Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Warren G. Harding

About a quarter century ago, the good people of Texas elected a state treasurer by the name of Warren G. Harding. Most of them undoubtedly voted for him just because his name sounded familiar, or because of his Democratic party affiliation. He was eventually forced from office by scandal. But who was the more famous Warren G. Harding?

Until January 20, 2001, Warren Gamaliel Harding was the worst President the United States ever had. Elected in 1920, Harding openly admitted that he didn't have the knowledge or the skill to run the nation, so he left that job to his cabinet officials, many of whom were crooks. To the extent that Harding cared at all about politics, he, as good Republican, favored "laissez-faire" economic policies; in other words, the free market should regulate itself without interference from the government. Picked as a "dark horse" candidate despite his lack of distinction in government service, Harding successfully concealed numerous scandals in his past, including drinking and womanizing. The Republican Party was forced to bribe his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips, to keep her mouth shut. The Republicans also bribed Harding's brother-in-law, although his only sin was being Catholic — a major problem in trying to win KKK support in the Midwest. Harding's administration was rocked by scandals involving corrupt oil dealings, but Harding himself died before the scandals could reach all the way to the top.

And then, 80 years later, along came George Walker Bush, displacing Harding from the title of Worst American President. Funny, though, how much of the description of Harding fits Bush.