- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2007

While studying psychology in college, I read about an experiment on the pressure to conform.

Several people sat around a long, rectangular table. The “instructor” and all but one person seated at the table were confederates in the experiment. The instructor held up a sheet of paper with a line drawn exactly 6 inches long. He then handed the sheet to a seated confederate and said, “Guess the length of this line.”

The man, as previously agreed, said, “About 2 inches.” The paper then went clockwise around the table until it reached the only person not in on the experiment. Until then, each person “guessed” anywhere from 2 to 3 inches, even though the line was obviously much, much longer.

When the paper was slid to the final person — the only one not in on the ruse — he, too, said, “About 3 inches.”

Perhaps this explains a recent poll put out by the “nonpartisan” Rasmussen Reports. A mind-blowing 35 percent of Democrats believe President Bush had prior knowledge of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed about 3,000 people on American soil. Another 26 percent of Democrats said they are “not sure.”

Thus 61 percent of Democrats believe or feel uncertain about the assertion that Mr. Bush knew in advance about the terror attacks, yet did nothing to stop them.

Now I’ve long since accepted that many Democrats flat-out hate the president. Democrats, for example, far more so than Republicans, believe government must “level the playing field.” So Democrats oppose tax cuts that “help the rich.” I strongly disagree, but I get it.

Because Republicans — more so than Democrats — believe in limited government, they stand accused of selfishness. This argument, too, I at least understand. Never mind that in the recent book, “Who really cares?,” Syracuse University Professor Arthur C. Brooks found Republicans gave more to charity — in both time and money — than Democrats. It turns out that if one supports smaller government, he or she is more likely to feel the need to step in and help the needy by donating time and money. Also, the more religious the person, found Mr. Brooks, the more likely he or she gives to charity. Religious Democrats gave as much as religious Republicans, but Democrats as a whole were less religious than Republicans. Some secular Democrats feel uncomfortable with a religious president, whom they feel “gets his guidance from God.” So I can understand the discomfort of the Democrats with the president’s religiosity.

On global warming, many Democrats side with Al Gore, who believes the “debate on global warming is over.” They find it obscene that the president objects to a worldwide accord to deal with the “crisis.” I believe they’re wrong, but this, too, I get. If the scientists all agree, why this leaves only the dissenting global-warming-denying, gas-guzzling, smoke-stack-belching capitalists.

Health care is a “right,” so says former presidential candidate John Kerry. Most Democrats nod in agreement. Never mind that of the 46 million people in America who lack health-care insurance, about half go without health care for only a few months, while between jobs. About three-quarters go without health care for less than a year. And 10 percent have high-paying jobs, but choose to pocket the money they would spend on insurance premiums. Millions more without health-care insurance came here illegally. But at least I get the Democrats’ objection to government “failure” to provide health-care insurance.

As to the war in Iraq, most Democrats oppose it. Most Republicans, however, still support the war and still think victory possible. Only two House Republicans supported the war-funding-with-troop-withdrawal-deadline legislation Congress passed, at the end of April. In the Senate, two Republicans voted for it.

This complicated war now approaches its fifth year, with nearly daily headlines of setbacks and American military deaths. We awaken nearly every morning to headlines of American military deaths and Iraqi sectarian violence.

The current Iraqi government appears confused and ineffective. The international chorus calling Iraq a “blunder” grows louder and louder. Thus, I get the Democrats’ anger toward Mr. Bush’s “stubbornness” on prosecuting the war despite near worldwide opposition and the dwindling of our allies, including the British.

But do 61 percent of Democrats “honestly” believe the president “allowed” September 11 to occur, taking no measure to stop it? Please tell me this reflects an insincere desire to conform rather than a sincere belief the president willingly allowed 3,000 to perish. Tell me you say this with your fingers crossed. Please.

Larry Elder is a nationally syndicated columnist, a radio talk-show host and author.

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