Gerald Posner, Weathervane

The quality of reasoning in Gerald Posner’s op-ed, “I Was Wrong About Bush,” which appears in the Sept. 25 Wall Street Journal, is so poor that Chatterbox almost feels compelled to reconsider whether Lee Harvey Oswald was framed. (Posner’s influential book, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, snuffed out the few remaining JFK-assasination conspiracy theories.) In the Journal piece, Posner confesses that last fall he was a signatory to the “pompously titled ‘Emergency Committee of Concerned Citizens 2000,’ which took full-page ads in the New York Times demanding a revote in Palm Beach County, Fla.” These full-page ads were indeed idiotic, for reasons Chatterbox, who voted for Gore, spelled out at the time. (Click here, here, and here for the details.) Still, many people who are not idiots signed this document out of the sincere conviction that Gore really had won Florida (there was some plausible evidence at the time that a statewide recount would demonstrate this; more thorough investigations since then have tended to suggest that’s not the case), and that constitutional law allowed for a revote (it does not). Posner, apparently, was not one of them. He now writes that at the time, he “did not know” if Gore had won and “did not care.” He just thought Bush would make a bad president. You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to grasp that this belief does not justify challenging the results of a presidential election.

Anyway, that was then. Now, in the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, “President Bush has come alive in a way I did not think possible. It was as though the attack on America–which he rightly called an ‘act of war’ from the start–gave him a focus and clarity I had not earlier seen.” This “focus and clarity” either persuaded Posner that Bush really did win Florida, or persuaded Posner not to care whether Bush had won or not. If Posner means the latter, Chatterbox isn’t inclined to quibble. In times of national crisis, it does indeed seem foolish to quarrel over murky election results, especially when the outcome can’t be changed.

But what evidence does Posner present of a new “focus and clarity”? Not much more than he had to argue for a revote in Florida. Posner notes that Bush last week gave a strong speech to the country. Chatterbox hopes it isn’t unpatriotic to note that Bush always demonstrates more “focus and clarity” when he’s reading from a prepared text than when he’s ad-libbing; Bush’s chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, happens to be a very gifted writer (click here to purchase Gerson’s thoughtful and elegant Barry Goldwater obituary in US News & World Report). “I had always found Mr. Bush stiff in his scripted speeches,” Posner writes. “But last Thursday he was infused with passion and outrage.” Chatterbox has never found Bush stiff in his scripted speeches, and it was widely noted last January in the Liberal-Dominated Media that Bush hit a home run with his inaugural address. (It’s the press conferences Bush tends to flub.) The fact that Bush was infused last Thursday with “passion and outrage” does not distinguish him from any other person of Chatterbox’s acquaintance. “President Bush showed all of us who doubted him, and who voted against him, that he is indeed a leader,” Posner writes. Oh, please. He’s the president of the United States. Being a leader is his job. Is he a good leader? Chatterbox certainly hopes he will be from now on, but the proof certainly won’t be a single speech.