100 bonus points for anyone who recognizes the classic “Singin’ In The Rain” as the source for the just barely appropriate headline! It continues “…seized his knees and sneezed.”
Presidential greatness has been a subject on this blog quite a number of times. It does not take a genius to discern that the reason for this is that our favorite man Calvin Coolidge rarely (ok, never) is mentioned among the “great” presidents. And the reason for that is clear as well – the commonly used criteria for greatness (management of great crises, preferably wars, or the expansion of governmental reach into the lives of citizens) have been cleverly framed so as to exclude Mr. Coolidge. I have approvingly quoted Gene Healy and others who have questioned the very concept of whether presidents are supposed to be “great” and I’m pleased to see at the Ludwig von Mises Institute website today another article that questions the greatness of two presidents perpetually jostling for prominence at the top of “great presidents” lists. Lincoln and FDR violated the Constitution in so many ways and created unconstitutional precedents on such a scale that author John V. Denson rightly labels them American Caesars, and while some neocons may take this to be a compliment, it is not intended as one. Writing from Germany as I am, I’m seeing our own administration and parliament embark on such reckless and dangerous actions in the name of “necessity” or of “saving Europe” that I would like to hurl at them the William Pitt quote: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants.”
Calvin Coolidge had a deep respect for the Constitution and consulted it to determine the proper course of action. He did not read between its lines and he did not freely interpret its meaning to make it mean what he wished it to. He refrained from acting on stock market speculation because of several reasons, but one was that he felt the stock markets were a matter for the states to handle. He was under popular pressure to lead the U.S. into war with Mexico but instead expressly instructed his ambassador Dwight Morrow to “keep us out of war.” The man obviously had no idea what it takes to be considered great! In my humble view, this least Caesarean, least imperial of presidents is a clear candidate for the upper ranks of presidential greatness. But then I’m biased.