29 - Warren G Harding
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Warren G. Harding by John W. Dean
Harding was the first president to speak over the radio.
He was the first president to visit Canada. He stopped in Vancouver on his way to Alaska. He was also the first president to visit Alaska.
He suffered nervous breakdowns at the age of 24 and had to spend some time in a sanitarium.
Harding played poker at least twice a week. He once gambled away an entire set of White House china, dating back to Benjamin Harrison's time. His advisors were given the nickname of the "Poker Cabinet" because they all played poker together.
Harding was the first president to ride to his inauguration in a car.
Harding was the first president to have a radio.
Both of Harding's parents were doctors.
He was also the first newspaper publisher to be elected into the presidency.
Warren G. Harding was the first president to have a public golf course named after him.
Out of all the presidents, Harding had the biggest feet. He wore size fourteen shoes.
Author: Randolph C. Downes
Publisher: Ohio State University Press
I am still waiting for a more definitive work on Harding. Until one is written (if it ever is), this is the best biography available on him.
Pluses: Well written and documented
Negatives: Only covers up until his election as President.
but left this message:
The book that I read on Warren Harding is available for free online at this link:
I remember that it disputed the fact that Harding was the most corrupt president ever. The contention of the author is that people in the administration were very corrupt, but that Harding wasn't. Harding was just blind to the corruption going on around him.
Yeah, that's what I thought as well, Mr. Dean should be one that would know.
Hope you like the book, let us know what you thought of it.
This was really well done. There was a lot of potentially boring information presented in a very readable style. I may go out and look for another book by Mr. Russell. Had I met Mr. Harding, I may not have liked him much but, if we believe Mr. Russell, he was not a bad man. He was nothing much more or less than he told everyone himself; nice enough but with limitations.
Arthur Schlesinger chose John Dean, President Nixon's White House counsel during the Watergate scandal, to write the biography of Warren Harding for the American Presidents series. An account of one of the most infamous, scandal-ridden administrations by one of the group caught up in the more recent scandal-ridden administrations. Really? Surprisingly enough, though, this is a good book! Dean has done the research - he's gone beyond the gossip and the overblown histories that have been published to source material released early in this decade - to put together a more accurate picture of a man known more for his tarred reputation than for his actual self.
Warren Harding was a second tier politician in the Ohio machine who was known for not making enemies of anybody. He traded on his good looks, inoffensive spirit and connections through his newspaper into first an Ohio legislature seat, then into the US Senate. In the Senate, he didn't really do much, but had a great reputation with other Senators. Then after Woodrow Wilson realized that he wasn't going to be able to run for a third term in 1920, Harding managed to use the same tactics to jump into the Republican nomination as a deadlock breaker, then into the Presidency itself. Harding loved to "bloviate" - flowery speeches in formal sounding language were his specialty - and actually brought the term into general use in the English language. He also liked his poker and his liquor, but not nearly as much as the House on K Street stories would later lead folks to believe.
Harding didn't accomplish much in the way of legislative agenda while in office. But he did pick some very good Cabinet members - Charles Evans Hughes and Herbert Hoover, for instance. These were able to get the country back on track economically after the war, and attempted to lead the world in naval disarmament. Unfortunately, he also selected Albert Fall at Interior and Harry Daugherty for Attorney General, leading to the Teapot Dome oil reserve scandal, and others. Just as multiple scandals were starting to come out, Harding died of a heart attack while on a trip to Alaska and the West Coast. The timing was perfect to allow the consequences of the scandals and investigations to completely color later historical evaluation of Harding.
If we can believe Dean, Harding was neither the corrupt politician he's often portrayed nor the clueless puppet that loved poker and women in smoked-filled back rooms. Yes, he had a long-term affair in his younger days. Yes, he made some bad choices of friends. But he's also not the poster child for political corruption he was later made out to be. Dean's account is very good and is worth a look for those who want a more true picture of the man Warren Harding.
by John W. Dean
I don't have much to say about this biography, one of The American Presidents series. Harding has long been a contender for the title of Worst American President. The Teapot Dome scandal which surfaced after his death, the suppression of his personal papers, as well as a tell-all book accusing him of fathering a child with a mistress contributed to an image of Harding as a charismatic puppet, controlled by political cronies. Mr. Dean, after actually studying Harding's writings and career, begs to differ. He presents Harding as an intelligent, competent executive who, while not perfect, certainly managed to honestly carry out the duties of the President of the United States. Despite my common complaint that the book is too short, (where have all the meaty biographies gone?) I enjoyed reading it.
Dean, who survived Nixon's scandalous presidency, attempts to rehab another President who was afflicted by scandal. Harding and Buchanan usually are considered are worse two presidents. Dean does not uncover anything new about Harding. He does note Harding attempted to reverse Wilson's bad record on Black federal appointments. He exaggerates in claiming Harding appointed history's best cabinet. The Stars were Herbert Hoover and Charles Evans Hughes. Perhaps, because Harding's complete papers have not been released, Dean has to rely upon secondary sources and other biographers. Harding's most lasting achievement appears to have been the Bureau of the Budget. Dean fails to analyze why Harding appointed the Ohio Gang to such positions of influence. Also, Dean fails in showing why Harding didn't do something more quickly about the scandals. I don't think this biography will move Harding off of the bottom rung. Recently. his letters to his mistress were released. Like Clinton apparently, he was carrying on his affairs in White House closets.
On the upside it was a quick read.
I have a "thing" for Harding as I grew up in Marion, Ohio, same as Harding and lived about 2 miles from his home. Our school visited his home and memorial every single year; it was the only historical site within 60 miles!
That being said, Harding was quite a scoundrel; although very good for the economy. His campaign slogan was Back to Normalacy, meaning back from wartime to peactime. (And there was not nor is there such a word as normalacy in the dictionary. Harding and his Ohio gang traveled to the Whitehouse together. The Ohio gang was immoral; as was Harding. Starling recounts the following quote by Harding at a Press Club Meeting, "There is kindly, comfortable Warren Harding telling the newshawks at the Press Club: "It is a good thing I am not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I cannot say no." And he certainly could not say no. There are half a dozen confirmed liasons and dozens of more rumored. The Secret Service was aware of these; most took place in the oval office.
The scandals in the Harding administration never ended. There was a White House suicide and a coverup wherin a suicide note disappeared. There was then an investigation that uncovered many more scandals that were connected to a land deal which became known as The Teapot Dome Scandal. To fight this battle dossiers were made on each foe (Democrat) and filled with whatever trash could be concocted and then distributed to the press for the purpose of character assassination. Through this all, Mrs. Harding helped with whatever was needed.
A Quote from the book: "Harding, a small-town Ohio newspaper publisher, was uniquely unsuited for the job of president – and he knew it. "I am not fit for this office and never should have been here," he once said. But he "looked like a president," as one major backer put it, and his wife, Florence, was instrumental in shepherding his political career. (The press considered Florence, known as the Duchess, to be the power behind the throne; one cartoon depicted the couple as "The Chief Executive and Mr. Harding.")
Did anything good come from Harding's administration? Yes!: The 40 hour work week, healthcare for new mothers, and the first balanced budget (although this has been debated).
Even the ending of his presidency was shrouded in secrecy: Did Mrs. Harding poison her husband? There are many good books on this topic.
Here is one of the poems that President Harding wrote to one of his mistresses:
I love your back, I love your breasts
Darling to feel, where my face rests,
I love your skin, so soft and white,
So dear to feel and sweet to bite. . . .
I love your poise of perfect thighs,
When they hold me in paradise. . . .
— A Harding poem to one of his mistresses, Carrie Phillips