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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars .Good characterization of a very private president
This particular entry in The American Presidents Series is fairly well-written and engaging. One of the themes the author continually develops about this popular former president is that he was a reserved and intensely private character and as such, his biography is more difficult to write. In spite of this, the author does a pretty good job of covering President...
Published on December 26, 2010 by Amazon Customer

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66 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coolidge truly deserved a better biographer
As many small "r" republicans and libertarians have noted, Coolidge is truly underrated. Unfortunately this biography will not do overly much to boost his image or reputation.

Mr. Greenberg's political beliefs get in the way of a non-partisan review of Calvin Coolidge. He does not much like his hands off philosophy nor very obviously, his small government/non...
Published on September 26, 2007 by C. A. Temm


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66 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coolidge truly deserved a better biographer, September 26, 2007
By 
C. A. Temm (Salem, AL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
As many small "r" republicans and libertarians have noted, Coolidge is truly underrated. Unfortunately this biography will not do overly much to boost his image or reputation.

Mr. Greenberg's political beliefs get in the way of a non-partisan review of Calvin Coolidge. He does not much like his hands off philosophy nor very obviously, his small government/non intereference beliefs. This gets in the way of real examination of the man and his accomplishments. Though he admits to admiring aspects of the man's personal life, he cannot extend that admiration to Coolidge's lack of ambition or vision as president.

From the begining of his national notice as governor of Taxachusetts, Coolidge is portrayed as a man who dithers from indecision rather than a man who refuses to overstep his potical boundaries (police strike of 1919). Greenberg labels Coolidege's propensity to delegate rather than do things himself as weakness rather than sound executive ability.

He does note Coolidge's accomplishments in the use of radio (the new media then)to actually contact the people in lareg numbers. His ability to use the medium let him avoid the Congress and go direct to the people, something few presidents have forgotten since. With this use of radio and regularly scheduled presss conferences, he was the first 'modern' president.

Greenberg's personal political philosophy gets in the way too many times of the process of looking into Coolidge. From the falsehood of tax cuts "costing the Treasury money better spent on infrastructure" (how about what taxpayers would have done with it?) to his deploring of Coolidge's decision to let the ICC languish rather than up its choking of the American railroads (FDR reversed that quickly enough, look at that result),Greenberg fails to keep his personal views from is often a pleasurable read. He does note very astutely that Coolidge was no true laissez faire man but rather on tariffs at least, a traditional Republican out for big protective tariffs.

He does grudgingly though note that Coolidge was a true believer in the limits of political power. It would be this belief that would cause him to declare that he would not run for reelection. As Coolidge himself said, "the office has lost its attraction for me..."

Perhaps its Coolidge's style, concern for the taxpayer, and overall simplicity that many Americans long for. For sure, many of us would love to see someone in office who did not have to pronounce on every event in the nation like our last few decades of leaders have gotten into the habit of doing...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars .Good characterization of a very private president, December 26, 2010
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This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
This particular entry in The American Presidents Series is fairly well-written and engaging. One of the themes the author continually develops about this popular former president is that he was a reserved and intensely private character and as such, his biography is more difficult to write. In spite of this, the author does a pretty good job of covering President Coolidge's life and his impact. Most readers probably already know that Coolidge was famous for being somewhat of a figure of stability and sparse intervention during a time of economic prosperity and political stability (relatively speaking) at home and abroad. He is seen as having presided over the good times while his successor gets much of the blame for the Great Depression that followed. However, most people are probably unaware that this humble, private man who was dedicated to efficiency and integrity was also a groundbreaking president in his use of the media to connect to average Americans. He was one of the first presidents to make use of radio, motion pictures and media interviews on a regular basis in a way that ushered in more modern practices that we are used to seeing nowadays. This is an additional theme to the book and one that makes Coolidge an interesting study in contrasts. The author suggests that Coolidge, who languished for many years in public thought because his brand of trickle-down laissez faire economics became discredited after the advent of the Great Depression, has become more relevant in the last few decades because of the resurgence in popularity of these ideas. In general, the reader of this biography will find a nice balance between the personal story of the rise of this unlikely but popular president and a characterization of the times in which he lived. Not everything about Coolidge and his time in office is presented as being positive but the final verdict is fair and favorable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deployed 20th century methods to promote 19th century values. So reads, June 17, 2010
By 
JOHN GODFREY (Milwaukee ,WI USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
the last page. It sums up the Coolidge philosophy. This biography by David Greenberg is chock full of information on a relatively obscure president. He is truly the first modern president. One word: radio. Ironically radio & its skilled use by shy "silent Cal" made his the most accessible presidency up to that time. Mr. Greenberg notes that President Coolidge's voice was heard by more Americans in one radio address than heard Theodore Roosevelt in his entire life. It was a connection he would use expertly & in fact helped him go over the head of congress on several occasions. He was cheap, not verbose & not exposed to much diversity in his life, like most Americans. He never overworked & made sure he got his 10 hours of sleep. I don't know if that included his daily nap. Politically he felt that general interest overrode special interest. Fair enough except he seemed to think that business & cutting their taxes were a general interest & special interest like farmers & flood victims could suffer. A veteran's bonus bill was passed over his veto. Actually his tax cuts helped many & the extra income created a new investor class out of many middle class Americans. His indifference to congress who he felt was merely a collection of special interest resulted in a fairly spotty legislative record. But it didn't matter. Except for slight economic dips in 1924 & '27 he presided in what was called "The Coolidge Prosperity". That his laissez- fair attitude toward business as well as the massive stock purchasing on margin by many new investors is responsible for the stock market crash less than seven months after he left office is open to endless debate. His success in foreign affairs was limited but again that didn't matter. He was perfectly in tune with Americans at that time. He expertly danced around the Harding scandals that were swirling & reveled in American success's such as Lindberg's New York to Paris flight which he was able to exploit. So much info in this book of just 159 pages plus notes. He has his admirers such as Ronald Reagan, & his theory that he who governs least, governs best. Yet four years after he left office, with the country in ruins, FDR was elected & the idea of limited, small federal government was a thing of the past.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete History, September 7, 2012
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This book does contain the authors own bias. It does not get into enough detail about the mood of the country and its feeling that protections were needed at the time.
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38 of 55 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Economic Illiteracy, June 17, 2008
By 
Joseph Somsel (San Jose, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
The author is functionally illiterate in economics or at least so blinded by his contemporary liberalism that he ignores the plain reading of US history. While the author considers the prosperity of the 20's the effect of preceeding Wilsonian "investment" (ie deficit spending) he ignores the effect of tax cuts under Harding and Coolidge. Is it just coincident that the economy prospers after the Harding/Coolidge, the Kennedy, the Reagan, and the Bush tax cuts? He also ignores the general productivity enhancements of the automobile, radio, and electricity, all products of private enterprise rather than government intervention

The author is also inconsistent in that he repeatedly notes the broadly rising prosperity of an expanding middle class during the 20's then claims the Great Depression was caused, in part, by income inequalities. Nothing about the huge tax increases of Herbert "Wonder Boy" Hoover and FDR as well as the erroneous policies of the Fed that collapsed the money supply. While the relative stagnation of the farming sector is noted, the author doesn't correlate that with increased yields from tractors, rural electrification, and fertilizer. We just didn't need as many farmers in 1929 as we did in 1919 to feed a growing population.

The stock market bubble is discussed repeatedly too and Coolidge critized for not taking the steps of Federal market intervention that would have surpressed the speculation. Yet the author notes the general opinion that the stock market crash had little to do with the general depression.

The author is on firmer ground covering Coolidge's relationship with and use of mass media, especially radio and photography. Given the author's professorship in media studies at Rutgers, this should not surprise. Unfortunately, he also claims to be a professor of history. If true, woe be our college students!

What saves the book from being a total waste of money is the character sketches of Coolidge and his wife. He does seem a genuinely admirable person. Even the author likes him.

In summary, the book is prime example of the decadence of American academia. So immersed in their own liberal claptrap, how they can cash their taxpayer-funded paychecks is beyond my moral comprehension.

Pstscript: Upon further consideration, I should have given the book two stars instead of just one based on the personality sketches alone. However, I'm not allowed to revise that part of the review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great account of a mediocre president, April 23, 2013
By 
Sagar Jethani (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
Calvin Coolidge didn't do much.

Take the event which catapulted him into national prominence-- his decision as Governor of Massachusetts to fire and replace the Boston police officers who went on strike in 1919. Hailed by later-day strike-busters as an example of how to preserve public safety by standing up to big labor, Coolidge characteristically delayed acting until matters had reached a crisis.

Faced with a police commissioner who refused to improve overcrowded stations and worsening job conditions, police officers in Boston went on strike. Rather than call out the state militia to maintain order, Coolidge did nothing. He went home and slept soundly while rioters pillaged Boston. Three people died. Coolidge eventually acted by firing all the striking officers and permanently replacing them. The public had grown weary of strikes and radical activism, and Coolidge's decisive, if belated, action, made him a national figure and greatly contributed to his capturing the vice presidency at the 1920 Republican National Convention.

Few at the time realized Coolidge's unique blend of fiscal conservatism and social progressivism. While climbing the ladder of state politics in Massachusetts, Coolidge shrank public debt while raising teachers' salaries; he lowered taxes and supported women's suffrage; he radically reduced the size of state government while approving hiring bonuses for war veterans. As vice president, however, he was invisible, and supported the administration mainly by delivering speeches on its behalf.

When Warren Harding died suddenly in 1923, a mortified Calvin Coolidge was sworn-in as president. He committed himself to carrying out the remainder of Harding's agenda for the first term, and soon found his administration embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal. It would remain the nation's most infamous case of political corruption until the Watergate crisis erupted fifty years later. Coolidge had not been involved in the graft and corruption which eventually took down several cabinet members, and his reputation emerged in high standing for pursuing the case to its finish, whatever the cost.

Coolidge's actual legislative accomplishments as president were trivial: he lowered taxes. He placed new immigration controls into effect to keep America white. He established the practice of an annual presidential budget.

And little else.

This lightweight schedule should not be misinterpreted as an inability to do more. Coolidge did not face an intransigent Congress bent on rejecting his agenda; he simply did not wish to do more. The nation had enough laws and regulations, he liked to say, and didn't need any more.

This aversion to act has been flatteringly described as "the minimalist presidency" by libertarians and conservatives. In practice, it need not require much political gyrations to understand Coolidge. Consider the advice he gave to his advice to his then-Secretary of Commerce (and later presidential successor) Herbert Hoover:

"If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you, and you will have to battle with only one of them."

Ike Hoover (no relation to Herbert Hoover), Coolidge's head White House usher, claimed that Coolidge worked less than any other president he had ever known, and Coolidge's wife Grace observed that Coolidge did not like to read. Nor did the new president like to consult experts for their opinions. As a result, an anti-intellectual atmosphere prevailed throughout his presidency.

Conservatives seeking to restore Coolidge to what they believe to be his rightful place in the American pantheon seize upon the fact that he enacted a significant tax cut and oversaw an unprecedented economic expansion: causa et effectus. Less-mentioned is Coolidge's creation of estate and gift taxes to prevent an entrenched American aristocracy from taking hold. And while Coolidge did oversee a national surge in wealth generation, this bounty disproportionately benefited the already-wealthy. For those unlucky enough to be left out of the rising tide, they had nothing to sustain them beyond the help of family and friends-- for this was before the New Deal and the age of federal safety nets.

Modern devotees similarly thrill when remembering Coolidge's 1925 declaration that "the chief business of America is business," but too often disregard how Coolidge's uninformed cheering of Wall Street and his aversion of any form of financial regulation led directly to the Great Crash of 1929. Not only would Coolidge bequeath this mess to his hapless successor, Herbert Hoover, but he would also usher in an era of federal safety nets the right has been chafing against ever since-- to say nothing of handing Democrats the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania for twenty years. Coolidge held a naive faith in the benevolence of business, and supported the claim made by Treasury Secretary Mellon that cutting taxes for the wealthy would lead them to make investments which would ultimately benefit workers.

Sound familiar?

Trickle-down economics worked no better in 1921 than in 1981, but at least Coolidge may be forgiven owing to the lack of reliable economic data in his day. This reduction in taxes and disinclination to regulate Wall Street led to a rampant consumerism which took some strange turns. "The dollar is our Almighty. Prosperity is a kind of morality, and no one has preached the doctrine more devoutly than Messrs. Coolidge, Hoover, and Mellon," wrote journalist Silas Bent. One of Coolidge's chief publicists authored a book which depicted Jesus as "the founder of modern business," and his parables as "the most powerful advertisements of all time."

As is so often the case, the advocate of limited government had little problem extending largess to powerful corporations while cutting back federal aid to the everyday people. When agricultural prices plummeted in 1926, Coolidge refused to prop up farm prices, musing that "Farmers never have made much money. I do not believe we can do much about it." He also groused that property owners whose lands had been lost to the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi River should take care of the damage themselves rather than rely upon federal assistance, although he eventually signed a bill which gave the federal government responsibility for flood management.

David Greenberg has produced an admirable portrait of Calvin Coolidge which, while succinct, does not leave the reader wanting for detail. Coolidge is presented as a figure who successfully transitioned the United States into the 20th century. His small-town, rural ideals reassured Americans in the Jazz Age that despite the radical changes affecting their lives through technology, loosening social mores, and a new consumerism, such changes would not fundamentally alter the character of their nation. This cultural assessment stands in contrast to Coolidge's actual record as president, which was marked by mediocrity and small thinking. The author provides an accurate, if sobering, summary:

"Coolidge's record, in sum, was neither substantial nor enduring. Too many problems, left unresolved, mounted, too many causes languished unpursued. His constricted vision of his office crippled him."
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Silent but Steady, January 28, 2007
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This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
David Greenberg does a nice job of humanizing "Silent Cal". Against the backdrop of the roaring twenties, he brings a quiet but even handed Calvin Coolidge to life. The objective reader will likely find himself at least a modest fan of our only President from Vermont.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting biography that puts Coolidge in the context of his times, March 9, 2009
This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
There are so few full biographies of Calvin Coolidge that we are often forced to make do with what we can get. This is a perfect example of what I mean. This bio does an excellent job of giving us the highlight of Coolidge's life and does a pretty good job of examining his political career and portraying what happened and when. The author does remind us of Coolidge's many personal quirks and does try to offer some type of psycho-reason for Coolidge's famed sparseness of speech.

Still the biography doesn't venture far beyond the superficial. We aren't really treated to anything new or anything that we haven't already learned about Coolidge. It does seem as though the author warmed over some leftover anecdotes without adding anything new to the mix. I can't say this is his fault because Coolidge may just well be as colorless as we have all thought but it would be nice to see some more detail on him.

Still this is a good read of the man who lead the United States during one of its most storied eras.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT SERIES OF BOOKS, January 31, 2014
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This review is from: Calvin Coolidge (Hardcover)
I read all the Biographies of the Presidents by way of the Presidential series. If you are going to do it, read John Hancock first because he was the first Continental Congress President. You will find as you read these how the lives of each President intertwined with the next. The job is a lineage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect, January 14, 2013
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gave this gift as a christmas present and he has not let the book down. it was accurate and in perfect condition
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Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge by David Greenberg (Hardcover - December 26, 2006)
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