Morning Joe | February 13, 2013
>> people love.
>>> joining us now columnist and best selling author. she's out with the new book " coolidge ." it looks amazing. thanks for being on the show this morning.
>> first of all, what can be learned from looking back at this presidency?
>> well, we think about the parameters last night. i don't see it as unbridgeable. the parties were pretty close. they wanted to be nice. and do it for different class fwrups. however you define presideit. coolidge didn't see that. his economics was for everyone. he wouldn't focus on one group or the other. the other thing he said that we didn't really say very clearly, anyone did, was cut, cut, cut. he would say sequester away, please. this is not arbitrary. remember, president obama slammed sequesters. it's not arbitrary because we said we would do it. he was very consistent. he always cut in the budget. the one thing you want to take away about him, if you take anything about the 30th president, is that when he left office after 67 months, the budget was lower than when he came in.
>> he was obsessed with debt.
>> and there is actually family background to that story. that you start with.
>> that's right. i had a wonderful research team at the calvin coolidge memorial foundation and forbe's library in north hampton . we found coolidge had an ancestor, an uncle in the past who went to jail in woodstock, vermont, for a debt related issue. and there he wrote a poem, a curse upon the house of coolidge for being stingy. they thought about that a lot. they had this skeleton in the closet .
>> you talk about his life being a lot like lincoln 's. that before becoming president of the united states , he had one failure or near failure after another. adulthood brought more trials. you said young coolidge was so sickly his father and others were worried he might not complete his education. he was deeply shy. found it agonizing to meet adults who entered his parents' front rooms. adulthood brought more trials. you talk about one near failure after another but he just persevered.
>> he's way under rated. you look at charts. he's in the bottom half or bottom quarter. he belongs in the top. and his story -- that's sort of intentional he gave us that. he said, let's surprise them with how good our result can be. and you look at the results, these are results as you said we envy. strong growth. wages went up. wow. union membership went down but unemployment was so low, i guess unions didn't matter. budget balanced. debt down. budget reduced. he always surprised people with those positive results. so that's different. there's a whole model in there for us today.
>> and you look at other -- all the facets of his life. first of all, bourn on the fourth of july in vermont. in the white house , though, an incredible story about how he lost his son.
>> yes. and some people tell this as he got to president failed. i see him more like lincoln who also lost a son in the white house . and then waged a war. in this case the story was calvin , his son got a tennis blister playing on the white house court. there were no antibiotics then. it became septic and he died within a week in walter reed hospital . coolidge just couldn't believe it. their 16-year-old boy, calvin . this was a very happy, wonderful boy. a boy of great character. and i talk about him in the book and what he did.
>> it almost broke coolidge , didn't it?
>> what a story.
>> he had trouble moving forward.
>> well, he wrote in his autobiography later that it did cost so much. the presidency brought this. but where i see that coolidge is like lincoln is that he did persevere in his war which was to cut taxes. it was a tax cut war. and he brought the top rate after the death of calvin down to 25%. which lower than reagan.
>> one of the things that has come down to us is the nickname silent cal . the famous story that somebody said i made a bet that i could get you to say more than five words. the answer is, you lose. how much of that is a myth and how much of that is true?
>> it's quite true. his states of the union could be long. his messages. but at a party or when an amendment came to the white house , he would be silent. this has always been depicted as sort of a regional curiosity. a new englander, right? he's silent. but there was a method and a reason for it. he didn't want to say yes to mendicants. the story of washington is people coming to you asking you for something. he didn't want to say yes so he cut it short with silence.
>> so if daniel day -lewis were to play coolidge in a movie it would be a silent film ?
>> that's right. we were wanting a blonder actor. more of a sandy new englander. but, yes. in the end the lawmakers didn't even want to -- he would have breakfast at the white house . his mean usher always -- anyway, the lawmakers were disappointed in him. but he helped the country.
>> he was -- this quote of the son. look how beautiful the son was. coolidge said his younger son, calvin jr., to work in the massachusetts tobacco fields over the summer. a fellow laborer told the boy if my father were president, i would not work in a tobacco field. young calvin responded, if your father were my father, you would.
>> the book is " coolidge ." read an expert on our blog. mojo.msnbc pn mojo.msnbc.com. amity shlaes , thank you so much.
>>> brian schactman has today's top business stories, straight ahead. [