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Silent Cal's Almanack: The Homespun Wit and Wisdom of Vermont's Calvin Coolidge Paperback – August 19, 2008
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"Coolidge has a friend in David Pietrusza, a Coolidge scholar and author/editor of Silent Cal's Almanack."
"an absorbing compendium of eloquent, pithy, insightful, and intelligent quotes from Calvin Coolidge ... enthusiasticaly recommended ..."
"Calvin Coolidge was one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century and is certainly the most underrated. This book, compiled by one of my favorite historians, will give readers a full appreciation of why Silent Cal's wisdom shines like a beacon through the fog of historical amnesia."
"David Pietrusza reminds us that decades before the age of the sound bite, Calvin Coolidge mastered the art. But unlike most politicians today, he used few words to say a wisdom-packed mouthful."
"useful and valuable. [Pietrusza] has made many contributions to our understanding and appreciation of Calvin Coolidge."--Coolidge Interpreter Jim Cooke
From the Inside Flap
Ronald Reagan: "Now you hear a lot of jokes about Silent Cal Coolidge, but I think the joke is on the people that make jokes because if you look at his record, he cut taxes four times. We had probably the greatest growth and prosperity that we've ever known."
Sarah Palin: "one of our most underrated presidents . . . Americans are awakening again to the wisdom of President Coolidge . . ."
Grover Norquist: "We're looking for another Coolidge."
"He wrote simply, innocently, artlessly," H. L. Mencken once noted regarding Coolidge's prose, "He forgot all the literary affectations and set down his ideas exactly as they came into his head. The result was a bald, but strangely appealing piece of writing--a composition of almost Lincolnian austerity and beauty. The true Vermonter was in every line of it."
Author Amity Shlaes: "Reagan himself admired Coolidge. It's time the rest of us did too."
Mark Steyn: "If you're like me and your idea of a conservative president is Calvin Coolidge . . ."
George Will: "Calvin Coolidge, the last president with whom I fully agreed . . ."
Will Cain: "Calvin Coolidge is my favorite president."
Tim Naftali, Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum: "If you want to balance: it's Coolidge versus [Franklin D.] Roosevelt in dealing with the economy."
Says author Tucker S. Garland III: "The two most successful Republican presidents in the last century were Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan."
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I had no impression at all of Calvin Coolidge. Something Jay Nordlinger wrote in an Impromptus column made me pick up this book, and what a find!
"Our country is an exceedingly good example of the fact that if production be encouraged and increased, then distribution fairly well takes care of itself. Other countries, by their actions in stopping production, in penalizing industry and economy, and rewarding indolence and extravagance, have been able to bring about a very general and equal distribution of misery, but no other country ever approached ours in the equal and general distribution of prosperity." Coolidge, 1923
"That tax is theoretically best which interferes least with business. Every student knows that excessively high tax rates defeat their own purpose. They dry up that source of revenue and leave those paying lower rates to furnish all the taxes."
"There is no escaping the fact that when the taxation of large incomes is excessive, they tend to disappear."
"Ultimately, property rights and personal rights are the same thing."
Having read this book and thought about it a bit, I might have to conclude that Coolidge is one of the most underappreciated presidents in the bunch.
This book is well worth buying. I sat and laughed out loud for an entire evening, reading some of the stories surrounding the President. I read some to my darling husband, too. It's an enjoyable book.
This compulsively browseable book makes it clear that, when Coolidge said that "The business of America is business" (certainly true enough) he was in the middle of a pattern of thoughts which included not just the business of America, but also the ideals of America. Calvin Coolidge was a man who admired character, and thought the government should stay out of business affairs. Economically, he was a stunning success as President, and he was one of Reagan's favorites.
He also had a dry wit, sometimes a VERY dry wit. Confronted with a cute young thing who bubbled that she had made a wager that she could get at least three words out of Coolidge, Cal simply replied, "You lose." He could also put an awful lot of truth into six words, like so: "Normals can take care of themselves." Count them: six words. Normal people should be able to take care of themselves, and should do just that. They don't need a damned thing from the government, except to be left alone. In Coolidge's world, the people who could not do that needed to be assisted by LOCAL CHARITY, not some vast incompetent bureaucracy which simply mailed out checks. I think that we all know that a local priest, or rabbi, or whatever, who actually knows the people in question, will do a much better job of assisting them than the Department of Health and Human Services.
A question: if we all know that, why have we turned this task over to a faceless (and enormously expensive) government bureaucracy? Is it simple laziness?
Buy this book, and enjoy it!
The book begins with a short description of why we study Coolidge, especially in light of the many distortions and popular rankings dismissing Coolidge as a know-nothing, stern, witless, and boring accidental occupant of the White House. Pietrusza makes a poignant observation that "Coolidge did not, of course, view himself as either a genius or a great man" then he supports this contention. Coolidge in his own words, "I thought I could swing it" is not the attitude of a swaggering or overconfident man trying to remake the country according to his values unlike Clinton, Bush 43, nor Obama. Pietrusza makes the case that Coolidge's philosophy was coherent with his actions, consistent with the founders, and even consistent with Lincoln and therefore cannot be easily defined with a single statement like 'compassionate conservative' or 'hope and change'. You come to understand why Reagan replaced Truman's portrait with Coolidge's in the cabinet room, come to understand which president was able to bridge the Adams, Hamilton and Jefferson divide, and you can understand why the Democrats want to diminish the one man who made government smaller and more successful. This is such a powerful concern his modern opponents define him as an incapable since he sought only one term.
Pietrusza's chapters are significant to the fine organization of the book: Why Silent Cal? Biographical Portrait, You Lose (Wit in Action), Quotes from Silent Cal, Coolidge's Major Addresses, Coolidge Timeline, Selected Bibliography, and then a very interesting Coolidge Family Album. 208 pages which get to the point to inform and elucidate for the reader why we should study silent Calvin Coolidge and look beyond the revisionist history of activist government theorists.
It's all here for those that want to learn about the wit and wisdom of our last truly Yankee President. In Coolidge's brevity there is wit, and in the longer quotes there is plenty of wisdom. If you are making a genuine study of Coolidge this is a very good companion to Coolidge's own autobiography or Amity Schlaes', Coolidge.
I'd love to give it 5 stars, for it is very good at what it tries to be, and I have a hard time thinking how it could be better. This is a book you come back to or might refer to but not one you will devour in a single reading, or even want to. Well done, and worth the money. I like it--quite a bit.