On this blog, I have repeatedly stated my hope that a latter-day Coolidge might emerge from the Republican party’s field of presidential hopefuls. The new apparent front-runner for the nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, gets the Coolidge treatment in a recent Houston Chronicle item, but others haven’t been as convinced that Perry’s actions will reflect his words. One irony is that a “conservative” president today can’t afford to be merely a caretaker, even if that is what the Constitution originally intended the “chief magistrate” to be. A conservative president today will need to be as activist as any progressive, only in reverse – he (or she) will need to cut, slash and burn rather than just trim the bloated budget as a first and foremost task; will need to wean Americans off so-called entitlements, and will need to disentangle the U.S. from a multitude of foreign misadventures and outdated engagements, all the while battling or perhaps pre-empting what will likely be a vociferous congressional and popular opposition. It is to be hoped that the on-going campaign will reveal more clues as to whether Rick Perry is the sagebrush Coolidge some appear to be seeing in him.
It was recently revealed which books president Obama intended to read while vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard (and for the record, I’m not going to join in the chorus of pundits that pounced on him for taking a break in these troubled times – first, because the Presidency is indeed a tough job and Calvin Coolidge also took regular and fairly lengthy breaks, and second, because to me, this particular president is less harmful when vacationing than when he’s on the job). As the article mentions, other recent presidents (and current candidates) have similarlyhad their reading matter publicized, although at least to me it is unclear whether these lists truly represent what the president reads and wants to read, or whether they are merely for show. In any event, they represent another set of tea leaves to read in order to get a glimpse into the man’s interests and passions.