George Will turns to our 29th president to offer our 43rd some perspective:
"Noting that people "criticize me for harping on the obvious," Calvin Coolidge justified that practice by saying, "If all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves." Consider what individual Americans know they ought to do, and what their government should know not to do.
"The nation could subtract from its health care bill a significant portion of the costs caused by violence, vehicular accidents, AIDS, coronary artery disease, lung cancer and Type II diabetes resulting from obesity. All six problems are significantly related to known risky behavior, which can change….."
Will notes the "new sobriety" of Americans ("more saving, less spending") encourages economic recovery, but wonders if it will survive. He sees the administration's huge stimulus spending as a "defibrillator" that quickens the economy's pulse, but reminds "a patient cannot become healthy attached to a defibrillator," and he sees the country being lead toward "[t]rillions of dollars of capital...being allocated sub-optimally, by politically tainted government calculations..."
Continues Will, "The president's astonishing risk-taking satisfies the yearning of a presidency-fixated nation for a great man to solve its problems. But as Coolidge said, "It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man." What the country needs today in order to shrink its problems is not presidential greatness. Rather, it needs individuals to do what they know they ought to do, and government to stop doing what it should know causes or prolongs problems.
(You can read the sad litany of "astonishing risk-taking" in the complete article here: http://tinyurl.com/lvlt3p.)
For the sake of our institutions, we can only wish that Obama's hubris will play out as American psychologist Og Mandino suggested: “The next time you are tempted to boast, just place your fist in a full pail of water, and when you remove it, the hole remaining will give you a correct measure of your importance.”
Times are shaky when we hope for a legacy of holes in water!