Created on 7/11/08
President Calvin Coolidge was very different to the more talkative modern politicians with whom we are currently familiar. There was something very appealing about Coolidge, he used a minimum of words to express himself, and thus it was clear what he meant, and he meant to be clear.
One day at a public meeting a man walked over to the President and said that he had made a bet with his friend that he could get Coolidge to use three words, to which the response was, “You lose.”
One Sunday Coolidge went to his church and returning home his wife asked what did the preacher speak about in his sermon; “He talked about sin,” he responded, “what did he say?” she persisted, “he’s against it.” Coolidge answered.
We could do with more of this kind of directness in our political figures. President elect Obama is eloquent, but I think I’m not alone in wondering what he really means to do. I believe that’s why the market isn’t bouncing upwards with joy at the news of his election.
In general I am no fan of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that this taciturn, dour man has managed to be reinforced by the economic problems assailing every country, rather than be destroyed by the awful news.
This is interesting because Brown was in charge of the British economy for the 10 years prior to his becoming Prime Minister a little more than a year ago. He has managed the neat trick of following the original Teflon man, not being contaminated by the bad problems, but getting credit for the good stuff.
Yet, in yesterdays Scottish by election Brown’s Labour Party candidate won a comfortable majority, against the odds and despite all the pundits predicting that this constituency was a shoo in for the Scottish Nationalists.
Gordon Brown achieved this morale-boosting victory in the Glenrothes by-election early today after Labour comfortably fought off a concerted challenge from the Scottish National Party who had mounted a determined campaign to inflict a humiliating defeat against the Prime Minister in his own political backyard. But Lindsay Roy, the Principal at the Prime Minister's old school delivered Labour's first by-election win for more than a year.
This is beginning to look like the beginning of an historic comeback for Brown and his party. They were previously thought so unelectable for the next general election that there were elements in the Party who were plotting to throw Brown out before the election.
Now Brown is looking like a potential winner and this is due to his appeal in a crisis. He looks like he can handle himself in the economic clinches, and in fact that might be the case. I have lost count of the number of people I have been in communication with who have said that they don’t like Brown at all, but they do think he’s the right man, maybe the only man to lead the country during the present crisis. That might be true.
As long as we are in this mess I think Brown can look like a leader with a future, but as soon as the crisis lessens he will be thrown out, just as Prime Minister Winston Churchill was summarily dismissed by the electorate after his victorious, almost miraculous war.
It will be a matter of timing and luck for Brown, as it will be for the people he governs, and the world that appears to be shadowing his every economic move.
President Calvin Coolidge was "distinguished for character more than for heroic achievement," wrote his Democratic admirer, Alfred E. Smith. "His great task was to restore the dignity and prestige of the Presidency when it had reached the lowest ebb in our history ... in a time of extravagance and waste...."
Let us hope that Barack Obama and Gordon Brown are similarly inspired.