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Calvin Coolidge Hardcover – December 26, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As America's 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, popularly known as "Silent Cal," had a record that "was neither substantial nor enduring"; still, Ronald Reagan considered him "one of our most underrated presidents," and historian and author Greenberg (Nixon's Shadow) sets to find out why in a precise and objective record of Coolidge's long political career. If Coolidge's commitment to minimalist government in turn minimized his contributions to the nation, he was regarded well during his two terms, probably because of "robust economic productivity" and his prescient use of growing public relations infrastructure, utilizing radio, film and photography to run a front-porch campaign "long before the term 'photo op' was coined." Coolidge's personal commitment to austerity allowed him to"pare spending in almost every government department" and cut taxes four times; by the "end of his second term, most Americans paid no federal income tax at all." Though Black Thursday devastated the stock market on his watch in 1929, at the end of his presidency "standard accounts affix some blame to his policies," but "even Coolidge's harshest critics agree that the roots of the Depression lie deeper than any policies of one man." Greenberg's history takes readers ably but unsurprisingly from rustic, post-Civil War Vermont to, in Coolidge's words, "a new era to which I do not belong," showing along the way how his personality and politics helped him regain relevancy in political struggles yet to come.
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From Booklist

The famously taciturn thirtieth president, affectionately dubbed Silent Cal, had been an award-winning student orator and delivered effective if unexciting speeches throughout his political career (must have: he lost only one election in 30 years). He conducted more presidential press conferences (his immediate predecessor, Harding, invented them) than any other president. He embraced radio and the movies, the modern media of his day, and provided photo ops at the drop, or replacement--he once donned an Indian ceremonial headdress--of a hat. He really was reserved, but he cultivated his relative silence to suggest humility and perspicacity; fortunately, he also had a ready, dry wit. Intellectuals and pundits groaned about him, but the general public, including, then and later, Ronald Reagan, adored him. Greenberg argues that while his management of his image was ahead of his time, his conception of presidential power--limited, hands-off, better delegated--was utterly of it. Coolidge was, Greenberg implies, a true progressive conservative, genially fatalistic about change, indulging its benefits while deploring the altered morals it facilitated. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069570
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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