Happy Presidents Day to all our American readers - and to all our Canadian readers a happy "Family Day", an even more anodyne coinage observed in recent years in a handful of provinces. Presidents Day is a diminished holiday since it was re-designated from Washington's Birthday, and, with the usual deft touch of Congress (in the Uniform Monday Holiday Act), scheduled so that it can never even fall on Washington's actual birthday. If we are meant to celebrate the grand accumulation of chief magistrates, include me out. I find the imperial excess of the modern presidency utterly revolting, and I mean that in a bipartisan sense, too. It's both unaffordable in the Brokest Nation in History, and aside from its grotesque bloat - $7-million Christmas vacations for Obama - it's also largely useless - as demonstrated a year or so back when America's money-no-object citizen-executive flew Air Force One to South Africa, accompanied by the "decoy" Air Force One, and a zillion aides, and the 40-car motorcade or whatever it's up to by now, and a bazillion Secret Service guys with reflector shades and telephone cords hanging out their ears, who dutifully "secured" the venue for the President so it was safe for him to enter, and then stood him on stage three feet from a fake interpreter for the deaf with a rap sheet that included rape, kidnapping, and membership of a murderous "necklacing" gang. The bigger the "security", the more holes in it.
But so what? President Tee-Time has been on the links for three days in California, golfing while the world burns - 21 Christians beheaded in Libya, Jews and artists shot dead in Denmark, ISIS troops surrounding a US base in Iraq... But that's no reason not to play another round: The emperor has no clothes except plus-fours.
Here's my kind of president. This is an excerpt from the newly expanded eBook edition of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, available worldwide in Kindle, Kobo, Nook (for full details, see below):
Presidents are thin on the ground in my corner of New Hampshire. There's Franklin Pierce down south, and Chester Arthur over in western Vermont (or, for believers in the original birther conspiracy, southern Quebec), but neither is any reason for a jamboree. So, for a few years, come Presidents' Day I'd drive my children over the Connecticut River and we'd zigzag down through the Green Mountain State to the Coolidge homestead in Plymouth Notch. And there, with the aid of snowshoes, we'd scramble up the three-foot drifts of the village's steep hillside cemetery to Silent Cal's grave.
Seven generations of Coolidges are buried there all in a row – including Julius Caesar Coolidge, which is the kind of name I'd like to find on the ballot one November (strong on war, but committed to small government). The 30th president is as seemly and modest in death as in life, his headstone no different from those of his forebears or his sons – just a plain granite marker with name and dates: in the summer, if memory serves, there's a small US flag in front - and also no snow, so that, under the years of birth and death, you can see the small American eagle that is all that distinguishes this man's gravestone from the earlier Calvin Coolidges in his line.
I do believe it's the coolest grave of any head of state I've ever stood in front of. It moves me far more than the gaudier presidential memorials. "We draw our presidents from the people, " said Coolidge. "I came from them. I wish to be one of them again." He lived the republican ideal most of America's political class merely pays lip service to.
I came to Plymouth Notch during my first winter at my new home in New Hampshire, and purchased some cheddar from the village cheese factory still owned by his son John (he sold it in 1998). So, ever afterwards, the kids and I conclude each visit by swinging by the fromagerie and buying a round of their excellent granular curd cheddar - a big cheese from the home of a man who never saw himself as one.
~excerpted from the newly expanded eBook edition of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, which can be yours within minutes - from Barnes & Noble in the US, from Indigo-Chapters in Canada, and from Amazon outlets worldwide. Click below for your nearest branch office:
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