Staff Reviews

Briefly Noted: A Chorus of Praise for Silent Cal

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Calvin Coolidge was the only president to have been sworn into office by a notary public. The notary was his father, John—the only official handy when a messenger arrived in the wee hours of the morning at his rural Vermont home with the news of the sudden death of President Warren Harding.

This seemingly incidental historical fact was apparently enough to spur the National Notary Association to pour considerable resources into Why Coolidge Matters: How Civility in Politics Can Bring a Nation Together, a new glossy coffee-table book filled with celebrity testimonials and sepia-toned snaps that feature Silent Cal.

The resulting grab bag of low-key Coolidge worship is odd but curiously satisfying. Former Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis praises Coolidge's grassroots organizing. Black Republican activist Ward Connerly revels in Coolidge's "minimalist view" of his own abilities. And Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) declares: "America Needs a New Coolidge." The man may have a point.