Calvin Coolidge: Lawyer, Statesman, and Bad Bill Killer

February 14, 2013

Silent but deadlyFrom a National Review Online interview with Amity Shlaes, author of the new Calvin Coolidge biography Coolidge (an “illuminating, magisterial biography”):  Coolidge was trained in the (political) deadly arts.

LOPEZ: How was Coolidge “the great refrainer” and how did he make a “virtue of inaction”?

SHLAES: As he wrote his father in 1910: “It is much more important to kill bad bills than pass good ones.” Coolidge not only believed this, he trained himself in the tools of killing bills.

Read the whole thing, it’s great.

Another great (humble) line, on public service in our republic:

LOPEZ: What could every American afford to learn from Coolidge?

SHLAES: Fame is worth less than service. My favorite period in Coolidge’s life is his time spent in the Black Hills, when, perhaps grossed out by Mount Rushmore, he turned away from the vanity of another presidential term. His tiff with Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum was really about whether a man, in his retiring years, should succumb to vanity, which Coolidge almost did.

Senator Selden Spencer told a story of a walk he took with Coolidge around the White House. Spencer wanted to cheer Coolidge up, so he pointed admiringly to the White House, asking, playfully, “Who lives there?”

“Nobody,” Coolidge replied. “They just come and go.”

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