Practised politicians and their parsimonious palaver

Brevity can be golden


You know what’s the biggest bummer about having another federal election?  It’s not the viral festering of VOTE FOR ME! lawn signs besmirching the landscape. 

It’s not the millions of dollars for everything from lapel buttons to free lunches to rally kazoos. 

It’s the gas.

It’s the blah, blah and blah of vacuous vocal emissions ad nauseam. We are doomed to a barrage of endless undeliverable promises and fake threats issued from the throats of self-styled electable wannabes of every political persuasion.

Then there’s the Stage Two bummer — we don’t get just gaseous emissions — we get equal time gaseous emissions.  Every newscast and every newspaper dishes out Tory Gas and Grit Gas; kNee DiPper Gas and Blockhead Gas.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for political discourse and healthy debate.  It’s just that I hate being talked to like I’m an eight-year old — and then having to sit through variations on the same fairy tale in triplicate.

I miss speakers who at least occasionally showed wit — like Trudeau and Dief the Chief; like JFK and Sir Winston. Even more, I miss Cool Cal.

That would be Calvin Coolidge.

He was the 30th President of the United States, a flinty ex-lawyer from the rock-ribbed state of Vermont and he was not a terrifically witty or engaging speaker. Coolidge was better than witty or engaging.

He was brief.

Coolidge never believed in wheezing out a paragraph if a sentence would suffice — and he’d pass on the sentence if a grunt would cover it. The man did not waste words, at work or at home.  

His wife greeted him one Sunday on his return from a church service and asked him how the sermon had been.

“Fine,” said Cal.

“And what did the minister talk about?”

“Sin,’” said Cal.

“And what did the minister have to say about sin, dear?”

“He was against it,’” said Cal.

Coolidge became famous for his parsimonious palaver.  

One financial backer approached him at a fundraiser saying, “I just bet my partner 20 dollars that I could get three words out of you.”

“You lose,” said Coolidge.

It’s difficult to imagine how Calvin Coolidge would fare in a modern election campaign.

He would no doubt be found wanting in the sex appeal category, but he wasn’t exactly Playboy centrefold material back in his heyday. 

Washington socialite Alice Roosevelt Longworth said he “looks like he’s been weaned on a pickle.”    

When someone told the writer Dorothy Parker that President Coolidge had just died, she said, “How can they tell?”

A man of few words, but he made each one count. 

During one election campaign, President and Mrs. Coolidge visited a government farm and were taken on separate tours of the facility. At the chicken coop, Mrs. Coolidge, who was a good deal earthier than her husband, inquired whether the rooster ‘serviced’ the hens more than once a day.

“Dozens of times,” she was told.

“Tell that to the President” she said.

When President Coolidge arrived at the chicken coop during his tour he was duly informed of the rooster’s sexual stamina — and of Mrs. Coolidge’s request that he be so informed.

“Same hen each time?” asked the President.

“Oh, no,” said the overseer, “a different one each time.”

Coolidge nodded. 

“Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge,” he said.

— Art Black lives on Saltspring Island

Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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