Matthews misrepresents flawed poll to suggests Dems are similar to birthers


Chris Matthews misrepresented a flawed Rasmussen poll in claiming that most Democrats believed that President Bush had or might have "gotten the inside word" that the 9-11 terrorist attacks were about to happen and that therefore "both parties" are equally at fault for promoting conspiracy theories. But the poll question -- "Did Bush know about the 9/11 attacks in advance?" -- was ambiguous and likely provoked "yes" answers from people who simply believed that Bush failed to heed intelligence information that could have led to the attacks being thwarted.

Matthews claims poll found most Dems thought Bush had or might have "gotten the inside word" about 9-11

From the August 4 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Time now for tonight's "Big Number." Remember the poll last week where a majority of Republicans said either "no" or "not sure" when asked if President Obama was born in the U.S.? Well, here's a blast from the past courtesy of Real Clear Politics. Back in 2007, two years ago, Rasmussen polled voters with a similar out-of-left-field question, asking whether they believed that then-President Bush, George W. Bush, had gotten the inside word that the World Trade towers and the Pentagon were about to be hit on September 11th, 2001. We're talking hard intel as to what was coming that day, how the hijackers were going to grab those planes and fly them into buildings.

Well, how many Democrats said either, yes, Bush knew, or that they weren't sure whether he knew about that, not sure whether the president deliberately sat back while American cities were attacked and thousands were killed? Well, think about it. Sixty-one percent, a majority. Evidence that both parties hold the darkest of suspicions about the other party and its leaders. Sixty-one percent of Democrats back in '07 said Bush either knew or might have known about 9-11 ahead of time. Tonight's scary "Big Number."

Matthews grossly distorted poll question

Contrary to Matthews' assertion, the poll simply asked, "Did Bush Know About the 9/11 Attacks in Advance?" While Matthews claimed that the 2007 Rasmussen poll asked whether respondents believed that Bush "had gotten the inside word" about the 9-11 attacks and "whether the president deliberately sat back while American cities were attacked and thousands were killed," the poll actually asked: "Did Bush Know About the 9/11 Attacks in Advance?" According to Rasmussen, "Thirty-five percent ... of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure." [Rasmussen Reports; 5/4/07]

Rasmussen poll was flawed, produced ambiguous results

Jonah Goldberg: "[P]oll is surely partly wrong," many Dems likely just think Bush "failed to connect the dots." Even conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg acknowledged at the time that the poll was ambiguous, writing: "[T]he 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." [Goldberg, Los Angeles Times; 5/15/07]

Bush did receive briefings warning of potential Al Qaeda attack

2001 presidential briefing: "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." President Bush received a briefing on August 6, 2001, titled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US," which indicated that Osama bin Laden wanted to conduct terrorist attacks against the U.S., that members of his Al Qaeda terrorist network had lived in or traveled to the U.S. for years, and that "FBI information since that time [1998] indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York." [Presidential daily briefing; 8/6/01]

Bush reportedly responded to CIA warning of attack by saying, "All right. ... You've covered your ass, now." According to investigative journalist Ron Suskind, Bush responded to a CIA briefer who warned him in August 2001 that an Al Qaeda attack was likely by saying, "All right. ... You've covered your ass, now." [Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine, 2006, Pages 1-2]

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Chris Matthews
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