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Coolidge Paperback – 4 Feb 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 565 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (4 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061967599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061967597
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about Calvin Coolidge, a Vermonter who rose to become America's 30th President in the mid 1920s (he was initially Harding's Vice President, until Harding's death).

This wasn't a bad book. It read pretty well, and moved at a good lick. My problem is that I think it doesn't necessarily bear comparison to other American political biographies I've read lately.

Don't get me wrong, it's a decent enough read in its own right (even if it portrays Coolidge as someone who never saw a buck he didn't know how to stretch), it's just compared to Caro's book about Johnson in the Senate, this book just doesn't feel as well researhed or well written.

If you've not read Caro's book, you'll probably enjoy this one better.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Feb 2013
Format: Hardcover
Few presidents have fallen as far as Calvin Coolidge. A popular president during his time in the White House, his standing plummeted with the onset of the Depression and the retroactive discrediting of his administration's policies that were associated with it. Yet in recent years a number of conservative writers have challenged this view, offering a contrasting interpretation of Coolidge as a presidential paragon. In this respect Amity Shlaes is merely the latest in a long line of writers stretching from Thomas B. Silver to Robert Sobel who seek to rehabilitate Coolidge's historical reputation so as to make him a respectable example of presidential leadership for our own times.

Yet it seems that the only way that Shlaes can achieve this goal is by ignoring the many criticisms directed against Coolidge's presidency. Rather than acknowledging any role that his low-tax, minimalist-regulation agenda might have played in fueling the speculative mania that led to stock market crash of 1929 or the depression that followed, she prefers to depict his administration as having achieved a perfect economic environment that was humming along smoothly when the keys were handed over to his successor. Throwing Herbert Hoover under the bus by blaming him for the collapse that followed is not only grossly unfair, it defies the evidence of an economy in the 1920s that was nowhere near as healthy as Shlaes would like to admit. Moreover, it undermines her goal, as rather than give Coolidge's achievements a full reexamination that would address the criticisms she does little more than offer a selective portrait that only serves to reaffirm the beliefs of the like-minded.

This is unfortunate considering the effort she put into her work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 353 reviews
172 of 204 people found the following review helpful
"AN EXTRAORDINARY BIOGRAPHY OF A GREAT AMERICAN PRESIDENT!" 12 Feb 2013
By Geraldine Ahearn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amity Shlaes chronicles a riveting portrait of a great American president, Calvin Coolidge, who served in office in the 1920s. He was known to many as "Silent Cal" and to some as "Scrooge." His personality portrayed a quiet, passive man, old fashioned, but the most modern of all presidents. His discipline represented strength, and he was admired for his courage. From the governor of Massachusetts to the President of the U.S., he never feared issues in a crucial period of turmoil as he showed the nation how to persevere. His motto of doing less could produce more, along with his frugal beliefs of curtailing spending and rejecting funding showed outstanding results, while reducing the federal budget. The economy was growing as tax rates fell, wages increased, and unemployment was down. As the thirtieth president, his humble service was meant to create a decade of prosperity, which indeed grew from his leadership. In comparison to today's political and economical issues, he was also under great pressure, forced into the Boston police strike, and acted as a man of principal as he resolved the issue. His humble persistence and his faith in the people restored economic history. Under his leadership, Americans wired their homes for electricity, moved from the road to the air, and religious faith found its modern context as the first White House Christmas tree was lit. Amity Shlaes reminds the reader that Coolidge inspired other presidents, and always acted decisively. He understood the value of predictability in government and the importance of civility, and that government too large could infringe upon freedom. In addition, the author highlights the fact that without knowing Coolidge, Americans cannot know the 1920s, and full knowledge of this president enriches the study of all presidents. Most important, Coolidge was compelled to persevere, leading him to success, always inspired by the people. This illuminating biography captures an incredible story of how one determined leader changed an entire political culture. Interesting, powerfully moving, and impressive. Highly recommended!
42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable but a bit of a letdown 17 May 2013
By Christopher Barat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With abuse-of-power scandals popping like Fourth of July crackers in Washington, this seemed like a good time to kick back and read about a President who has long been patronized for doing too little while in office. As Amity Shlaes makes clear in this new biography of Calvin Coolidge, purposely pulling back on the reins of government actually requires more effort than is typically expended by a more activist leader. During his five years in office, President Coolidge certainly found it so.

For all of its considerable detail, I did find Shlaes' narrative to be lacking in certain areas and inartfully crafted in others. Coolidge's money-saving economic policies get most of the attention, as they should, but there is little on Coolidge Administration foreign policy save for the last-minute drive to ratify the war-"outlawing" Kellogg-Briand Pact. The U.S. was not "isolationist" during the 1920s in any meaningful sense of the word, but Shlaes inadvertently leaves that impression. As to Shlaes' style, it is best described as "lumpy." Characters are repeatedly reintroduced to us, while other figures who might have been expected to get much more attention, such as Coolidge's secretary C. Bascom Slemp, barely rate a mention. The short-shrifting of Slemp seems particularly unfortunate because he was a Virginia Republican at a time when Southern Republicans were rare; including him as a major player would have added some depth to the comparatively scanty discussion of Coolidge's policies towards the South and black civil rights.

If you are interested in learning about Coolidge's life, personality, and Presidency, this is a fairly decent introductory book, but I still came away somewhat disappointed. Several more runs through the editorial mill would, I believe, have strengthened both the content and the prose.
113 of 141 people found the following review helpful
A Cool Biography of a Great President 13 Feb 2013
By Eric Mayforth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the United States today, the presidency of Calvin Coolidge has all but faded from living memory. Millions of Americans likely have never even heard of him, and in the eyes of millions more who have heard of him he has a poor reputation due to the revisionism that passes for history that is currently taught in high schools and colleges. Author Amity Shlaes set the record straight concerning the Great Depression in The Forgotten Man, and she restores the reputation of our thirtieth president in this splendid, well-researched new biography, "Coolidge."

The future president was born in 1872 into a solid family in Vermont, and Shlaes discusses the traits such as thrift and perseverance that young Calvin internalized while growing up in New England in the late nineteenth century. Coolidge's tenacity paid off during his time at Amherst College in Massachusetts, as he bounced back from adversity to succeed and go on to become a lawyer.

Coolidge eventually entered politics and began climbing the GOP ladder in the Bay State--it is far from certain that someone as introverted as Coolidge could ever succeed in politics today to the degree that Coolidge did, but in his day he was a great vote-getter, and at election time he usually outpolled other Republicans who were on the same ticket with him.

Shlaes notes that Coolidge became more conservative during his early years in public service and that he came to realize that in many situations inaction represents strength, not weakness. As governor, Coolidge displayed his strength and resolve in breaking the Boston police strike of 1919, a feat that brought him national renown and led to his appearance as vice-presidential nominee on Warren Harding's ticket in 1920.

The country was not faring well in the years after World War I--much liberty was lost in America as a consequence of the war, social unrest and inflation were rampant, and a severe economic downturn plagued the country in 1920 and 1921. Once in office, Harding and Coolidge enacted pro-growth policies--they knew that rapid economic growth can cure a host of social ills, and their actions helped the economy mend rapidly and allowed the Roaring Twenties to get underway.

Coolidge became president in August 1923 after Harding's death and was committed to cut taxes and the budget further. Shlaes describes the tough fight that Coolidge and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon had to wage to get the tax and budget cuts passed--then as now, there were those in Congress who wanted to use the revenue increases that resulted from the tax cuts for more government programs instead of returning the money its rightful owner, the forgotten American taxpayer.

President Coolidge thought that no president should have more than two full terms and did not run for reelection in 1928. He saw the economic downturn coming and was concerned how Herbert Hoover, his likely successor, would handle it. Coolidge and Hoover are often spoken of as philosophical twins, but that was absolutely not the case, and Shlaes even includes a couple of non-political anecdotes that describe the differences between the two.

The crash did come in 1929, and the interventionists Hoover and FDR spent years and years and years enacting policies that did nothing but lengthen the Depression. Shlaes explains why Coolidge was not responsible for the Great Depression and cites statistics that show that Coolidge's free-market approach solved the equally precipitous 1920-21 crash quickly and led to sustained economic growth: by the end of the Coolidge presidency, the number of those out of work declined by two-thirds, industrial production was through the roof, and the revenue thrown off by the tax rate cuts paid off a third of the national debt.

There is a stark difference between presidential administrations that see economic crises as problems to be solved and administrations that cynically see them as opportunities to grow government, that "you never let a serious crisis go to waste." Shlaes's timely biography recalls a great president whose example reminds us that the application of thrift, sound tax policy, and steely inaction can vanquish economic downturns quickly and provide economic growth, opportunity, and a rising standard of living for all Americans.
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
A Posthumous Jump In Popularity 18 Feb 2013
By G.I Gurdjieff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a scholarly yet readable account of the life and times of Calvin Coolidge,the 30th president of the United States. It makes a persuasive case for why Coolidge's governing style often masked his effectiveness as a president and cemented his not very flattering public persona as a president
Coolidge's public profile took a jump when as the the Governor of Massachusetts he quietly resolved a Boston police strike. Ultimately, it was this style that steered the country during the period of his presidency (1923-1929)
which began when President Warren G. Harding died unexpectedly.
Coolidge ultimately favored small government and accomplished quite a bit during his pivotal time in office. The country was experiencing unrivaled prosperity and Coolidge worked quietly behind the scenes to reduce federal debt, reduce income taxes which favored middle class growth, balanced the federal budget, and encourage growth in the private sector and also championed air flight, radio, and technology as well as
His reputation as 'silent' appears to have been deserved. He rarely grandstanded, but had no problem using his presidential veto as when he voted against a farm subsidy bill that would effectively never help farmers realize greater profits. Coolidge supported modernization and the use of technology to raise farm profitability as opposed to manipulating the markets to raise prices. Coolidge also supported civil rights for African Americans as well as supporting citizenship rights for Native Americans.
On the private side Coolidge was a solid husband and family man as well as a person of integrity and fundamental decency.. The death of his son Calvin near the end of his first term in office was probably the greatest tragedy in his life.
I liked this book because it managed to define Calvin Coolidge's legacy for me. I thought he was presented as a modern president because the issues he dealt with are still hot topic issues today and what he advocated echoes sentiments that are popular and current today. The prosperity of the '20's was captured in detail and provided an interesting backdrop for the emerging issues during Coolidge's presidency. The greatest strength of this book is its ability to make Coolidge relevant in not only his time but our time as well. This book humanized Coolidge, but more importantly defined his presidency and spoke for a quiet man.
This is a good read for anyone who is interested in American history or the presidency of Coolidge.
70 of 90 people found the following review helpful
A work of formidable scholarship 12 Feb 2013
By James Lucier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amity Shlaes delivers a magisterial book on America's least-appreciated great President and why he is relevant for our times. Coolidge reduced tax rates, brought spending down, battled public sector unions, and governed effectively for the people instead of special interests. His policies brought America from deficit to surplus after World War II and helped usher in the era of radio, the automobile, electrification, and aviation. The account of Andrew Mellon's time as Treasury Secretary alone is well worth reading. This well-written book is full of interesting vignettes and anecdotes that bring Coolidge and his era to life.
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