Harding and Coolidge

The Republican convention of 1920 knew that the party was heavily favored to win the fall election. Wilson was forlornly hoping for third term nomination in spite of his crippled state as a result of the stroke. Teddy Roosevelt had died in 1919 at the age of 60. The contenders on the Republican side included Illinois Governor Frank Lowden whose only major handicap with the voters was the fact the he had married the daughter of George Pullman, the railroad tycoon, and was rather ostentatious in displaying his wealth. He had, however, been a reform governor of Illinois. General Leonard Wood, who had been a medical officer commissioned into the regular army in 1886 as a line officer, was another. He had been the senior officer of the US Army in 1917, yet President Wilson had appointed John J. Pershing, junior to Wood, to the European command. Wilson considered Wood a potential political rival, somewhat like Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt considered General MacArthur.

The third contender was Hiram Johnson, who had run as Teddy Roosevelt’s VP candidate on the Progressive ticket in 1912. There was little enthusiasm for him except among former Progressives who had returned to the party for 1920. Warren Harding is often described as a dark horse who was selected by party bosses after the leaders had exhausted each other. In fact, he was always in the top four and his selection was not a surprise to the convention.

The huge surprise was the nomination of Coolidge for Vice-President. He did not seek the nomination and was not interested after his experience as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. After the Boston Police Strike, his name was familiar to the nation and in a favorable way. A big issue was the League of Nations and Coolidge favored membership, although with the Lodge reservations. Senator Lodge, no ally of Coolidge, exchanged letters with him on the League and agreed to disagree. Nevertheless, Lodge offered to place Coolidge’s name in nomination for President. Why he made the offer is not know. After several very favorable newspaper profiles appeared in early 1920, Coolidge made another statement that he was not a candidate for President. Frank Stearns and Lodge tried to bring a Coolidge delegation to the convention but Wood lived in Massachusetts and the delegation split. His interest in the nomination was further diminished by the death of his beloved step-mother, Carrie in May 1920.

Lowden’s handlers favored Coolidge as a VP candidate as he and the governor were from different parts of the country. Lowden’s biggest problem with the bosses was his reputation as incorruptible. The Illinois party bosses distrusted him. They feared he couldn’t be bought, or if so, wouldn’t stay bought. Robert Sobel, in his biography of Coolidge, says that Lowden was probably the best qualified Republican of the 1920s. One of the party bosses, Boies Penrose, asked Harding if he wanted to be president. Harding liked being a Senator and declined, leading Penrose to look elsewhere. By the time of the convention, Penrose was fatally ill, although his reputation was still powerful. He awakened from a coma during the convention, asked about the voting and suggested they choose Harding. Then, he lapsed into the coma again.

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Coolidge as Governor

Coolidge’s friends and supporters knew he would like to be Governor. As he put it, ” a man would scarcely be willing to be Lieutenant Governor,” if he did not wish the higher office. As President of the Senate, a powerful office in Massachusetts, he had had much to do with the success of Governor Walsh’s legislative initiatives, quite Progressive at the time. In 1915, the party chose Samuel McCall for governor and Coolidge for the Lieutenant governor spot. McCall had been a Mugwump in the 1884 election, supporting Democrat Grover Cleveland and was considered a reformer. McCall had been forgiven by the party, mostly because he had not joined the Progressives in 1912, and he and Coolidge were elected in the primary which McCall had lost the previous year. The platform, largely due to Coolidge’s influence, was quite Progressive, including workman’s compensation, public education, including vocational education, pure food and drug laws, honest weights and measures and wage and hours reform. Coolidge polled better than McCall suggesting that some still had not forgiven the latter for his mugwump radicalism.

The family taken in 1924 before Calvin Jr.’s death.

In 1912, Coolidge first met one of his two mentors, Frank Stearns, a fellow Amherst alumnus and a wealthy department store owner. Their first meeting was not promising as Coolidge’s abrupt manner offended Stearns. Later, in 1915, he learned that the local issue he was trying to present to Coolidge had been enacted without his influence. Stearns thereafter was a major supporter of Coolidge along with Murray Crane, a former Massachusetts governor and Senator, who became his chief adviser. Crane died just at the time Coolidge was inaugurated President and the president bitterly regretted the loss of this friend and adviser. Crane and Stearns would have much to do with getting Coolidge the vice-presidential nomination as he was not the choice of the party bosses who chose Harding.

Stearns on left with John Coolidge (Sr).

Coolidge and Governor McCall were re-elected in 1916 with increased margins and again in 1917. In the 1917 election, Coolidge came within 2500 votes of winning Boston, indicating his good relationships with Democrats and especially the Irish. McCall had told Coolidge that he really wished to be Senator, elected by the legislature until 1913 and the 17th Amendment, but would not mention this during the election. A few months after this election, McCall asked Coolidge to announce that he planned to run for Governor in 1918 and the Governor would run for the Senate. The incumbent Senator, Weeks, was a dull figure and out of touch. Coolidge announced but McCall, the incumbent Governor, withdrew from the Senate primary race because of the war and a lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. This left Coolidge with the Republican nomination. His Democratic opponent was a shoe manufacturer named Long who had previously been a Republican. Their platform was moderately progressive and the race seemed comfortably in their hands. Weeks, however, was a weak candidate and the attempt of McCall to replace him divided the party somewhat. Long, his opponent, attacked him incessantly but, typically, Coolidge refused to return the attacks or even mention the name of his opponent. Coolidge was elected by a narrow, 17,000 vote, margin and Weeks lost to former Governor Walsh

Influenza epidemic had prevented the parties from holding state conventions or doing much campaigning. Patriotism had led much of the electorate to support the Wilson Administration. There was also the growing influence of immigrants in eastern Massachusetts, especially the Irish and Italians, who tended to vote Democratic. Coolidge got on well with Democrats and their support, as in this case, often made the difference for him. He was now Governor of Massachusetts, the height of any ambition, as he tells us in his autobiography.

He went to Maine to rest after the election and, a few days later, was awakened to learn of the Armistice. The Great War was over as he settled into his duties as Governor. Since there was no residence for the Governor, he stayed at the Adams House, a boarding house where he had stayed when in Boston as a member of the Legislature and as Lieutenant Governor. His wife remained at home with the boys. Eventually, they took a two room suite at Adams House and the family moved to Boston. President Wilson stopped in Boston on his way back from Europe and he and Coolidge began a friendship that lasted until Wilson’s death and continued with Mrs Wilson after.

A strike of Boston public railway workers began a series of labor upsets due to the inflation that had outpaced wages. Coolidge helped to negotiate between the parties and the matter was turned over to arbitration with a satisfactory outcome for both the workers and the railway companies which had limited options as their income was derived from fares. At this period, and really for much of his career, Coolidge was very close to the Progressives in his ideas about labor and what we would call the welfare state. He supported limits on working hours for women and children and even a minimum daily wage. Historians, enamored with Wilson and Roosevelt, have misrepresented his beliefs.

Upon his return from Vermont in August, he faced a growing problem with the policemen of Boston. When hired, they had signed an agreement that they would not join a union. In spite of this agreement, a local “Boston Social Club” had been formed. The union now proposed to join the AFL. Police strikes in London and Liverpool had resulted in better pay and hours. The move toward a true union was strongly opposed by Curtis, the police commissioner. The Boston Mayor, a Democrat, intervened and tried to convince Coolidge to press the commissioner for arbitration. Coolidge had appointed the commissioner and could remove him but he felt he could not intervene otherwise. Furthermore, he agreed with the commissioner that the principle was more important than arbitration could establish. Coolidge was convinced that the matter would probably result in denying him re-election but he refused to pressure the commissioner. At the same time, he was sympathetic to the policemen whose hours and working conditions needed improvement.

On Sunday, September 7, the matter came to a head. Ironically, on that day he was scheduled to speak at the state AFL Convention, which he did. The police union did not come up. When the union refused to back down, its officers were brought before the police commission, charged and removed from their positions. At that point, 75% of Boston policemen went on strike. It was Tuesday, September 9, 1919. The number of strikers was much larger than expected. The strike began at about 5 PM on the ninth. There were contingency plans with Metropolitan Police and State Police but the numbers were small and that night, about midnight, there was a rash of window smashing and theft from shops. Coolidge was outraged but he bided his time.

He had been considered pro-union as a politician thus far and he had had considerable experience with labor strife. A harsh letter from Samuel Gompers, who did not know Coolidge, did not help matters. A reporter about this time wrote: “The Governor is a Republican, but it is said that the Democrats would do anything for him, many of them as much as vote for him.” Coolidge arrived back in Boston on August 19 and issued a statement supporting Curtis. Peters, the Mayor and a Democrat, dithered, appointing a commission to study the problem. Coolidge kept his counsel as the crisis grew. He deferred to Curtis, a pattern he would repeat as President, delegating authority and allowing the man on the spot to go as far as he could to a solution before intervening. According to William Allen White, a Democratic party boss and union leader, Big Jim Timilty, who had served in the Massachusetts Senate with him, called on Coolidge to reassure him that the other unions were not going to support the police union with a general strike. “You see, Cal’s my kind of guy and he’s right about those damned cops,” he told a reporter years later.

Once the police actually struck, he was ready. First, Mayor Peters called out a volunteer militia. The violence was exaggerated but there was a lot of agitation about safety. Eventually, the city of Boston paid out $34,000 for damages. Three people were killed. By the third day, the strikers were having second thoughts. President Wilson had denounced them. The Mayor’s commission had recommended that the city recognize the union. That was unacceptable. Coolidge then acted. He called out the state Guard, took control of the police force and restored Curtis who had been dismissed by the Mayor.

The union now attempted to cut its losses. The Central Labor Union now voted against a general strike as Timilty had promised. The police union attempted to negotiate a return to work without penalty. It was not to be. Curtis issued an order that no man who had left his post on September 9 would be accepted back in the police force and they were not allowed to “loiter on the premises of the different station houses.” There were lots of returning veterans who were eager for jobs and the city had no difficulty replacing the strikers. There was talk of the possibility that the dismissal of the officers might cost Coolidge re-election. His response was, “It is not necessary for me to hold another office.” He knew his action was popular. In fact, it made him something of a national hero in this era of the Red Scare and nationwide labor unrest. Here is where Gompers sent his unwise telegram to Coolidge. He did not know that Coolidge was considered a friend of labor and that the unions did not support the police strike.

Coolidge pounced, publishing the telegram and his response in the newspapers. The last sentence of his response would take him to the presidency. “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” It is easy to see why Ronald Reagan was such a fan of Coolidge and had his portrait placed in the cabinet room. In the weeks and months following the strike, Coolidge received over 70,000 letters. In his autobiography, Coolidge wrote that he tried to help the strikers find other employment but they never worked again as Boston policemen. One of the strikers was William F. Regan whose son, Donald Regan, would someday be the Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief of Staff in the Reagan White House.

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge is one of our least understood, and certainly least appreciated presidents. Here is what the hip (for the times) writers had to say.

Apart from that, he did little, and believed that the surging stock market vindicated his minimalist approach. He showed as little concern for the idea that the boom might be unsustainable as he did for the fact that, during his presidency, membership of the Ku Klux Klan exceeded 4 million. Instead, he developed, and encouraged a reputation for being a man of few words. Commentators approved. “This active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country admirably,” wrote Walter Lippmann in 1926. No one imagined the economic catastrophe that lay ahead.

I have just read Coolidge’s autobiography and have another thought. First, all the clever quips about him show no understanding at all of his nature and experience. Second, would the “economic catastrophe that lay ahead” have occurred if he had chosen to run for another term ? Was the boom “unsustainable” ?

There is a thread of self hatred in all the discussion of the “Roaring 20s” and The Depression. We deserved the Depression, as best I can tell from the writings of the Roosevelt supporters after 1932.

Here is Coolidge in some of his own words. First, everyone should read this book to get an understanding of what America was like before the Welfare State. John Calvin Coolidge was raised by a father who taught him industry and thrift. His grandfather, Calvin Galusha Coolidge, died when his grandson was six years old. Here is the impression he made on his grandson.

“He was a spare man over 6 feet tall, of a nature that caused people to confide in him, and of a character which made him a constant choice for public office.”

“He and my grandmother brought up as their own children, the boy and girl of his only sister, whose parents died when they were less than two years old. He made them no charge, but managed their inheritance and turned it all over to them with the income, besides giving the boy $800 of his own money when he was eighteen years old, the same as he did my father.”

“In his mind, the only real respectable way to get a living was from tilling the soil. He therefore did not exactly approve having his son go into trade.

In order to tie me to the land, in his last sickness he executed a deed to me for life of forty acres, called the Lime Kiln lot, on the west part of his farm, with the remainder to my lineal descendants, thinking that, as I could not sell it, and my creditors could not get it, it would be necessary for me to cultivate it.”

Coolidge’s father kept a store and was elected to the state legislature. He chose the law for his son although it was very hard for him when his son left for Massachusetts to follow his desires. The account of Calvin’s boyhood is one of hard work but simple pleasure. He drove a team of oxen for plowing when he was 12 years old. Anyone who assumed airs were held in contempt. If the hired girl or man needed to go to town with the family, Calvin surrendered his seat in the wagon. His mother was an invalid although a strong personality. She died at 39 when he was a boy.

At the age of 13, he was sent to an Academy to further his schooling and prepare him for college. Both boys and girls attended and several of his family were graduates. He worked part time in a cab shop in the town where the Black River Academy lay. Vacations were from May to September to allow time for farm work. His father paid for his school expenses but any extra money he earned was deposited in a bank for him by his father. The principal and his assistant both lived to see Coolidge President.

In March of his senior year, his younger sister died of appendicitis. This was 1890 and knowledge of appendicitis was very recent. He carried this heartbreak with the discretion common for the time. After graduation, he moved on to Amherst College. His education was delayed a year as he became ill and had to spend time recovering; time he spent painting the interior of his father’s store. In the fall of 1891, he finally began at Amherst. His father remarried the year he began college and he was very fond of his stepmother, a school teacher.

In college, Coolidge excelled in mathematics, including calculus. He was not so strong in languages. His studies in History and Philosophy were also favorites. His grades improved with time and he graduated cum laude. From there, he entered into the study of law. He served as clerk for a firm whose partners he greatly respected. He dryly comments on the two methods of learning the law, by schooling and by experience. He prefers the latter and writes, “I think counsels are mistaken in the facts of their case about as often as they are mistaken in the law.” He also comments, “It is one thing to know how to get admitted to the bar but quite another to know how to practice law. Those who attend a law school know how to pass examinations, while those who study in an office know how to apply their knowledge to actual practice.”

He lived within the frugal limits of the funds his father provided for his upkeep, $30 per month. This left little for “unnecessary pleasantries of life.” In June of 1897, he felt adequately prepared for the bar exam and took it, passing as of July 4. 1897. He then entered the practice of general law. Since he had completed his preparation in less time than he had expected, he remained in the same law office for seven months after being admitted to the bar before he settled in an office in Northhampton. Here, he was to remain for 21 years until elected Governor of Massachusetts. His rent for his office was $200 per year.

He became involved in local politics, natural for a lawyer, and was elected to the city council, then became City Solicitor, which came with a salary of $600 per year. He held this office until 1902. In 1903, he was appointed Clerk of the Courts for Hampshire County by the Supreme Judicial Court. He considered this the highest honor he received as a lawyer. In 1904, he met Grace Goodhue who had graduated from college and came to the Clarke School for the Deaf to teach.

They were married in October of 1905. In 1906, they rented the home, half of a two family house, they were to have for 31 years. Their first child was born in September 1906. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served two terms, after which he declined renomination, something of a tradition in Massachusetts politics. Their second son was born and Calvin decided to devote all his time to his law practice. In 1910, he was elected Mayor of Northhampton. This was a local office and would not interfere with his law practice. In 1911, he was elected to the Massachusetts state Senate. He was re-elected in 1912 and became something of a force, interested in the western part of the state and its issues, especially transportation which at the time meant trolleys and railroads. In 1914, a bad year for Republicans, he became President of the Senate with the support of most of the Democrats as well as his own party.

The World War began the following summer. The Republicans were able to unite and became the legislative majority in the following election. The Governor was a Democrat but he and Coolidge cooperated well. Some of Coolidge’s later philosophy began here as he shows pride in reducing the volume of legislation and regulations in each year he served as President of the Senate, an office second only to the Governor. After the 1915 legislative session, he had intended to return to his law practice but found that he was being widely supported for Lieutenant Governor. He dryly comments that he was widely considered a liberal but even the businessmen came to him to offer support. As a result, he offered his name for the office but did not campaign.

He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1915 by 75,000 to 50,000. He had spent the election season campaigning for the candidate for Governor, Samuel McCall. Since the office did not include presiding over the state Senate, Coolidge thought he might have time for his law practice but this was not to be and he took in an associate who, in time, took over the law practice. He mentions that the public expects Chief Executives in all levels of government to conduct themselves as an “entertainment bureau.” For this reason, he spent much time speaking on behalf of the Governor.

In 1917, the US entered the war and the Governor, who wished to become a US Senator, suggested that Coolidge announce for Governor in 1918. He was elected and, shortly after the election, the Armistice was signed, ending the War.

I will continue this in the next post. I think Coolidge will become a more important historical figure as we see how Barack Obama is duplicating the pattern of Hoover/Roosevelt in turning a severe recession into a depression. Had Coolidge been president in 1929-30, history might be very different. In the next post, I will go more into his political philosophy as VP and President.

Maybe I was hasty about Egypt

Two weeks ago, I posted a pessimistic piece about Egypt post Mubarak. Now, Austin Bay has posted a pretty optimistic piece that may be better informed than mine. I hope so.

My fear was stated here:

“One of the most publicized figures outside Egypt in this story the last few weeks is a Google executive who is Egyptian.

One of the western media’s favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi’s security. He left the stage in distress, “his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.” Is Ghonim Egypt’s Kerensky? Well, at least Kerensky got to rule for a while.”

I went on to say:

Ghonim is one more proof, as if we needed any more, that brilliance in another field is no guarantee of common sense in politics, especially revolutionary politics. We are now about to move to the next stage, which in the French Revolution ended with the Terror. In Iran, it still goes on.

Austin Bay has the advantage of two more weeks of observation of the rapidly evolving situation. He quotes Haaretz, a rather left wing Israeli newspaper that is more hopeful. Hope is not a policy but Israelis are far more interested in the situation in Egypt than we are. They have to be as they share a border.

The revolution in Egypt is far from over. The popular uprising may have succeeded in ousting president Hosni Mubarak and most of his top associates, but the young people who led the protests at Tahrir Square are certainly not resting on their laurels.

Tens of thousands returned to the square on Friday, this time demanding to shut down the internal security authority, Amn al-Dawla. By yesterday, dozens of young people had already taken over the headquarters of the organization, notorious for terrorizing Egyptian citizens under Mubarak’s rule. The takeover was prompted by fears that organization officials were destroying evidence of their involvement in torture and other human rights violations.

This may be good news but I keep going back to the French Revolution, which set the standards for all revolutions to come.

Until the election, both Israeli and international observers agree Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, remains the key authority in Cairo. The mission facing Tantawi and his generals is to take Egypt safely through a transition period that will culminate with the establishment of civilian and democratic rule. The army is maneuvering between the establishment it knows well and the street, a new and not yet entirely familiar player.

The Army is the best hope for Egypt, as it has been for Turkey. A key factor in our failure to do better in Afghanistan is the fact that a crude and stupid Congressional reaction to the news that Pakistan had a nuclear bomb was to cut off all contact between Pakistan’s army and ours. That was nearly fatal as there are few ties between Pakistani officers and the US army, which are usually established as junior officers. These contacts were abolished by a Congress that knows little about foreign relations, especially those not published in the New York Times.

If we finally have to leave Afghanistan under unsatisfactory conditions, much of the failure should be attributed to Congress and its crude attempts to manage US policy it knows little about.

The following is good news, if true.

The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, is seen as the opposition body most prepared for a general election, but the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.

Just keep remembering that the Kerensky government thought it had the Bolsheviks under control in 1917. Bay is still optimistic for another unusual reason.

The article argues that “the real power belongs to the young people [in Egypt] who managed to change political reality.” Media in Israel are missing “the generational shift taking place in Egypt and perhaps the entire Arab world.”

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll– now that’s a universal language. Al Qaeda doesn’t rock and roll. A burka is not sexy. On the twitter-connected Arab street, these may be Al Qaeda’s fatal social flaws. I don’t know what Al Qaeda’s drug policy is (probably pro-hashish), but I know its alcohol policy. Hence one of the most important socio-cultural quips of the first decade of the 21st century: “Democracy, whiskey, sexy.”

But once again back to Haaretz, this time on the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, it will be a factor but “the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.” Interesting analogy. Remember, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is factionalized — but so are ultra-Orthodox Israeli parties.

We will see. I hope he is right. Unfortunately, Turkey is slipping into Islamist hands as the AKP party continues to arrest army officers on phony charges.

Here are Annie and her mother in an Istanbul restaurant. Everybody spoke English and were more than courteous.

I have tried to explain to my daughter Annie how the friendly Turks, who did so much to make her visit to Istanbul pleasant, want to arrest large numbers of Army officers, like the one who gave her a tour of the Scutari Barracks, a major Army headquarters.

This officer is a major, spoke English perfectly and gave her a tour.

I guess I will have to do a post on the history of Turkey for her. She certainly wouldn’t learn anything about it in college. She was 14 when those photos were taken. I wonder if the Turks would be as friendly now. I suspect they are because we were in Istanbul, the westernized and secular part of Turkey.

I hope Egypt will learn a lesson from Ataturk, who is still revered in Turkey, at least modern Turkey.

UPDATE: I am not at all surprised by this. If Gadafi can hold out in Tripoli, I could see Egypt carve off the eastern section as it has the largest Libyan oil fields and the lowest population. The Libyans might choose to be Egyptians if necessary.

Another personal reminiscence of Reagan

Dan’s has encouraged me to contribute this equally personal post. I was a college student when I cast my first vote for Nixon in 1960. This enraged my family as they were not only Democrats but distant cousins of the Kennedy family of Boston. My mother later claimed she had always been a Republican but I knew better. I had changed from the family affiliation after taking a course in economics. I’m not sure if what is taught today in basic economics in most colleges would have the same effect.

I was not a fan of Reagan, at first, as Governor. I still had some residual liberalism and he ran against the University of California at Berkley in his campaign. I was a medical student and well aware of the antics of many UC students and alleged students but it still annoyed me. I thought the U of California was above such criticism. The 1968 USC graduating class, sophomores when I was a senior, had a serious drug problem, a sign of the times but still frightening. As I was student body president, the Dean called me in to talk about it. From him I learned that about 22 of the 66 students in that class were using LSD. Some later never graduated or never finished internships. I gradually became more of a Reagan fan. I think it was maturity.

When Jimmy Carter was elected, I was in practice. My wife and I were taking our first trip to England. I remember being ashamed that Carter was president. I thought, “Well, he can’t be too bad. After all, he has been a businessman.” He was. He made the same mistake that Obama did. He let Congress and the Democratic majority have its head in legislation. The 1974 class of Democrats in Congress was the most leftist in history. Inflation took off. I knew doctor colleagues who were buying bags of quarters and dimes for their pension plans. Others had Swiss bank accounts with gold coins (It had only become legal to own gold under Ford). The Swiss charged negative interest of about 2% on those accounts. Two other friends, both doctors, opened a crystal shop in Laguna Beach and became the largest sellers of Lalique crystal in the world. The company brought them to France to honor them. Everybody was fleeing the dollar.

The conventional wisdom said Reagan was too conservative to ever be elected. The present rhetoric about Sarah Palin is similar to that about Reagan. He certainly was better qualified than she is but it didn’t matter. He was “an amiable dunce”(Clark Clifford) or he was a madman determined on a nuclear war. The Democrats who are trying to conflate Reagan and Obama would just as soon you didn’t remember that. I watched all the debates. I was shouting at the TV the night that Ford made his gaffe about Poland which elected Carter. I was worried about Reagan and how he would do. Here is where we all learned about his charm and his ability to slough off nasty comments by opponents. His skill with repartee and humor made him president. He looked like a reliable father figure and the attacks just bounced off. The only other president in my memory who was as immune to attack was Eisenhower but that was an earlier, pre-Nixon coup era. His “Great Communicator” title is often meant by Democrats as a slur, implying that was all he was. What I mean, and I think it is true, is that without that talent, he would not have been elected, as bad as Jimmy Carter was. That attacks on Reagan have been forgotten but they were harsh and had some resonance until the debates.

About the time Reagan was elected, I was able to purchase Treasury 5 year notes with a coupon rate of 16% and a real rate of 18%. My partner built a new custom house. The construction loan interest rate was 21%. Two neighbors built new custom homes on either side of him. When the houses were finished, the neighbors, both professionals, could not qualify for the permanent financing and the two houses went into foreclosure. That was 1979.

I following the administration closely, which had the Senate in Republican hands, but the House was dominated by Democrats and Tip O’Neill. Reagan’s most destructive enemy those first two years was Bob Dole, a true “root canal Republican.” He convinced himself that the Reagan tax cuts would lead to deficits “as far as the eye can see,” as Democrats put it. It was he, the Senate Majority Leader, who made the tax cuts effective only in 1982. As a result, the deep recession, brought on by Paul Volker’s battle with inflation, extended to the end of 1982 and cost the Republicans the Senate. Once the tax cuts became effective, the economy took off and it was clear sailing for a while, more than ten years and beyond to 2000.

Reagan’s era coincided with my becoming an adult. I wish we had someone like him now but we will not see his like again.