This past week brought confirmation that Bush and Kerry supporters live in alternate universes.
The Program on International Policy Attitudes, affiliated with the University of Maryland, released a poll finding that supporters of President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry were divided not just by their views but also by the facts: A majority of Bush supporters still believed Iraq provided substantial support to al Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction or at least major weapons programs before the war.
The poll found that 72 percent of Bush supporters believed Iraq had prohibited weapons or a major weapons of mass destruction program, compared with 26 percent of Kerry supporters who held such beliefs. A majority of Bush supporters also believed experts agree that Iraq had banned weapons just before the war, and that U.S. weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer concluded that Iraq had prohibited arms or major programs. In fact, Duelfer and the others who have probed the matter found neither weapons of mass destruction nor major programs for producing them.
On al Qaeda's ties to Iraq, similarly, 75 percent of Bush supporters believed that Iraq either gave al Qaeda "substantial support" or direct involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; by contrast, 30 percent of Kerry supporters held these views. A majority of Bush supporters believed the 9/11 commission backs them up on these beliefs, although the panel found no cooperation between the two, only some contacts.
The PIPA poll also found that 31 percent of Bush supporters believed the majority of people in the world opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, compared with 74 percent of Kerry supporters. Bush supporters also believed most of the world favors Bush's reelection. PIPA, analyzing these results, found a "tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information."
Bush and Kerry supporters did agree on a couple of things. Majorities of both agreed that the Bush administration continues to say that Iraq had prohibited weapons just before the war, and that the United States has found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein worked closely with al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, another polling outfit, SurveyUSA, has found a broad "education gap" between Bush and Kerry supporters. Nationwide, those who attended graduate school are 11 percentage points more Democratic than those who did not attend college. The gap is largest in Maryland, where it's 38 percent. In Tennessee, by contrast, the most educated voters are 28 percent more Republican than the least educated.
Sometimes Too, Too, Too, Too Many Words
Why does Mike McCurry keep reading the stage directions aloud?
The Bush campaign has a firm rule: Don't talk about "the process" of politics, because that only results in unflattering stories. But McCurry, the former Clinton press secretary and now Kerry adviser, speaks freely about the motives behind Kerry's words and actions.
"We have got to move that last little bit of undecideds," McCurry volunteered last week. And: "What we're trying to do in all of these speeches is follow the frame that you've been hearing in over the last several days, that there is hope for the middle class if you can look at John Kerry as the guy who's going to fight for you." And: "We have got to press as hard as we can in this coming week to define that choice."
McCurry may have pulled the curtains back too far when he said that Kerry was going goose hunting on Thursday, not just for pleasure or sport but to show a "personal dimension" of Kerry, who has "likability" problems. "We want people to have a better sense of John Kerry the guy."
This, naturally, produced a round of stories less about Kerry's hunting trip than about how the campaign was trying to make Kerry look like a regular guy -- and a memorable Bush quip. "He can run -- he can even run in camo -- but he cannot hide," Bush said.
Those White House Links to Nothing
The Coalition of the Willing has disappeared.
The list of names of countries supporting the U.S.-led military action in Iraq has been removed from the White House Web site. Blogger Brad Friedman, who noticed the disappearance, believes this is part of a widespread "scrubbing" of documents on the government site. Gone are links to the audio and video of Bush's statement that "I'm not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden, a Q&A when Bush said "misunderestimate," and Bush's acknowledgment that his decision making on stem cell policy was "unusually deliberative for my administration."
Jimmy Orr, who handles the content for the White House site, said nothing nefarious was intended. "We have some 80,000 pages and 3,000 video and audio links," he said. "When we republish pages and move files, some links are bound to go down, and there are bound to be dead pages." So staffers are now "clicking on every single audio and video link on our site" to make sure they work.
As for the Coalition of the Willing? "This coalition list was dated and inaccurate," Orr said. He said another will be posted "as soon as we get a new one" -- without countries such as Costa Rica, which last month asked to be removed from the list.