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Ed Driscoll

Mister, We Could Use a Man Like Calvin Coolidge Again

May 23rd, 2011 - 11:59 am

“The tea party’s ideal candidate,” as described by Andrew Hemingway, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, in a rare starboard-leaning article at the Politico:

The tea party movement clearly wants a candidate like President Calvin Coolidge.

“Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration,” Coolidge noted, “has been minding my own business.” Our 30th president thus summed up his view of the passive role the federal government should play in the life of the nation.

Coolidge occupied the White House during the 1920s, a decade of stock market booms and real estate bubbles — when the rich got richer and government stood by and watched. But when the Great Depression hit in 1929, the U.S. entered a new era of unprecedented government involvement in the daily lives of Americans and endless entanglement in the affairs of other countries.

Beginning in the 1930s and continuing to the present day, Washington would assume responsibility for the economic and social well-being of all Americans and would embark on a crusade to realize the dream of Coolidge’s predecessor, Woodrow Wilson — to make the world safe for democracy.

Today, most historians regard Coolidge and like-minded presidents — including James Buchanan and Warren Harding — as weak chief executives, ranking them at the bottom of surveys of presidential performance. Americans equate presidential greatness with the skillful wielding of power. Chief executives who presided over government growth after a crisis or the successful prosecution of wars — Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt — hold places of honor in the presidential pantheon.

But for 2012, what the New Hampshire tea party should be looking for in a candidate is a man — or woman — like “Silent Cal.”

Coolidge rolled back taxes, cut federal spending and retired much of the federal government’s debt. He clung to a limited view of the Constitution’s powers and held the liberty of the people to be the guiding star of his presidency.

“I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government,” Coolidge said in 1924, “and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom.”

Or to put it in visual terms:

Of course, the great thing is that we can now put it in terms of the current president’s own language, as Roger Kimball writes:

So, Barack Obama thinks Israel should give up the land it acquired in the Six-Day War, rolling back to its 1967 borders. Good going, Barack! In less than a minute, you not only infuriated another staunch ally of the United States, but you (if I might employ an image you favor) “moved the goal posts” in the Middle East such that Israel’s enemies will henceforth cite you when demanding that Israel neuter itself.

Suicide, national or personal, is rarely a wise career move, so I believe we can be pretty certain that Israel will ignore your suggestion. But your invocation of 1967 is by no means barren. I was talking to a friend last night who had this alternative suggestion.  Leave Israel alone and roll back the U.S. Government to its 1967 size.

I wish he had said 1965: that was the annus mirabilis when Lyndon Johnson, with a profligacy that still, even now in the age of Barack “Have-a-Trillion” Obama, makes one pause and wonder. Remember the “Great Society.” Money, meet toilet. The “war on poverty”: back in mid-Sixties 1965 it cost only $1 billion per year (about $7 billion in today’s dollars). But the government was wasting as much as it could as fast as it could. And of course, the “war on poverty” was only the tip of the iceberg.  There was also the department of education—what a waste of money that has been!  And don’t forget about “Public Broadcasting,” also a silly idea but also, in the age of the internet and cable TV, a completely superannuated one.  And then there were the real biggies: Medicare and Medicaid, which together cost the taxpayer some $700 billion per year.

There were other, many other stupid ideas to come out of the “Great Society” years, the National Endowments, for example, and let’s not forget that stupendous blight on the economy, Environmental Protection Agency.

The President’s remarks about Israel were both silly and dangerously irresponsible.  But his idea of returning to the strictures of an earlier time has great possibilities on home front.  I hope concerned citizens will start to make the case: 1965 or bust!

Naturally, the legacy media won’t like that idea one bit, but as Charles Krauthammer said to PBS’s Mark Shields on Friday, “See, what Mark wants is a Republican nominee who is a squish and then he’ll vote against him anyway.”

At Newsbusters, Noel Sheppard responds:

Every four years, Americans have to listen to liberal media members like Shields wax political about who should be the Republican nominee for president, and it’s typically the candidate furthest to the left that such commentators still wouldn’t vote for if their life depended on it.

It’s kind of like Red Sox fans advising the Yankees what players they should pick up before the trading deadline. Whoever the General Manager is at the time is smart enough to smell a rat, and wisely goes in the exact opposite direction.

It’s high time conservatives understand this and in this campaign cycle do the reverse of whatever people like Shields and his ilk suggest for they don’t have conservatives’ best interests at heart.

If not now, when?

Related: “Telling the truth. In politics. It’s an idea so crazy, so out of the box, that it just might work.”

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