WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's hard to say exactly when the Democrats decisively left the reservation, for the parallel universe that exists only in their own imaginations. In their world, Bill Clinton was impeached solely because Republicans were "trying to overturn the election"; Al Gore would be president today if only Jeb Bush hadn't stolen the election in Florida; and Osama bin Laden is a CIA operative who orchestrated Sept. 11 to justify the end of civil liberties in the United States. This litany of conspiracy theories barely scratches the surface of the paranoid mentality that currently infects American liberals.
Liberals have always loved conspiracy theories because raising the specter of foul play and dirty tricks is an easy and convenient justification for ignoring their own political and policy failures.
During the 1980 election, Democrats claimed that Ronald Reagan made a secret pact with Iranian fundamentalists, in order to prolong the hostage crisis and cause Jimmy Carter's support to further hemorrhage. More recently, leftists attempted to besmirch the Gipper's legacy with the celluloid equivalent of a drive-by shooting -- "The Reagans" -- a historically inaccurate made-for-television movie starring Barbra Streisand's husband as Ronald Reagan.
Then there are the persistent conspiracy theories that the CIA or Pentagon generals were responsible for President John Kennedy's assassination. One version of this fanciful myth was brought to the big screen by liberal icon Oliver Stone. This myth holds that Kennedy was about to withdraw American forces from Vietnam, and thus was targeted for assassination by his own subordinates. Of course, the factual record shows just the opposite, but liberals like Oliver Stone have never been overly concerned with facts.
By the time that Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998, Democrats had turned conspiracy theories into a cottage industry. Hillary had gone public with her claim that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was at work in America, and Bill had suggested that the Oklahoma City bombing was inspired by conservative talk radio hosts.
Clinton's impeachment, they insisted, was the product of a sexual witch-hunt and Republican anger over losing the 1996 presidential election. Democrat pornographer Larry Flynt spent tens of thousands of dollars to gather dirt on Republican congressmen. Michael Moore insinuated that Big Business was behind this "coup" against Clinton. Even the fact that Bill Clinton admitted that "he knowingly gave evasive and misleading answers" and "engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice" in the Lewinsky case caused the Democrats no pause. Their conspiracy theories rolled on. By 2000, they had Florida to prattle about, and then Sept. 11.
The 9-11 terror attack threw the liberal conspiracy machine into high gear. The final death toll hadn't been confirmed before rumors began that President George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the attacks. Columnist Harley Sorensen writing in the San Francisco Chronicle put the whispers to paper: "Bush knew something was going to happen involving airplanes. His attorney general, John Ashcroft, knew. His national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, knew. They all knew."
Howard Dean took the story mainstream by declaring, "The most interesting theory that I have heard so far is that (President Bush) was warned ahead of time by the Saudis."
Operation Iraqi Freedom has likewise provided grist for liberal conspiracy stories. Sen. Teddy Kennedy, D-Mass., declared that the whole war was a "fraud made up in Texas." And when Saddam Hussein was captured, Democrats insinuated that President Bush had deliberately timed his capture for optimum political benefit.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who a year ago undertook a personal mission to Baghdad before the ground invasion commenced, responded to Saddam's capture by impugning the integrity of the Bush administration. "I don't know if it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they've been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was," McDermott blabbered to a reporter. "It's funny, when they're having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something."
Instead of condemning McDermott's remarks as flirting with treason, his cynicism about Saddam's capture was joined by other Democrats. Howard Dean, the front-runner for the Democrat presidential nomination, insisted that, "America is not safer because of Saddam's capture." And former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright suggested to Morton Kondracke of Fox News, "Do you suppose that the Bush administration has Osama bin Laden hidden away somewhere and will bring him out before the election?"
The Democrats' fondness for conspiracy theories has crossed the line into rooting for the other team -- all out of spite over President Bush's leadership in the war on terror. Comments like those of Jim McDermott have gone way past Oliver Stone territory and are beginning to ape the rhetoric of Tokyo Rose. With Howard Dean leading their ticket, the Democrats are on track to have a 2004 convention that resembles an episode of the Twilight Zone.