September 18th, 2020


Four 4th Observations

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published July 3, 2015

Here's hoping you have a safe and pleasant 4th of July weekend.

And if you're as obsessed with presidential politics as am I, here are four things to go with your picnics, parades and fireworks (the latter you might want to reconsider if you live in parched California).

1) High-Cal/Low-Cal Field? Only one American president was born on the 4th of July - ironically, about the last man you'd associate with a noisy celebration: Calvin Coolidge (born in 1872). The question: will the 2016 field of Republicans yield one or more candidates whose policies closely reflect those of "Silent Cal"? The key words on a Coolidge-esque resume: "fiscal conservative", "low taxes", "balanced budget", "deregulation" (Coolidge's first message to Congress in December 1923 also called for isolation in foreign policy and limited aid to farmers). Multi-fluency also helps (a foreign diplomat once quipped that Coolidge, with his interest in Latin, French and Italian, was that rare man able to be "silent in five languages"). And forget the willingness to don silly-looking headwear. Still, in a field in which every Republicans wants to be the next Ronald Reagan, let's see how many emulate Coolidge, the other truly conservative-rooted president of the past century?

2) Men of Letters? The two presidents who passed away on July 4: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Theirs was a complicated friendship - rivals during their political ascent, mutual admirers in their sunset years (they corresponded over the last 12 years of their lives, until their deaths on the 50th anniversary of the republic's founding). Adams, as a Federalist, stood for centralized government. Jefferson, as a Democratic-Republican, favored states' right. Here's a link to TJ's body of letters; here's some of Adams' correspondence. How this pertains to the GOP field: which candidates would made for good pen pals? My choices: a dialogue between Jeb Bush between Rick Perry, two former governors; or, a back-and-forth between two sitting governors: Scott Walker and John Kasich. The topic: the GOP's direction/conservatism vs. moderation. You could add to this: Rand Paul vs. Ted Cruz; Lindsey Graham vs. Mike Huckabee.

3) Men of Few Words. He never ran for office and I'm unsure of the man's politics, but the 4th also belongs to one of the most poignant speeches ever given in the nation's history: Lou Gehrig's "farewell address" at Yankee Stadium, back in 1939. About that speech: it's all of 278 words, which is six words longer than Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The relevancy, given that Gehrig was a reluctant speaker that afternoon whereas most candidates would sell their birthrights to get in front of a live audience of 60,000-plus listeners: let's see which Republican candidate turns out to be an "Iron Horse" with Gehrig's talent to show up for work on a daily basis and do it at an all-star level. That, and the ability to demonstrate a Gehrig-like humility and the sincere belief that he or she is "the luckiest man of the face of the earth".

4) Freedom To Choose. On their first 4th of July's as president: Barack Obama hosted a White House picnic, George W. Bush attended a block party in Philadelphia (to celebrate mentoring), Bill Clinton did a photo-op at the Liberty Bell; Ronald Reagan stayed off the grid, recovering from his gunshot wound. Other presidents worked (FDR tending to the business going on across the ocean at 1933?s London Economic Conference); others played (Harding and Eisenhower each played a round of golf). In short, there's nothing the president's required to do on this national birthday/holiday. It's a quality to look for in choosing the next leader of the Free World: someone with the courage to be their own person.

And in case you're worried that old Calvin isn't getting his due respect, on what's also his big day?

You'll be happy to know that an oversized Coolidge mascot is taking part in the "Racing Presidents" contest Friday night, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. His running mates, as it were: George Washington, Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (who's been doing some funny tweeting about his fellow Republican, Cal).

Good luck, Cal.

And to all, running or not: enjoy the 4th!

07/02/15: Should Jeb Play A Trump Card?
07/01/15: Christie Almighty?
06/15/15: Did Hillary Flunk A History Lesson?
06/11/15: Thursday Candidates Quiz
06/10/15: First Best Second Choice
06/08/15: Game of Inches
06/03/15: The Power Of Narrative Politics
06/01/15: Sorting The Republicans' 2016 Kingdom
05/28/15: To Command Without Having Served
05/21/15: 2016: Do Looks Matter?
05/15/15: John Bolton's Swan Song

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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: “The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain.” During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.

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