Tarring the Twenties?

In the third and final presidential debate, president Obama had a good laugh at Mitt Romney’s expense when he pointed out that while it may be true that the U.S. Navy is poised to have the smallest fleet size since 1914, the U.S. “also has less horses and bajonets.” Never mind that the U.S. has to project its power globally today, relying on the Navy for much of that job. In another scripted quip, the president stated that many of Romney’s foreign policy concepts recalled the 1980s, just as his social policy concepts were a throwback to the 1950s and his economic policies to the 1920s.

Fans of Calvin Coolidge are justly proud of his (as well as his predecessor Warren Harding’s, and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon’s) economic record during the 1920s, and I’m pleased to direct readers’ attention to a fine retort by Amity Shlaes in her Bloomberg column, where she gives a point-by-point rebuttal to the president’s attempt to tar the Twenties. I suppose the 1950s and 1980s will have to find their own defenders!

Why, I make more money than Calvin Coolidge… put together!

Just a little shout-out to one of my all-time favorite movies, the immortal Singin’ In The Rain – a recent repeat viewing reminded me of the line referring to Calvin Coolidge, spoken (nay, shrieked!) by the splendid Jean Hagen in her Lina (“what’s wrong with the way I talk?”) Lamont role. Besides having a fantastic cast and magical music, the film also captures nicely the exuberance of the 1920s.

Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) being upstaged by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds)

The Last Arcadia: Coolidge and the 1920s

The rehabilitation of Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the U.S., has been a long time coming but may be picking up speed lately, what with the announcement of an all-new  biography by Amity Shlaes, due out in 2011.
The parallels, real or perceived, between the depression of the 1930s and the current economic downturn, as well as between policy responses by presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Barack Obama make the actions or inactions of FDR’s pre-predecessor Coolidge particularly relevant for our time.
It will be the purpose of these pages to take part in the debate of Coolidge’s merits and failures, coming down squarely in Coolidge’s corner. In fact, the author believes, with noted historian Paul Johnson , that the 1920s, far from being a frivolous decade of debauchery and materialism, were in fact The Last Arcadia, a period of unparalleled and widespread prosperity AND unprecedented blossoming of the arts.

It will be one purpose of these pages to explore why the Coolidge era was the last heyday of limited Presidential power, and public approval of limited government. For while liberal critics even at the time derided Coolidge for allegedly having largely sleepwalked through his nearly six years in office, the general public overwhelmingly trusted the unprepossessing man, electing him again and again over the course of a linearly ascending political career that nevertheless had its lucky breaks. There is little doubt that the American electorate would have returned him to office in 1928, had he so “chosen”, yet it remains much to his credit that he was true to his stated belief that “it is a pretty good idea to get out when they still want you.”