The Worst President: The Other W.
"I am not fit for this office and never should have been here." - Warren Gamaliel Harding, 29th President of the United States. (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923)
Ask someone who they think the worst President the United States ever had and you are likely hear George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Other might chime in that the worst presidents were Regan, Carter, Nixon, Johnson or JFK. Some few might actually still cling to FDR as the worst president. Ideological bias has a tendency to lock people into their choices, just take a look at the Wikipedia page on Historical rankings of United States Presidents. Everyone has their favourite for this category, but few have ever heard of Warren G. Harding.
With the apparent exception of Libertarian scholars, who rank him among the best of US Presidents, Democrat and Republican scholars consistently agree that Harding was the worst President of the United States ever to have served. (or not to have served, depending on your point of view) Born Warren Gamaliel Bancroft Winnipeg Harding in the state of Ohio, Warren rose to prominence in the newspaper business, learning the basics from his father who owned a paper called The Argus. Harding moved to Marion, Ohio where he and two friends bought the Marion Daily Star for $300. Harding made the MDS one of the biggest papers in the county and then married his Nemesis' daughter, Florence (Flossie) Mabel Kling deWolfe Harding. A divorcée, Florence Harding took an active hand in the business of the Marion Daily Star and is seen as the prime mover in getting Warren Harding into politics.
Harding was known to be a bit of a womaniser, (having had a long running affair with one of his friend's wives) a social drinker in a time of prohibition and had a lack lustre record of attendance in the Ohio State Senate. Aside from serving (or not serving) in the Senate, Harding had previously been Ohio's lieutenant governor for four years. After lying to the Republican Party about whether he had anything in his past that would come to haunt him in a run at the presidency, Harding went on to defeat Democratic candidate James Cox and his running mate Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the President. (then Assistant Secretary of the Navy)
Harding and George W. Bush did share at least one thing in common: a tendency to make verbal gaffes. Harding had run on a campaign promising a "Return to Normalcy". Harding's gaffes were common and so unique that critic H.L. Mencken had called his pattern of speech, "Gamalielese". Upon Harding's death, poet E.E. Cummings wrote, "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead." Fans of Harding neither men were. However, given my piss poor punctuation and lacklustre editing abilities - who am I to criticize? If his insistence on using "normalcy" isn't enough for you, then check out this quote: "I would like the government to do all it can to mitigate, then, in understanding, in mutuality of interest, in concern for the common good, our tasks will be solved."
Harding was popular with women: he was considered handsome and was a strong advocate of suffrage. He had been accused of being a white supremacist and being a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but he had also spoke out in Birmingham, Alabama against segregation stating that America could never know true prosperity until it answered the question of equality. From my perspective, it sounds as though he were adopting some of the rhetoric of socialist, labour activist and presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. (Debs ran from prison in 1920 taking 3% of the popular vote) In his run for the Oval Office, Harding enjoyed the support of such industrialists as Edison and Ford and Hollywood and Broadway stars like Al Jolson, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
Harding's presidency was marred by scandals. The Teapot Dome scandal (click the link and read for yourself) was largest and most damaging scandal. Appropriately enough it was tied in to oil. Bribes and kickbacks were received, skimming was the order of the day, papers were destroyed and at least two people committed suicide as a result. One director was even tied into running booze and drugs. It is up in the air how involved or how much knowledge Harding himself had of these crimes, but he certainly seemed powerless to stop them. One quote has him saying, "My God, this is a hell of a job!" Harding said. "I have no trouble with my enemies, but my damn friends, my God-damned friends... they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!"
Eighty-four years ago tomorrow, 2 August, 1923, Harding passed away at the age of 57 in San Francisco. He had embarked on the "Voyage of Understanding", hoping to explain his policies across the country. He had only been sick one week and died suddenly, so some suspect foul play but that is not conclusive. There may have been more horrific men to have sat behind the desk at the Oval Office, but has there truly been anyone so utterly inept? Warren G. Harding, may your memory live on.
The above post is a summary of the Wikipedia entry on Harding
My job is driving me nuts. I have some rather thick co-workers to deal with, though I also have some outstanding people I work along side with too. One week seems much like a repeat of the previous week. Vandalism continues. Whining continues. The endless direction giving continues. The endless explanations. The vapid stares. People asking again and again because they are incapable of listening. In some ways, I miss working in the dangerous hell-hole I was working at in Burnaby. Problem there is that they pay less. Don't mind me, I just have a lot on my plate here and am not getting paid enough.