Thursday, April 10, 2008

Warren G. Harding: Tragically being stripped of his "Worst President Ever" title by the current administration

They say he was chosen because he "looked presidential." He just looks like an old white guy to me... Oh, right.
Warren "Gamaliel" Harding* used to be considered one of our nation's shittiest presidents. Ohioan Warren G managed to oversee (or more accurately, completely fail to oversee) a ridiculous number of political scandals within his administration in the two years he served as president. Yeah, he was wildly popular pre-Teapot Dome, the first sitting U.S. Senator to be elected president, helped officially end World War I, pardoned socialists, instituted the administration for veteran's affairs, blahblahblah other useful things. But Harding's career really served as a precursor for the newer, trashier brand of politics that emerged in the twentieth century. Some of the campaign tactics, personal and financial shenanigans, and general relaxed attitude toward corruption remind me eerily of some more recent events in our nation's history. I will now make an outline to help you understand our man WG. Ways in which Warren G. Harding helped ruin America: Part I: Personal failings 1. Suffered from occasional bouts with "exhaustion" that caused him to be hospitalized a number of times, beginning in his twenties. Now don't get me wrong, ain't nothing wrong with having a "nervous temperament" or mental illness. Duh. I'm just not sure that a history of institutional treatment for one's nerves isn't something we should maybe consider when choosing a U.S. President. Luckily for Harding, the press was a little crappier at digging up personal information about public figures back then. 2. Not so faithful to his wife. He had a long-standing affair with a woman named Carrie Fulton Phillips. After the Republican Party found out their presidential nominee had this skeleton in his closet, they sent her to Japan and paid her off big-time. Harding's descendants have successfully blocked the public release of the Phillips-Harding love letters until 2023, the 100th anniversary of Warren G's death. I know what I'm marking on my calendar! 3. May have had an illegitimate child** with another other woman. Never been proved, but still. Sleazy! 4. Was actually pretty shitty at public speaking. He insisted on writing his own speeches and made up words. His main platform slogan "A return to normalcy" (in reference to the end of WWI) was considered ridiculous at the time because nobody said "normalcy," they said "normality." But he liked the way it sounded so much that he kept it. What a jackass. H.L. Mencken said that "he writes the worst English that I have ever encountered." And he was, like, a famous writer, so he would know that shit.
Not to be confused with this guy.
Part II: All the shit that went down on his watch Subsection A: The 1920 presidential campaign 1. During a deadlocked convention, some "smoke-filled room" (I bet they had a sweet hookah) decided that WG would be a good choice for the Republican nominee. Sketchy. 2. Was subject to rumors that he had secret black ancestors. Good thing America has come such a long way and we totally aren't racist or accuse people of having secret black babies or anything anymore. This is actually not his fault, but you know, whatevs. 3. Was one of the first candidates to receive celebrity endorsements (Hollywood types and famous rich people like Henry Ford). 4. Increase in media exposure: newsreel coverage, election results on the radio, etc. Subsection B: The Harding Administration 1921-23 1. Brought in all his classy pals to run the country. They were known as the "Ohio Gang." I will have to watch out for gangs when I move to Ohio. Especially ones made up of lots of old white guy politicians. 2. Widespread government corruption. Apparently this gang just did whatever the hell they wanted to and Harding had no clue as to what was really going on in his administration. I find this hard to believe. But then again, I have a hard time believing people actually thought he was handsome, but supposedly they did, so I guess maybe I need to put on my 1920s glasses to really understand what they're talking about. 3. TEAPOT DOME SCANDAL. Supposedly Harding was blissfully unaware of what was happening until shortly before his death. If you're too lazy to actually read about it like I am too lazy to really explain it, all you really need to know is: oil, money, loans, money, bribes, money, disappearing records, money. After Congress started investigating, the FBI is said to have broken into the investigators' offices and wiretapped them. Boy am I glad the government doesn't do unconstitutional shit like that anymore! 4. Had a sketchy death. While on some lame countrywide tour, Harding suddenly fell ill. He died a week later, probably from a heart attack. HOWEVER: his wife Florence wouldn't allow an autopsy, so rumors flew about the "real" cause of death. All-around good guy Gaston Means published a book in 1930 that alleged Mrs. Harding was complicit in the poisoning murder of her husband. I support this claim. I think it's a lot more interesting that there was a conspiracy to save Harding's reputation before he arrived back in Washington to the mess of the erupting Teapot Dome Scandal, than that Harding had always suffered from poor health and just got sick and died for no reason. In all, politics has been just as a dirty a business as it is now since AT LEAST 1920. And I think we should all take our hats off to America's Second-Worst President for all his important contributions to our country's legacy. To learn more about Warren G. Harding, check out this reputable source. *This is not a nickname, it's his actual middle name, but it's funny so I put it in quotes. I can do that. I'm a writer. On the internet. **I use the term "illegitimate child" ironically. It's old-fashioned and judgmental, though a hell of a lot better than "love child" (worst. Supremes. song. ever.).


  1. This is my favorite regular segment on your blog. It gives me lots of flashbacks to AP US history, which is a great thing. I think I forgot a lot about Harding, probably because he sucked so much.
    And two things I agree with:
    1. Harding is not handsome.
    2. "Love Child" is a stain on the Motown record label.

  2. i like that the "other woman" got sent to japan. it makes me want to be an "other woman."

    presidential campaign staff: "dang, emily, you slept with him? we can't have this getting out."
    me: "it'll come out eventually."
    p.c.s.: "not if we send you far far away from here! how's Australia sound? the Phillipines? Madagascar?"
    me: "sweet."

  3. Brilliant. I literally "Lol"ed several times during this.

    "I can do that. I'm a writer. On the internet." ought to appear in Newsweek's "Perspectives" quotes of the week.

  4. As a prospective history/social science teacher (not that I can find a job, being small, female, and a non-coach), this is the kind of fun history that I love to totally makes U.S. History not suck! Keep up the good work *applauds*!