book reviews on books I've read
Journalist Amity Shlaes’ portrayal of Calvin Coolidge breaks the caricature of “Silent Cal” with her insightful biography. Coolidge fits today’s criteria of a Tea Party Republican in his support of limited government and cuts to the fiscal budget. Coolidge became president when president Harding died in office, and he pledged to continue Harding’s program. Harding was the first to pass budget legislation, and Coolidge and his Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, cut the budget so much that Coolidge maintained a government surplus and reduced the federal deficit by half, even though he reduced corporate taxes. It’s no wonder budget committee chairperson Paul Ryan considers Coolidge a “great American president,” as the book jacket attests. To maintain his surplus, Coolidge cut out all federal disaster relief, including relief for flood-damaged highways and bridges, but he did support federal funding for Mount Rushmore. Coolidge strictly observed Prohibition and practiced temperance at White House parties, unlike his predecessor, who virtually converted the White House into a gambling parlor and speakeasy.
While I would not have voted for Coolidge, Shlaes’ book made me respect him because he stuck to his principles, even when his native Vermont suffered a terrible flood. Still, Coolidge was popular with the voters, however, being elected for a second term, and so popular it is believed he could have won a third. The book is long, but it reads fast because the topic is interesting. I highly recommend Coolidge for the nonfiction enthusiast.