March 13, 2016

presidential fact #32

Calvin Coolidge was the last president never to have flown in an airplane.

February 09, 2016

in with a whimper, out with a whimper

What a dud. Warren G. Harding was, in my opinion, a national mistake, elected mainly for his bone structure and neutrality. He was an undistinguished senator given his party's nomination as a compromise, and served about half a term characterized by hesitancy.

Almost from the minute he entered the White House he knew he shouldn't be there. He tried to take on a figurehead role — reveling mostly in the ceremonial duties and photo opps and leaving the governing to those he appointed. Problem is, he appointed dunderheads. Before but mostly after his death, the Secretary of Interior, Attorney General, and head of the Veteran Affairs Bureau were all investigated for corruption. He's most well known for the Teapot Dome scandal, in which Secretary Albert Fall took bribes from corporations in exchange for oil leases. WGH wasn't directly involved, but it happened under his nose because he preferred to golf rather than supervise the federal government.

It's hard to read a 600-page biography where the subject is barely admirable and surrounds himself with unremarkable people. He has a long affair, and love child, with Nan Britton, whose chief characteristic was uncomplicated availability. All his friends suck. And the biographer, Francis Russell, continues to take pot shots at Florence Harding's looks and personality the whole book. After her husband dies in California and she returns to the White House to pack up their things, Russell says that she returned to Washington, "ankles thicker than ever." Stay classy, Francis Russell.

Along the way there was some pretty good political insults from his peers, which are my favorite, but I can't even be bothered to look them up to record because this book just drains the life from me. Harding was a mediocre to poor president who was also a mediocre to poor human being, in my estimation, and I'm happy he's out of the way.