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Thick-skinned, Rudy Guiliani is not, but despite the mockery he's endured for "forgetting" 9/11, he could still enjoy the last laugh, along with fellow 9/11 deniers Mary Matalin and Dana Perino.  "Bush kept us safe" has been a Republican talking point for over a year (Peggy Noonan used it in a December 2008 column,) and I bet it's taken root in the minds of many voters, along with the mistaken belief that Saddam Hussein orchestrated 9/11.
    
In these mindlessly partisan times, facts naturally matter less than political biases: five years after 9/11, twice as many Republicans as Democrats blamed Saddam Hussein for the attack, according to a 2006 Zogby Poll.  It would be interesting to know how many also blame Bill Clinton: "We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history," Mary Matalin pretended, and it's not hard to imagine some listeners nodding vigorously in agreement -- and objecting even more vigorously when she's corrected.
   
"[W]hoever makes the first assertion about something has a large advantage over everyone who denies it later," Shankar Vedantam remarked in the Washington Post in 2007, reporting on the difficulty of countering false beliefs.  "[O]nce an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge.  Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they paradoxically reinforce it."  
   
Still, it takes chutzpah, and confidence in widespread public ignorance, to lie about a recent national trauma that most adult voters probably remember (as older voters remember the Cuban missile crisis or the assassination of President Kennedy). It's easier to comprehend the success of lies about death panels, the Holocaust, the perpetrators of 9/11 and other matters about which direct knowledge or experience is scarce or relatively difficult to obtain. (Few if any of us will read even small sections of health care legislation; we depend on commentators and politicians we trust to read and interpret it for us.)  But we tend to remember 9/11.  Indeed, I bet most of us remember where we were on 9/11; the question is how many of us remember who was president?

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Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian. She is the author of I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, and a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. More

Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer and social critic who has been a contributing editor of The Atlantic since 1991. She writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion and popular culture and has written eight books, including Worst InstinctsFree for All; Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials; and I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional. Kaminer worked as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and in the New York City Mayor's Office and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993. She is a renowned contrarian who has tackled the issues of censorship and pornography, feminism, pop psychology, gender roles and identities, crime and the criminal-justice system, and gun control. Her articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The American Prospect, Dissent, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, Free Inquiry, and spiked-online.com. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio. She serves on the board of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the advisory boards of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Secular Coalition for America, and is a member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

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