Synopses & Reviews
The austere president who presided over the Roaring Twenties and whose conservatism masked an innovative approach to national leadership
He was known as "Silent Cal." Buttoned up and tight-lipped, Calvin Coolidge seemed out of place as the leader of a nation plunging headlong into the modern era. His six years in office were a time of flappers, speakeasies, and a stock market boom, but his focus was on cutting taxes, balancing the federal budget, and promoting corporate productivity. "The chief business of the American people is business," he famously said.
But there is more to Coolidge than the stern capitalist scold. He was the progenitor of a conservatism that would flourish later in the century and a true innovator in the use of public relations and media. Coolidge worked with the top PR men of his day and seized on the rising technologies of newsreels and radio to bring the presidency into the lives of ordinary Americans--a path that led directly to FDR's "fireside chats" and the expert use of television by Kennedy and Reagan. At a time of great upheaval, Coolidge embodied the ambivalence that many of his countrymen felt. America kept "cool with Coolidge," and he returned the favor.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A portrait of America's thirtieth president, Calvin Coolidge, looks at the conservative policies that marked his leadership during the Roaring Twenties, including cutting taxes, balancing the federal budget, and promoting corporate productivity, as well as his innovative use of public relations and the media to bring politics into the lives of ordinary Americans.
At a time of great upheaval, Coolidge embodied the ambivalence that many of his countrymen felt. America kept "cool with Coolidge," and he returned the favor.
About the Author
David Greenberg is a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers University, a columnist for Slate, and the author of the prizewinning Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image. A former acting editor of The New Republic, he has written for many scholarly and popular publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He lives in New York City.