The annals of presidential anecdotes have it that after Calvin Coolidge interrupted his summer vacation to be sworn in as president, he went down to the corner drugstore in Plymouth Notch, Vt., to celebrate. Coolidge, accompanied by a local congressman and the editor of the local paper, ordered a then-popular soft drink called Moxie. When the time came to pay the gentlemen's check, the president, noted for his pecuniary and verbal parsimony, pulled out a nickel, slapped it down on the counter and left.
Moxie, Coolidge-style. It was a recurring characteristic in that otherwise droll chief of state, who is our current president's favorite president and who is also the namesake of the Coolidge Society, a fledgling group which threw a "conservative soiree" last night to usher in the new fiscal year, Reagan-style.
Some might say it took a lot of moxie to plan a black-tie ball "to dance the New Deal away," and, along with it, thousands of Washington jobs and a good dollop of federal benefits. But, even as the crowd at the Capitol quibbled into the wee hours over how to keep the government solvent past midnight, the Coolidge conservatives over at the Pension Building stood firm in their devotion to Reaganomics.
"When Reagan's programs go into effect tonight, it will be the first real test of what most of us believe will turn the country around," gloated Scot Faulkner, the society's founder and assistant to the head of the General Services Administration.
These celebrants, many of whom toil by day at the Department of Education, are so taken with Reagan and the supply side that they have no fear of the pink slip and all it entails. Many said they worked on Reagan's campaign, got patronage appointments for their trouble and expect more of the same if squeezed by a RIF. Conservatives, it seems, take care of their own.
"Who's to say I won't be out of a job?" said Ownie McBride, who dressed as the Statue of Liberty. "I've been out of a job before and I didn't go on unemployment. I paid the rent with my savings . . . I stayed with friends and ate nothing."
Escorting McBride was a man adorned in the rubber wrinkles of a Ronald Reagan face mask. He couldn't gush enough about Reagan, or about Coolidge, for that matter.
"I love Ronnie Reagan. He's savin' the country," drawled masked man Robbie Aiken, who works for the Hannaford Co. public relations firm that gave us White House deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver. "Just like Coolidge, he's easy-goin', easy-mannered, he knows how to operate in Washington and doesn't get ruffled by problems that ordinary presidents would get ruffled by. He's a big, big, big man."
Commenting on the fact that Coolidge slept some 11 hours a day while the country rolled toward the Great Crash of 1929, H.L. Mencken said, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but Coolidge only snores." More than 50 years later, as the debt ceiling is pushed beyond the trillion-dollar mark and international financial markets tremble, let it be said that the conservatives of Washington danced the night and the New Deal away.
At midnight, they sang "Happy Days Are Here Again" and danced some more.