Saturday, November 19, 2016

Warren G. Harding

The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times - Francis Russell
ISBN 0070543380

Almost 700 pages on one of the worst Presidents in history. Pull my other leg, says the wary reader, ever mindful of time and effort.  

In fact, readers who enjoy popular biographies would enjoy this clearly written book. It is strongest on Harding and of his closest personal relationships and clear about how a genial non-entity with the gift of gab survived and prospered in the snake pit of state and national politics.

Russell has a sure touch with the most suitable anecdote and his digressions are many and varied. For instance, he runs off on fascinating tangents such as the ceremonies related to burial of the Unknown Soldier, Harding's suspected Negro ancestry, his inauguration, and his funeral.

He handles at length deeper subjects such as the labyrinth of Ohio politics, the Dark Convention of 1920, and the Teapot Dome Scandal, in which he cuts Fall and Sinclair more slack than one would expect. Even Harry Daugherty comes off better than his unsavory reputation would lead us to believe.

I’m not an expert but even I know that Washington Arms Conference was more important than Russell evaluates it, so I daresay genuine historians have other and more serious problems with this pop bio. But readers who like popular histories would enjoy it, while more jaded readers will wearily observe that empty suits and unqualified buffoons as Presidents are nothing new.

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