Useful Notes: Warren Harding
"I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!"Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 — August 2, 1923) was elected as the 29th president (on his birthday!) with the widest popular vote margin in US history. He served from 1921 to 1923, after Woodrow Wilson and before Calvin Coolidge, and was the tenth Republican Party president. These days, he's considered one of the worst failures to hold the office. Harding also had a tendency to mis-speak. His speech was nicknamed "Gamalielese" for the likes of this:
—Warren G. Harding, who kept less than scrupulous company.
"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."Many have argued people only voted for him because he "looked presidential". He emerged from a classic backroom deal at the 1920 Republican Convention (selected mainly because he had stayed out of the Taft/Roosevelt feud that split the party in 1912 and had thus not pissed off anybody) and then ran the first modern campaign. Notable events in his presidency? Harding campaigned on a platform of "a return to normalcy", and so led the US back into an isolationist phase from which it wouldn't emerge until the later days of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He set up what became the Department for Veterans' Affairs, created the Washington Naval Treaty limiting naval fleet sizes and appointed William Howard Taft as Chief Justice. Harding was especially infamous for how many of his appointees engaged in large-scale corruption. The aforementioned scandals are what Harding's presidency is most remembered for today. Harding appointed many political friends to positions of power during his tenure as president. Known as the Ohio Gang, they pretty much carved up the nation's resources from underneath him, setting up a rather large number of scandals down the road, the most infamous of which was the Teapot Dome Scandal. Until Watergate, Teapot Dome was the most notorious political scandal in US history. However, the Harding administration also did many things that could be considered positive. For example, the aforementioned Washington Naval Conference, which was hosted by the United States under Harding, was intended to stop another World War, especially as tensions between the US and UK were quite high in the early 1920s - it only failed when Japan later adopted imperial ambitions that couldn't be fettered by the treaty. (Though it is worth mentioning that Harding, inexperienced with foreign affairs, basically let his competent and honest Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes do whatever and promised to stay out of his way.) He was surprisingly progressive when it came to race relations, and wholeheartedly supported an anti-lynching bill which died in the Senate. He also did not start, or otherwise engage in any major armed conflicts, and helped secure Panama's independence through diplomatic means. The crash of 1920 was solved within the first year of Harding's administration, which then led to the "roaring 20s". Additionally, he was one of the few presidents in the past century to actually balance the federal budget, while managing to lower taxes—something routinely demanded by American voters but usually considered by realistic economists to be Unwinnable by Design. Also, he freed several political prisoners, including the outspoken socialist and anti-war activist Eugene V. Debs. Harding was a heavy drinker, but agreed to stop drinking (at least in public) to provide an example to all the Americans who were happily ignoring Prohibition. (It didn't work.) According to one account, Harding himself once lamented that he was unfit to hold office. In July 1923, while traveling through Canada after visiting Alaska, Harding developed food poisoning, then pneumonia, which then brought upon the stroke that killed him in San Francisco, California on August 2. Due to his administration's corruption, Harding is often a front runner on many "worst presidents in American history" lists, although he wasn't corrupt himself, just a bad judge of character in way over his head. He's also the guy who coined the term "Founding Father." He used it during an address he gave in the Republican National Convention of 1916, and popularized its usage during his inaugural address. The Lincoln Memorial was commissioned during Harding's presidency, with Honest Abe's son Robert in attendance. In August of 2015 it was confirmed by genetic analysis that he had a lovechild, Elizabeth Ann Britton, with Nan Britton, a woman long shamed for claiming to have had an affair with him.
- In the novel Carter Beats The Devil, Harding's death occurs shortly after seeing the titular magician perform, which gets Carter investigated by the Secret Service. The ending reveals that Carter helped Harding fake his death, and the former president retires to a retreat for Carter's similarly-retired performing animals.
- In America (The Book), a segment written by Stephen Colbert states that he was the worst President. Colbert writes that the reasons for this are well-documented, so he just proceeds to insult him.
- On a later episode of The Colbert Report, in response to Barack Obama bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia (and George W. Bush holding his hand as they walked),note Colbert lamented that Presidents didn't use to respect foreign leaders — as evidenced by a photo of Harding giving the former king a noogie.
- On another episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert, talking about Wikipedia, said that the "G." stood, in fact, for "Gangsta". And for a while, Wikipedia said so.
- In the Civilization series, "Warren G. Harding" is the third worst score ranking you can achieve (the second and first being Ethelred the Unready and Dan Quayle respectively). And who is listed immediately above Harding? Nero.
- A small role in Boardwalk Empire. His mistress, Nan Britton has a fair bit of screentime as well.
- In Gore Vidal's novel Hollywood, it's hinted that Harding is either Born Lucky or Obfuscating Stupidity much of the time. Once elected, he reveals himself to much more devious than anybody in Washington had suspected.
- He is the subject of the Al Stewart song "Warren Harding" from Past, Present and Future.
- Harding appears indirectly in Downton Abbey: Cora's brother Harold Levinson ends up as one of the more minor players in Teapot Dome. Finding himself under investigation, Harold's lawyers seem to think that having an English earl vouch for him would help his case, and Lord Grantham is called over to America to testify before Congress to bail his brother-in-law out (intending to portray him as an honest dupe rather than a corrupt mastermind). A few characters (particularly the Dowager Countess) also comment on the weird name of the scandal.