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Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America’s Most Underrated President Hardcover – March 12, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Why Coolidge Matters could not appear at a better time. In it, Charles Johnson shatters the myth that Calvin Coolidge was a president of little influence and brings to life a man of deep convictions, courage, and incredible talent for clearly communicating economic struggles in moral terms. In our era of economic malaise, we should learn from the president whose tax cuts helped ignite one of America’s greatest economic booms. Anyone interested in the cause of free markets and liberty would do well to read this book."

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

"This is a very energetic and engaging amplification of the strong points of Coolidge’s presidency and administrative techniques. It is a welcome addition to the growing literature on whether Coolidge was, as Charles Johnson claims, an underrated and commendable leader, and not, as majority historical opinion has long held, a simplistic and dangerously detached president. It is a lively and imaginative case presented by a very promising young historian and commentator."

Conrad Black, author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and the recently published A Matter of Principle.

It turns out that our Cal wasn’t as silent as we thought. Coolidge’s life speaks volumes about the sad state of contemporary politics, and may offer a map for the way out. Charles Johnson’s smart and entertaining book about our witty, wise, and humane 30th president is a must-read for anyone who cares about the history of the presidency, or its future.

Tucker Carlson, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller

In a time when we suffer from the follies of a celebrity president, Charles Johnson’s short sparkling account of Calvin Coolidge, the citizen president who valued experience over theory and individual accountability rather than social salvation, is a welcome occasion.

Fred Siegel, scholar in residence at St. Francis College and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute

To preserve our freedom, we must recover both our principles and our past. Calvin Coolidge is a figure from the past who possessed profound knowledge of our principles and the eloquence to explain them. Charles Johnson—precocious, energetic, and knowledgeable himself—brings real ability to the work of recovering Coolidge, and so he helps us to better know our country and ourselves.

Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and author of The Founders’ Key

"Johnson's book is essential reading for those interested in presidential leadership. He shines the spotlight on one of America's most successful, yet unappreciated, chief executives. Knowing full well the proper use of executive power, Silent Cal had a steady hand on the ship of state. Johnson makes the case that Coolidge should enter the pantheon of America's great Presidents."

John Yoo, law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

"Charles Johnson's Why Coolidge Matters is a timely, riveting profile of one of America's most unsung presidents. We all have much to learn from Calvin Coolidge's adherence to thrift; devotion to his Christian faith; emphasis on character and civic virtue; and demonstrated commitment to public service and first principles. Myths on both the Left and Right abound about "Silent Cal." Johnson's vibrant scholarship clears the air and sheds new light on a commander-in-chief who modeled long-forgotten, but desperately needed, leadership traits of restraint, discipline, and prudence. As the conservative movement ponders its future, Why Coolidge Matters provides a compelling reason to look to its forgotten past for inspiration."

Michelle Malkin, author, blogger, and syndicated columnist

About the Author

Charles C. Johnson is an independent writer. His work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The L.A. Times, City Journal, The New Criterion, Reason, Tablet Magazine, and The Claremont Review of Books, and he has been the recipient of both the Robert L. Bartley Fellowship and Eric Breindel Award at the WSJ, the Robert Novak Award at the Philips Foundation, and the Publius Fellowship at the Claremont Institute. He lives in the San Gabriel Valley with his fiancée and is presently writing a political biography of Barack Obama.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; First American Edition edition (March 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594036691
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594036699
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Weaned on a pickle." "The business of America is business." "You lose." "Silent Cal."
None of these well-known fragments, or figments, of the Jazz Age suggest leadership lessons. But Charles Johnson's book has such lessons, as its title promises, because the real Coolidge did.

Other presidents in the surrounding decades enacted more laws, grew government, were louder or more colorful. This contrast made Coolidge a victim of, in Lincoln's words, "the silent artillery of time." Worse, historians have often belittled him. But the negligent and hostile caricatures, quoted occasionally by Johnson, are wrong. So is the oft-assumed irrelevance of the 1920s. This clearly written account of Coolidge's career demonstrates both points.

Although compact for a presidential book at 265 also-modest pages of text, "Why Coolidge Matters" has 57 pages of footnotes. Johnson, a gutsy and energetic young journalist who studied under talented professors of American government at Claremont McKenna College, wastes no words here. Coupled with his extensive research, that means a highly readable, yet fleshed-out and thoughtful survey of a public life more substantive than most people imagine.

The embarrassing "business" quote, by the way, isn't even true. Coolidge's real comment was: "The chief business of the American people is business," a factual statement. In the same 1925 speech, he went on to stress Americans' great "idealism," a frequent point with him.

Johnson gives us Coolidge the small-r republican: a philosopher not just of limited government but of self-government, a figure more complex and morally compelling than Coolidge, agent of 1920s prosperity. He conveys his subject's stances for small government, low taxes, the non-evolving Constitution.
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Johnson has written an original political biography of Coolidge. Between this and Tom Silver's old biography, we now have a good account of the man and statesman. Amity Schlaes's recent biography is interesting at points, but misses Coolidge's true genius entirely by trying to offer him as some sort of libertarian champion.

Using great use of many original and secondary sources, Johnson's book presents Coolidge in his own voice, while offering considered judgment about his continuing relevance to our politics today. This book is essential reading for any enthusiast of Coolidge, American republicanism, and liberty.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Charles C. Johnson's first book is best described as a home run on the first pitch. Charles is a brilliant young man who has the potential to be to his generation what William F. Buckley Jr. was to his, or at last what Alex P. Keaton was to mine. But seriously, his blogging during his undergraduate years at Claremont McKenna parallel Buckley's God and Man at Yale and his aggressive intellect positions him to be the man who stands athwart history yelling stop! It's only fitting that he's chosen Calvin Coolidge as his subject because "standing athwart" is what Coolidge was all about.

This is a very different book from Amity Shlaes' recent biography. It's more of a survey of Coolidge's political philosophy than a comprehensive detailing of his life. Both are excellent books, but this one is going to be the most useful in our current struggle against big government. In fact, I put it up there with Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism and Daniel J. Flynn's A Conservative History of the American Left as a resource. Whereas the former equip conservative with an understanding of the progressive forces attempting to fundamentally change American institutions, Johnson's book familiarizes us with how our own ideology has worked when tried. The subtitle of the book is Leadership Lessons from America's Most Underrated President, and it's those lessons that can teach us how to apply our conservatism today.

The first leadership lesson is "Sacrifice of the Fittest". Contrary to the view of Coolidge and the conservatives of his day, that they were Social Darwinists, Coolidge believed that the law of the jungle was antithetical to civilization. Citing Christ's sacrifice, mother love and the "women and children first" ethos, Coolidge made a life-long argument for sacrifice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been fascinated by this period of history for some time, even before the recent trend. The generation of people during this time, were some of the first Americans to truly feel a part of a strong, established country. Innovation, creativity and culture were in full swing (literally). So I believed that this book would look into the mind of Coolidge, his background, and create a picture of a man who had certain convictions that were either supported by or in stark contrast to society at the time. Instead it appears that this is more of a cheer-leading book about Coolidge being great and don't mind the critics because they are more enthralled with a Roosevelt style Presidency. A lot of cotton candy with not much else in it. That's a shame because I do think Coolidge receives a bad wrap for his Presidency and there are elements in his Presidency that need to be examined more closely. Unfortunately, this book does not do that.
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