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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this inflated revisionist biography, Sobel seeks to overturn the image of Calvin Coolidge as a taciturn, do-nothing president. He portrays his subject as an embodiment of the ethos of a vanished America, a pragmatic politician who espoused a philosophy of a passive executive branch. Although Coolidge took no actions to promote race relations, never spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan and passed a restrictive immigration bill that singled out Japanese for exclusion from entering the U.S., the 30th president is presented here as a champion of civil rights because, in Sobel's verdict, his public utterances in support of black Americans were outspoken and liberal-minded. There is some unintentionally hilarious understatment: "Coolidge's humor was not of the kind that causes belly laughs." And the author brings William Allen White to the president's defense by quoting him as saying, "Coolidge... was not dumb." In this lively but unpersuasive reappraisal, Sobel (Dangerous Dreamers) is mostly preaching to the converted. His broader themeAa refutation of the negative view of the Republican 1920s Harding-Coolidge-Hoover trio as a dismal interregnum between Wilson and FDRAis likewise debatable. Coolidge's presidency, despite Sobel's intentions, comes off as a wasteland of missed opportunities.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Noted business historian Sobel (Dangerous Dreamers, LJ 5/1/93) here attempts a revisionist examination of Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States. Arguing that Coolidge "merits serious consideration," Sobel asserts that he was more complex than conventional wisdom would have us believe. Tracing Coolidge from New England childhood to retirement, he attempts to show "Silent Cal" as more of a "hidden-handed" type of leader than most historical assessments suggest. Unfortunately, his efforts to elevate Coolidge's reputation succeed only marginally. The Coolidge presented here had a Whig vision of presidential leadership and did not seek actively to lead the government. While this vision may have been, as Coolidge himself seemed to believe, closer to the original design of the Founders, it was probably better suited to the 19th than the 20th century. Still, Sobel succeeds at getting the reader to take a serious look at this oft-neglected and sometimes disparaged president, and his tightly argued, well-researched book will be of importance to historians and presidential scholars for years to come.AMichael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery; 1 edition (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895262479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895262479
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I would recommend this fine book to anyone who enjoys a good biography.
G. Townsend
If you want to learn about Calvin Coolidge the man, the father, the husband, the politician and the President this is the book to read.
Books-n-Collies
Sobel examines Coolidge's matured grasp of political realities, such as the well timed public statement.
Thomas J. Burns

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 102 people found the following review helpful By JK on July 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How interesting that as we look at the last century, President Coolidge has become a polarizing figure. After smears from William Allan White, Arthur Schlesinger and others, Coolidge has finally merited re-evaluation. While not an activist President in the vein of, say, Franklin Roosevelt, Coolidge was far from indolent or passive. He gave more press conferences than any other, inaugurated the use of radio, and sponsored airplanes in the military. However, it was indeed his belief that government should exist for the people, not the other way 'round. Interestingly, he was the last President to refuse to have a telephone in the Oval Office--he considered it undignified. He supported women's suffrage and his wife, Grace, was the first First Lady to smoke in the White House. I have undertaken to read many accounts of Coolidge; he does remain a mystery to us in so many ways. Regardless of the slant of the source, though, his deep sense of decency and honor in performing public service always shines through. I'd recommend purchasing a copy of 'Grace Coolidge and Her Era' from 1962 to give a more human side to both the President and his wife. Another characteristic of this man is that despite his reserve, his overriding love for his wife and sons remains there. The heartbreak that he and Mrs. Coolidge endured with the needless death of their youngest son in the White House cannot be overstated. Especially since we know now that the Staph. infection from which young Calvin died would nowadays have certainly not been fatal. I think part of the reason the Coolidge times have become fascinating for those of us interested in history is the obscurity to which these years have been consigned. The terms of FDR with his extensive radio and movie coverage has overshown the previous three Republican administrations, not by accident. I have concluded that no one book can cover all the aspects of President Coolidge, and he deserves further reading.
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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Calvin Coolidge, who served as President from 1923-1929, has long been rated as a "poor" President by liberal historians and academics who fault him for his seemingly passive, quiet, and inactive approach to the Presidency. In this first-rate biography, Mr. Sobel shows us just how wrong those judgments are. Far from being a "Silent" or "Lazy" President, Coolidge ran a remarkably honest and efficient administration that led America through one of the most exciting and prosperous decades in American history - the "Roaring Twenties".

As Sobel demonstrates, Coolidge was born and raised in an environment - rural and isolated - which the great majority of Americans today would find alien. He grew up in the tiny rural village of Plymouth, Vermont. His beloved mother died when he was young and he was raised by his father, a classic "pillar of the community" type - his father was serious, sober, religious, a prosperous farmer and general-store owner, and a local politician who served as a justice of the peace, constable, and Vermont state legislator. Coolidge grew up to be an equally serious-minded and self-reliant young man - a modern Puritan, without the hypocrisy or self-righteous attitude. Like Truman, much of Coolidge's life seemed utterly ordinary, and he was an unlikely President. A competent lawyer in Northampton, Massachusetts, Calvin married Grace Goodhue and had a happy marriage, fathered two sons (to whom he was devoted), and slowly but steadily climbed the political ladder. Unlike many modern politicians who want to start off with a major office (such as Senator or Governor) and then immediately try to run for President, Coolidge spent many years in local and state politics before he became a "big-time" politician - a fact which probably accounted for his success as President.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent Biography of a President that Americans ought to know more about than they do. Beyond that Robert Sobel presents a portrait of a Statesman of High moral character and unimpeachable integrity that is seldom encountered in life, Much less at the summit of political life Professor Sobel is an economic Historian, Consequently He devotes a considerable part of the Book to a discussion of Coolidge's controversial economic policies which rank among the most sucessful in modern times. Consider that Coolidge was President for five years and in every one of those years the U.S. government had a balanced budget with a surplus which was returned to the taxpayers in the form of a tax cut,And that government spending progressively declined over this same period. And all this was done during an unprecedented economic boom.Now liberal Historians like Arthur Schlesinger Jr.whom Sobel gloriously debunks,would argue that ''Coolidge prosperity'' was a ''false prosperity'' which ultimately led to the stock market crash of 1929 and the great depression. Sobel makes a strong case that the prosperity of the twenties was a genuine economic revival based on sound free market principles.Professor Sobel strongly refutes the conventional wisdom that Coolidge was blissfully ignorant of the danger to the economy posed by an unregulated stock market.In fact He clearly saw the danger.But in His Jeffersonian view of the Constitution He believed that federal legislation was unconstitutional.In Coolidge's the regulation of business was the province of the states. This book is not as detailed as it might be. But on the whole it is an excellent biography of an honorable Statesman and a fine moral example. You may expect that this book will be attacked by the liberal establishment as revisionist History...And long overdue!
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