You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Weak Belief

I just read an exceptionally shallow and foolish piece by a writer many of whose essays I greatly admire, Joseph Epstein (who, as Myron J. Epstein, was a mediocre student of mine more than four decades go). It talks of George W. Bush as "a believer" and then assesses Truman and the presidents who followed him as believers or non-believers. No factual, psychological or analysis other than the assessor's assertive chutzpah is in the piece. Epstein asserts that all really great presidents were "believers," although belief does not suffice to make a president great. The "greatest" president of all, Lincoln, of course, was of course a believer--in the American union. One could challenge each of Epstein's assessments, and on this day after Gerald Ford's death, one is tempted to offer arguments for his dismissal of Ford as a decent, dull unbeliever, but "belief," is so much more a complicated matter than his essay makes out, that it would be the equivalent of wrestling a scarecrow. As to Ford, my very intelligent late friend, Edward Levi, who was his Attorney General, told me that he was astonished by Ford's knowledge of every cabinet member's business and his remarkable awareness of what the cabinet member was going to say about it. Until I read Ford's marvelous eulogy of Levi (one that only the eulogist himself could have...