Why Aren't Democrats Angry that Obama Got the Wrong Guy?

How quickly we forget what half of Obama’s party once believed about the 9/11 attacks.

President Barack Obama directed Navy Seals to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on Sunday. Do most in his political party believe that the president got the wrong guy?

When Scripps Howard asked, “How likely is it that people in the federal government either assisted in the 911 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?,” more than fifty percent of Democrats answered “very likely” or “somewhat likely” in 2006.  A May 2007 Rasmussen poll found that 35 percent of Democrats believed George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 911 attacks. An August 2007 Zogby poll reported that 43 percent of Democrats believed that Bush either caused or allowed 911 to happen.

These polls were commissioned, of course, when George W. Bush was president. Since Barack Obama took the oath of office the views of the Democratic Party’s left-wing have, well, “evolved.” They are not as vocal about Guantanamo Bay, Middle Eastern wars, military tribunals, or the shadowy machinations supposedly behind 911. But it is worth remembering that once upon a time a substantial chunk of Democratic voters didn’t believe that Osama bin Laden was behind the terrorist attacks that felled the Twin Towers and smashed the Pentagon. For the hardcore party conspiracists, the real perpetrator was not holed up in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but in Dallas, Texas.

The Truthers have achieved a success in making the Democratic Party look like a magnet for fools. Indeed, the kooks touting various conspiracy theories regarding 911 are a significant portion of the Democratic electorate. Though the number of 911 conspiracy theorists among the foot soldiers may greatly outweigh their numbers among the commanders, the truth about Democratic Trutherism is that it could not command the support of one-third to one-half of Democratic voters without having the encouragement of a considerable number of party luminaries.

Days before the 2004 election, a coalition of leftists released the 911 Truth Statement. The document charged that “people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 911 to happen, perhaps as a pretext to war.” Signatories included Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus author John Gray, former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, “people’s historian” Howard Zinn, Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, “Lou Grant” actor Ed Asner, perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader, and Rabbi Michael Lerner.

Included among the questions, the signatories wanted a new investigation to answer: “How were the FBI and CIA able to release the names and photos of the alleged hijackers within hours, as well as to visit houses, restaurants, and flight schools they were known to frequent?” and “Why haven’t authorities in the U.S. and abroad published the results of multiple investigations into trading that strongly suggested foreknowledge of specific details of the 911 attacks, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of traceable gains?” The campaign tested the wisdom of the aphorism that “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”

Gore Vidal contended in his post-911 bestseller Dreaming War that “we still don’t know by whom we were struck that Tuesday, or for what true purpose.” Though the attackers remained a mystery to the colorful novelist, the president’s motives were clear. George W. Bush “allowed the American people to go unwarned about an imminent attack upon two of our cities in anticipation of a planned strike by the United States against the Taliban in Afghanistan.” Anticipating Michael Moore’s insinuations in Fahrenheit 911, the octogenarian author continued that “the conquest of Afghanistan had nothing to do with Osama. He was simply a pretext for replacing the Taliban with a relatively stable government that would allow Union Oil of California to lay its pipeline for the profit of, among others, the Cheney-Bush junta.” A decade later, there is no pipeline—and no bin Laden.

Scores of Democratic candidates for federal office, including 2008 Democratic presidential candidates Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, have courted the Truther Movement. Finding “many disturbing facts consciously ignored by the 911 Commission,” the Colorado Democratic Party’s 2010 platform called for a new grand jury investigation “to find the truth of the September 11, 2001 attacks.” “I’m in the assisted-it-to-happen camp,” former California Congressman Dan Hamburg explained. “I think there was a lot of help from the inside.” And then there is Van Jones, President Obama’s ill-fated selection as green jobs “czar” who lost his post in the administration after his embarrassing activism as a Truther became public knowledge.

Partisanship is a disease that can prove fatal to rationality. It can compel one to see political adversaries behind nefarious deeds such as mass murder. It can cause one to minimize a massive national victory when engineered by the president of the opposing party. Partisanship is an obstacle to patriotism.

May 1, 2011 was a day of celebration for Americans. But for Democrats who imagined their domestic partisan enemies behind the 911 attacks, one can’t help but wonder if they think that Obama executed a framed man.

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.