Defy History This July 4 — Honor Calvin Coolidge


By: David Bozeman
This July 4 continues the budding tradition of honoring the sole American   president born on Independence Day.  But to truly understand Calvin   Coolidge (born 1872), who served from 1923-29, requires ditching the edicts of   conventional wisdom and bypassing the shelves at your local bookstore full of   gushing biographical tomes of FDR, JFK, LBJ and a handful of others.    Worth noting, Ronald Reagan’s reputation is enjoying a slight revival in   mainstream circles, but that is only a tool to bash current Republicans, who   are deemed too rigid and extremist to consider nominating even someone   like the Gipper.
Speaking of Reagan, he hung Silent Cal’s portrait in the White House when   he took the reins in 1981, lauding the 30th president’s legacy of tax   cuts, limited government and prosperity.  Reagan rightly disregarded the   judgements of historians who frequently rank Coolidge in the bottom   tier in their highly anticipated rankings of our best leaders.  The   quaint country lawyer from Plymouth Notch Vermont (a famous biography of him   is entitled A Puritan in Babylon) is typically regarded as a nice man   with a dour demeanor who, according to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, looked like   he had been “weaned on a pickle.”  Furthermore, he supposedly slept   much of his term away, and, like most Republicans, was a shill for the   rich.  In truth, his most famous quote — “the business of America is   business” — has been taken completely out of context by the so-called   experts.
Calvin Coolidge’s life and governance were a living testament to the   words he spoke with such simplicity and eloquence.  While he epitomized   frugality, hard work, common sense and independence, sometimes even his   followers today miss the humanity in his speeches and writings.  In the   same “business of America”  speech, he remarked, “. . . We want   wealth, but there are many other things we want much more.  We want peace   and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all   civilization.  The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. . .   “  The historians may or may not be aware, but Silent Cal wrote and spoke   extensively on such topics as character, duty and honor.
But he also famously noted that it is more important to kill bad bills   than to pass good ones.  Yes, you read that correctly!  Such   blasphemy would be an impeachable offense today, but Calvin Coolidge drew his   faith not from legislation but from God and the virtues of America’s most   humble, hardest-working citizens.  Today, we judge presidents by the   bills they pile up and the powers they accrue, thus progressive, activist   leaders such as FDR, and, to a lesser degree, Teddy Roosevelt, have fared   better historically than men such as Calvin Coolidge, despite his   sterling record of peace, popularity and prosperity.
In 2012′s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents,   author Steven F. Hayward grades the presidents  (from Wilson to Obama) by   an unusual standard — their loyalty to the Constitution.  Fancy   that!  Interestingly, Coolidge gets the highest mark in the book, an   A-plus. Reagan merits an A-minus only on the basis of two weak Supreme Court   appointments, Sandra Day O’Connor and William Kennedy (that minus is barely   worth mentioning, as Reagan remains the undisputed titan of 20th Century   political conservatism).
Hayward notes Silent Cal’s dignity, intellect and homespun (but never   hokey) simplicity.  Among his best quotes:  “I want the people of   America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves.”   “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”  “Perhaps   the most important accomplishment of my administration has been minding my own   business.”
That last remark alone should earn him a place on Mount   Rushmore.  Heck, he belongs ABOVE Mount Rushmore.
Naysayers will write off Hayward’s regard for Coolidge as   subjective slobbering, but why are his conclusions any less worthy than those   of the historians, most of whom lean to the left?  Hayward speaks for   many of us, well aware that American heroes and presidents belong to everyone,   not just to the molders of elite opinion.  Nothing  written here is   meant to exalt Coolidge above the people, flawed and imperfect, from whom   he came, but whoever first spoke the adage ‘we are a great people because we   are a good people’ clearly had in mind our Fourth of July boy himself, the one   and only Calvin

This July 4 continues the budding tradition of honoring the sole American   president born on Independence Day.  But to truly understand Calvin   Coolidge (born 1872), who served from 1923-29, requires ditching the edicts of   conventional wisdom and bypassing the shelves at your local bookstore full of   gushing biographical tomes of FDR, JFK, LBJ and a handful of others.    Worth noting, Ronald Reagan’s reputation is enjoying a slight revival in   mainstream circles, but that is only a tool to bash current Republicans, who   are deemed too rigid and extremist to consider nominating even someone   like the Gipper.
Speaking of Reagan, he hung Silent Cal’s portrait in the White House when   he took the reins in 1981, lauding the 30th president’s legacy of tax   cuts, limited government and prosperity.  Reagan rightly disregarded the   judgements of historians who frequently rank Coolidge in the bottom   tier in their highly anticipated rankings of our best leaders.  The   quaint country lawyer from Plymouth Notch Vermont (a famous biography of him   is entitled A Puritan in Babylon) is typically regarded as a nice man   with a dour demeanor who, according to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, looked like   he had been “weaned on a pickle.”  Furthermore, he supposedly slept   much of his term away, and, like most Republicans, was a shill for the   rich.  In truth, his most famous quote — “the business of America is   business” — has been taken completely out of context by the so-called   experts.
Calvin Coolidge’s life and governance were a living testament to the   words he spoke with such simplicity and eloquence.  While he epitomized   frugality, hard work, common sense and independence, sometimes even his   followers today miss the humanity in his speeches and writings.  In the   same “business of America”  speech, he remarked, “. . . We want   wealth, but there are many other things we want much more.  We want peace   and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all   civilization.  The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. . .   “  The historians may or may not be aware, but Silent Cal wrote and spoke   extensively on such topics as character, duty and honor.
But he also famously noted that it is more important to kill bad bills   than to pass good ones.  Yes, you read that correctly!  Such   blasphemy would be an impeachable offense today, but Calvin Coolidge drew his   faith not from legislation but from God and the virtues of America’s most   humble, hardest-working citizens.  Today, we judge presidents by the   bills they pile up and the powers they accrue, thus progressive, activist   leaders such as FDR, and, to a lesser degree, Teddy Roosevelt, have fared   better historically than men such as Calvin Coolidge, despite his   sterling record of peace, popularity and prosperity.
In 2012′s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents,   author Steven F. Hayward grades the presidents  (from Wilson to Obama) by   an unusual standard — their loyalty to the Constitution.  Fancy   that!  Interestingly, Coolidge gets the highest mark in the book, an   A-plus. Reagan merits an A-minus only on the basis of two weak Supreme Court   appointments, Sandra Day O’Connor and William Kennedy (that minus is barely   worth mentioning, as Reagan remains the undisputed titan of 20th Century   political conservatism).
Hayward notes Silent Cal’s dignity, intellect and homespun (but never   hokey) simplicity.  Among his best quotes:  “I want the people of   America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves.”   “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”  “Perhaps   the most important accomplishment of my administration has been minding my own   business.”
That last remark alone should earn him a place on Mount   Rushmore.  Heck, he belongs ABOVE Mount Rushmore.
Naysayers will write off Hayward’s regard for Coolidge as   subjective slobbering, but why are his conclusions any less worthy than those   of the historians, most of whom lean to the left?  Hayward speaks for   many of us, well aware that American heroes and presidents belong to everyone,   not just to the molders of elite opinion.  Nothing  written here is   meant to exalt Coolidge above the people, flawed and imperfect, from whom   he came, but whoever first spoke the adage ‘we are a great people because we   are a good people’ clearly had in mind our Fourth of July boy himself, the one   and only Calvin Coolidge.

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