Coolidge Slept Here

Apparently, today, March 15, is National Napping Day. If true, this certainly is a “holiday” not celebrated in Calvin Coolidge’s day; but the fact that Coolidge enjoyed an early afternoon nap whenever possible was widely lampooned by the wits of his era and has entered into the public perception of him just as much as his “Silent Cal” persona.

Of course, recent years have produced some scientific evidence that napping has numerous health benefits. While humans have somewhat varying “internal clocks”, there is usually a low point of cognitive and even motor capability somewhere around mid-day. Power naps, and the re-charging of energy they produce, have been the practice of outstanding people from Thomas Alva Edison to Ronald Reagan.

Beyond the health benefits of napping, isn’t there something soothing about a president who is confident enough in the ability of the nation to go on functioning while he gets in a few winks? What better way to proclaim a philosophy of “laissez faire” than to nod off for a little while in the early afternoon? Rather than overly involving himself in the day-to-day details, Coolidge (echoed 50 years later by Ronald Reagan) chose capable and trusted associates, delegated authority to them, and never overestimated his own importance. I’d rather have this type of president than one who burns the midnight oil and pores day and night over state papers, exhausting himself in the task of building his legacy. All in all, a president does less damage when he’s napping… or golfing, as Gene Healy points out in the Washington Examiner.

But given the growth of presidential power and responsibilities over the past 80-some years, and the possibly even greater and indeed unrealistic expectations of superhuman capabilities associated with the job, it is a wonder that contemporary presidents get any sleep at all, let alone a midday nap!