Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States, was known by both his political allies and political foes as a man of principal. Whether those who worked with him, or in many cases against him, agreed with his economy and federalism or not, all understood clearly the principles he lived by, and by which he tried to govern a nation. The extent of his commitment to the founding principle of federalism was tested in the floods of 1927.
Mississippi suffered a devastating flood and the affected area's representatives in congress tried to pressure President Coolidge into supplying federal monies to aid the stricken area. Coolidge and his administration had worked hard for years to trim the federal budget, which lead to lower spending when he left office than when he entered and a smaller national debt. A feat that has not been achieved again in the ensuing 85 years since Silent Cal left office.
One Mississippi representative smugly stated that the president would surely open the spigot of federal dollars if his home state of Vermont had been the victim of nature's wrath. Later in the year that representative's supposition was tested when Vermont was inundated with flood waters that damaged whole towns and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents. True to his federalist beliefs, Calvin Coolidge did not open up the federal vault and start shoveling money to flood ravaged areas.
Calvin Coolidge knew, as the Founders knew who proceeded him by 150 years, that once the federal government had the authority to distribute taxpayer dollars to special interests, even if those special interests were areas of the country affected by natural disasters, then the limiting factor written into the constitution meant nothing. Mr. Coolidge suffered the slings and arrows of myopic politicians of his day who wanted to garner the votes and adulation of their constituents using federal taxpayer money. It was this kind of myopia that would drag the United States into the inescapable cavern of debt in which we currently find ourselves.
I was reminded of Calvin Coolidge's probity and adherence to his principles this week when House republicans showed just the opposite characteristics in passing a spending bill that will fund the federal government through September of 2015. A cowardly piece of budgetary legislation in which the issue of executive amnesty and the yoke of ObamaCare around the necks of the American people were absent without leave.
Some defenders of Speaker Boehner and the rest of his support staff for the Obama agenda may point to the fact that Harry Reid and the Democrats still control the senate until the Republicans officially take control next month. That is true, but the Republican leadership in the House would not even allow the hint of standing on principle with their refusal to bring Representative Nick Mulvaney's amendment to the floor for a vote. An amendment that would send a strong signal to President Obama that this is still a nation of laws, laws created by the people's representatives in congress and enforced by the executive branch.
I fear for our nation, not because of what a rouge president is doing to it, but because those who should be in opposition have become silly excuse machines that continually spew reasons why they can not achieve. Meanwhile the ghost of Calvin Coolidge haunts the corridors and alcoves of the capital and rattles the chains of moral rectitude and adherence to principles. Unfortunately there seems to be no one left with ears to hear, nor the courage to take up the challenges of true leadership.