

  110. David Wright

    Thanks for many of you pointing out the obvious flaw in the definition of ‘know about’. Many people could have interpreted ‘know about’ as in know about the Aug 6th PDB, and all the other warnings from Tenet, Clark and others that continually hammered away at this deaf Administration.
    Nonetheless, why are we dismissing such a conspiracy out of hand? The president conspired to lie to the congress and American people to get us into a war which has killed at least 4,000 US and possibly half a million Iraqis. There are so many presidential scandals and examples of the president breaking the law that I have lost count. According to the British, Bush even suggested flying a US plane painted in UN colors in order to invite fire to get the UN to back him in his war. If he would sacrifice so many lives for oil, why not a few more in New York? Is it impossible? Hardly.

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