Monthly archives "February 2013"

Ronald Reagan & Calvin Coolidge

Like most conservatives I have great affection for Ronald Reagan.  Even hardened liberals like Mark Shields admire his character and no less than Ted Kennedy said at Reagan’s death, “We are a better nation because of his Presidency.”   I have loved politics and history for as long as I can remember and, not being a good sleeper, read history by flashlight at night lest I waken my younger brother with whom I shared a room.   But even with this interest in history I think I am not alone in my surprise upon learning that during the 1981 Inaugural address President Reagan had the White House curator move a portrait of Calvin Coolidge into the Oval Office.  It turns out the 40th President was a great admirer of the 30th.

The surprise was on a number of counts.   First, if Coolidge, then or now is thought of at all, it is as humorless (Alice Longworth said he looked like a man weaned on a dill pickle) and inconsequential (When told he had died, Dorothy Parker wondered how anyone could tell).  The one story I recall from a modern U.S. history course in college was his reticence to speak.  This was  illustrated by the woman seated next to the President telling him she had bet a friend she could get him to say more than two words.   Coolidge replied, “You lose.”   He was a subtle man.  When told by a reporter of a new biography critical of George Washington,  the man nicknamed “Silent Cal” opened a curtain to the Washington Monument and said, “I see it it still there.”

He also had a sense of humor.  When he and Mrs. Coolidge (a beautiful woman) were given separate tours of a farm, the First Lady asked if the rooster copulated more than once a day.  “Dozens of times,” she was told.  “Tell that to the President,” she replied.   When this was relayed to Coolidge, he asked, “Same hen each time?”   He was told, “Oh no, different hen each time.”   “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge,” he said.   In 1928 when the popular President was asked why he was not seeking re-election he replied, “Because there’s no chance of advancement.”

Ronald Reagan, oldest man ever elected President, could remember the Coolidge Administration and admired it as a sensible time of less government and less talk.   The Great Communicator had great respect for the man who employed few words effectively and who agreed with Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy that he who governs least governs best. 

Are Bill Clinton and Barack Obama really superior to “Silent Cal.?”   Peggy Noonan said Clinton’s speeches were long, well delivered and not memorable.   There is no, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” sentence among them.   Obama gave a memorable speech at the Democrat Convention in 2004 about our not being red states or blue states, but the United States.  The problem here is he doesn’t live it and never did.    Rather he is strictly deep blue and is good at nothing other than dividing and destroying.   His hope and change is smoke and mirrors and worse.

George Will is also an admirer of Calvin Coolidge and certainly of Ronald Reagan.  Will refers to Coolidge as “Commander in Brief.”   Meanwhile, Obama, who is variously known as “Campaigner in Chief” and “Celebrity in Chief,” gave 699 first term speeches–every one of them aided by a teleprompter.   It is as if Obama approaches every problem with an open mouth and, too often for comfort, with an open mike.  Rush Limbaugh calls him “President Kardashian” after the talentless family ever in the news for no good reason that sensible people can identify.  They truly represent the Facebook generation who tells the world, “I went shopping today,” and thinks it is news.    So does narcissist Obama but he is President of the United States.  

Amity Shlaes has a new biography simply titled Coolidge.    She notes that the best monument for his kind of Presidency was no monument at all.  Of himself Coolidge said, “It is a major source of safety to the country for the President to know he is not a great man.”  Such humility is refreshing.  Do the last two Democrat Presidents, Bill Clinton, haunted by a blue dress, and Barack Obama who said in 2012, “Vote for revenge,” really represent advancement beyond Calvin Coolidge?   Ronald Reagan wouldn’t think so.

A closing note:   The 1933 funeral for this man of brevity lasted 22 minutes.  He would have liked that.



Strange Days

Lent is a time of reflection and repentance and preparation for our greatest hope, Easter, when Christians celebrate the conquering of death by Jesus Christ.  But without Good Friday and the Cross there is no Easter.   This Ash Wednesday the Roman Catholic Church is dealing with something that has not happened in 600 years–the abdication by a pope.  Pope Benedict is stepping down at the end of February for health reasons.   One suspects there is also some of “uneasy is the head that wears the crown” as well.   And all of Christendom is effected by this decision.   Strange days.

In the political world we have seen a then sitting Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, almost certainly lie to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on the matter of Benghazi.  This was all in one day, January 23, 2013.   Clinton claims that she knew of nothing to contradict Susan Rice’s claim on five Sunday shows that it was a video that sparked the mob rampage in Libya that killed four Americans on September 11, 2012.   But the CIA cabled Washington on September 12 that the attack was by terrorists, not a group protesting a video.  Is it possible that the Secretary of State was unaware of this?

Back in the days of the Clinton Administration, Rush Limbaugh and Clinton political strategist, James Carville, appeared on the Phil Donahue program.   Rush said straight out that the Clintons are liars.   The one his wife, Mary Matalin, calls “Serptenthead” did not say a word of defense as this is so obviously true.  It seems most likely that Secretary Clinton lied to Congress, lied to the American people, and most poignantly, lied to the families who lost loved ones in Benghazi.  At best she is even better at parsing words than her, “I never had sex with that woman,” husband.   The loss of loved ones in such a tragic manner is made even harder to bear when leaders behave as Obama and Clinton have.   Republicans and sensible Democrats need to call for transparency from an Administration that has promised same but has been almost totally opaque.   Strange days helped along by a Press almost totally lacking in curiosity about Benghazi.  Wonder if the Press would be similarly mum if this had happened under Richard Nixon or George Bush.

Then there are the hearings on Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.  His performance has been called the worst ever for a major cabinet post, a minor cabinet position and even a sub-cabinet role.  Hagel was unprepared, unsteady, and unimpressive.  He also was forced to defend the indefensible–his statements that the Pentagon budget is bloated, we must cut our nuclear arms stockpiles even as the Russians do not, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is not a terrorist entity.   Apparently sensing his incompetent performance Hagel closed by saying, “There are a lot of things I don’t know about,” and “I won’t be in a policymaking position.”  If the best a perspective Secretary of Defense can say is that he is aware he is a limited man and that he won’t be very consequential it is probably best for him to stay simply a former U.S. Senator from NE who was not impressive in that role either.   Strange days.

One wonders if there any courageous Democrats who will not consent to such an unqualified man for Secretary of Defense.   Jack Kennedy wrote a book Profiles in Courage.    Are there any brave Democrat Senators left who will stand up for right and against an incompetent President who has put forth an incompetent nominee?   Future President Kennedy said, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”  This is such a time.  Are there any principled Democrat Senators who will say, “No?”    I doubt it for these are strange days.   A pope is resigning.   A Secretary of State hasn’t the decency to give the families of slain diplomats and Navy Seals any closure by telling the truth.   And, in a dangerous and pernicious time, it is made more dangerous by an incompetent President nominating an incompetent man to be the head of the Defense Department.  

How do we counter this?  By standing tall.  By courage.  And by our deeds.   There is a story of a thief who pulled a gun one night on a clergyman walking to his church.   As the pastor prepared to hand over his wallet the crook saw his clerical collar and told him he could keep his money.  To engage the man the minister offered him a candy bar.  The robber refused saying, “I gave up candy for Lent.”

How do we counter Obama who makes empty promises, sets up straw men and has the moxie to blame Republicans for his own hypocrisy?   To smile and act as if he has done nothing wrong and gave up candy for Lent even as he robs us of dollars, dignity and drive.  Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” Let us let the President be the child and let us be grown ups who stand by our deeds.   The truth has a way of coming out as it did with Bill Clinton.  And let us be of good cheer.  The Lord is with us and we are on the winning team.  Praise God.


Be Not Afraid

A pastor friend of mine recently sent a blog to his flock on the theme “Fear not!”  His thoughts inspire mine.   In June 1979, Pope John Paul II traveled to his native Poland, stood up to the Communists and told his Church, “Be not afraid.”   Those were difficult days as the U.S. was led by the weak, wavering and incompetent, Jimmy Carter.  The only other real leader of the time was Britain’s Margaret Thatcher.  Until Ronald Reagan assumed leadership from Carter, at world conferences Lady Thatcher was called “the best man in the place.”

Despite the darkness of the 1970’s John Paul was telling his people and the world that Communism would not stand.    He was right.   We need such leaders as John Paul, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan again.  Barack Obama is as comically incompetent as Jimmy Carter but far more ideological and far more dangerous as he continues to believe only he is right and that he is the brightest star in any room.   Sadly this is helped along by unimaginative and uninspiring Republicans as well as the fawning press.  What to do?

Well first, let us be not afraid.    Let us be inspired anew by John Paul, Mrs. Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.   The pope was quoting Isaiah 41:10, “Be not afraid, for I am with you;   do not be dismayed for I am your God.”   My favorite of all the 278 names of the Lord in the Bible is “Emmanuel” which means God with us.”   We all know (except possibly the president) that God is over us.  Too many think God is against us.  He is not any more than we are against our children or grandchildren.  God is for us.  But surely the cry of the human heart is to know that “God is with us.”   We are not alone in this.

Someone has said that, “One + God =’s a majority.”   Republicans need to find God’s steel for their backbones, realize that Obama is likely to overplay his hand, and they must fight.   They won’t win every battle but as Teddy Roosevelt said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs. . .but who does actually strive to do the deeds. . .who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

And the GOP is not without leaders especially among young Republicans.  Senator Marco Rubio of FL and Senator Ted Kruz of Texas are two brilliant men who can take the measure of Obama and they need no teleprompter to do it.   Both are Conservatives with Conviction, are not afraid and have the advantage of being right.   They do not bring President Obama’s nastiness to the conversation.   These are men with fresh ideas and a positive governing agenda.

Barack Obama is a hypocrite who leads a Party of hypocrites.   Hypocrisy is like a pin.   It is pointed in one direction, but it is headed in another.   In the face of this, people are hungry for the leadership of men like Rubio and Kruz.  May their tribe increase.

We began by talking about fear and overcoming it.   In 18th century England, John Wesley faced a nation much likes ours–sick, secular and immoral.   Inspired by God, Wesley said, “Give me 100 preachers, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or lay, who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God and we will shake the gates of hell and set up the Kingdom of God on this earth.”   And he did.

Are there 100 leaders like that in our land today–“Who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God?”  If so, we might take our nation again for Jesus Christ.   If One + God equals a majority, think of what 100 can do.   Dear God, may we be counted among them.