Longing for the Return of 'Silent Cal'
Free people are not supposed to be inundated daily with sound bites and images of their leader. Ideally, we shouldn’t have to hear from him (or her) for days, perhaps weeks at a time. Last month, Washington, D.C., was snowed in. The federal government couldn’t get to work. We didn’t hear from legislators for days. It was very refreshing, and yet, with Obama presumably at his desk, everything still continued to function properly.
Perhaps an older, grittier American public would have by now politely said: “Please Mr. President, no more Twitter tweets. Enough about your dog. From now on, stay inside, man the big red phone, and come out when the next group of Muslims tries to take down another one of our airliners.”
This is not to romanticize secrecy and detachment. Despite his secluded ways, President Coolidge still provided easy access to reporters, while making good use of new communication mediums like the radio. It’s not a bad thing to let the public know there’s still someone at the wheel. Nevertheless, in the future, the Silent Cal model of leadership style will no doubt reap increased political returns.
Viral video websites, fact-checking blogs, and the 24-hour news cycle may keep the powers that be in check, but they also serve to overexpose, creating an atmosphere where the public quickly grows tired of its president -- his face, his voice, his idiosyncrasies. Consequently, we tune him out. How then for future presidents to revive and maintain the aura of the office? By keeping quiet until it matters. When a president speaks on an issue, it should be thunderous; it should reverberate throughout the entire U.S. political landscape –– throughout the world. We can get back to this, though it will require an unusual kind of politician.