By David Bozeman
Yes, that Warren Harding. November 2nd marks the birthday of the
historians’ perennial choice for the worst president ever. Tea Partiers
are embracing the folksy, budget-cutting Calvin Coolidge, who assumed
office upon Harding’s death in 1923, but only a few prominent
conservatives have dared to try reviving the legacy of our 29th
president, tainted forever with the stench of Teapot Dome and other
scandals, along with all-night poker and sexual debauchery.
His reputation as a failure is so ingrained in our collective memory
that detailing a rebuttal of his supposedly sleazy tenure is clearly
not possible in this tiny space. Suffice it to say, the scandalous
dealings of his Interior and Veteran’s Affairs secretaries reflect his
poor judgment, and his moral shortcomings are as emblematic of the
1920’s as flappers and bootleg gin. But the worst
Proof that the Harding name can’t get a break is that his wife
Florence is generally considered the worst of all first ladies. In a
just world, this strong, trail-blazing patriot (an advocate for
veterans, she referred to them as her “boys”) would be extolled as a
role model and forerunner of such activist presidential wives as Eleanor
Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton. But the die was cast shortly after the
president’s death, and later generations accepted as gospel the
proclamations of the historians.
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