Before Ronald Reagan traveled the 16 blocks to the White House after his first inaugural address, the White House curator had, at the new president’s instruction, hung in the Cabinet room a portrait of Calvin Coolidge. The Great Communicator knew that “Silent Cal” could use words powerfully — 15 of them made him a national figure — because he was economical in their use, as in all things.
Were Barack Obama, America’s most loquacious president (699 first-term teleprompter speeches), capable of learning from someone with whom he disagrees, he would profit from Amity Shlaes’s new biography of Coolidge, whom she calls “our great refrainer” with an “aptitude for brevity,” as when he said, “Inflation is repudiation.” She says that under his “minimalist” presidency, he “made a virtue of inaction.” As he said, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” During the 67 months of his presidency, the national debt, the national government, the federal budget, unemployment (3.6 percent) and even consumer prices shrank. The GDP expanded 13.4 percent.
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