VIDEO: Could United States use a ‘Silent Cal’ Coolidge now?

By Rob Nikolewski on October 22, 2013
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KEEP COOL WITH CAL: A new biography of Calvin Coolidge offers a positive reassessment of the legacy of “Silent Cal”

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

ALBUQUERQUE — He never had his image carved on Mount Rushmore and he was best-known as a man of few words but thanks to a surprising best-selling book, is getting an historical makeover.

And with the , perhaps “Silent Cal” can offer some lessons for modern-day politicians.

“We can’t imagine having a conservative hero like Coolidge who would cut the budget but that’s because our interest rates are so low,” said , the author of “ which landed for . “When the interest rate goes back 6 percent, you know what? Americans will be looking for someone with the authority to cut the deficit, (with) the confidence, the willingness to do the hard thing and people like Coolidge will be models.”

It seems every politician — whether in Coolidge’s times or today — is afraid to say no to increased spending. But the man from New England who became president during “The Roaring ’20s” after Warren G. Harding died and , didn’t seem to mind if people called him parsimonious, tight-fisted or cheap.

In fact, he relished it.

Shlaes points out that Coolidge during his five years in office and as vice president and president managed to slash the national debt from its post-World War I level of $27 billion to $17.65 billion by the time , “I do not choose to run” for re-election in 1928.

“He was a silent New Englander,” said Shlaes, who appeared in Albuquerque on Monday, signed books and spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the . “The main thing to know about Coolidge is that he cut the budget as president. He didn’t just reduce the growth, he actually cut it and (he did) this over a long period. He’s an unknown president from the 1920s, but he did that thing that we want to do (now).”

Most mainstream historians don’t give Coolidge high marks for his presidency. Some say the 1929 stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression was in large part caused by Coolidge’s policies. But Shlaes, who wrote a 2007 best-seller called about the Depression, disputes that.

“The causes of the Great Depression were multiple but basically … the government got in the way in the ’30s and made it worse,” Shlaes said. “Whether it was (Herbert) Hoover, the Republican president, or (Franklin) Roosevelt, the Democrat … when you look at the end of the Depression, the single question you want to ask is not, how did (World War II) end the Depression, but, why did that gosh-darn Depression last all the way to that war?”

As for Coolidge the man, Shlaes says he did have feelings — his while Coolidge was in the White House — but Coolidge came from a generation that valued reticence. He wasn’t a touch-feely person nor a back-slapping politician.

Coolidge may not have been as cold as when described by ,” but he was certainly a man of few words.

And the research Shlaes conducted in “Coolidge” appears to confirm a popular story about the 30th president:

“A fancy society lady sat next to him at some affair in Washington,” Shlaes recounted, “and said in that bright way, ‘I made a bet that I could get you to say more than two words tonight, sir.’ And (Coolidge) said, ‘You lose’ and bit his tongue.”

Here’s video of our interview with Shlaes:

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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One Comment For This Post So Far

  1. L.E. Liesner
    2:37 pm on October 22nd, 2013

    Having “Silent Cal” at the helm of our country would be a 150% better than the lying one we have today. Obama talks to much and he has a problem with the truth. Blaming others for his lack of leadership and his scandals is a sign of a failed man. Jimmy Carter has got a reprieve as being the worst president in the history of this nation as long as Obama is in office, then it will be a toss up.

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