The Talkative President: The Off-The-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge

By Howard H. Quint; Robert H. Ferrell et al. | Go to book overview
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4 Office of the President

THE PRESIDENT Of the United States is expected to be broadly informed not only about the presidency and affairs of state but also about the passing scene. Whatever he says is not only regarded as news, but as authoritative. At a press conference he may be asked anything and everything within the bounds of propriety and, on occasion, outside it.

Coolidge took up a wide range of subjects in his meetings with the press and frequently revealed a breadth of information and an expertise both in politics and in government affairs. At the same time his press conferences showed the President's intellectual limitations. From them, for example, there is very little evidence that he was ever really interested in ideas for their own sake. Abstract speculation was almost completely absent in his dialogues with the White House reporters. But, then, few American presidents have had this quality of mind, nor has it been expected of them.

President Coolidge's periodic reviews to the press on the duties of the President, the problems of government, and the state of the nation usually were replete with pedestrian generalities. They reflected a way of looking at government and politics that is completely out of fashion today, so great a change has occurred in American life. Yet when the President addressed himself to the merits of a specific piece of legislation, for example, the flood control bill, his analysis of the issues could be penetrating. For even if one disagrees with his point of view, the President often showed

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