The Available Man: The Life behind the Masks of Warren Gamaliel Harding

The Available Man: The Life behind the Masks of Warren Gamaliel Harding

The Available Man: The Life behind the Masks of Warren Gamaliel Harding

The Available Man: The Life behind the Masks of Warren Gamaliel Harding

Excerpt

"Let me urge you again to write the Harding story," Brand Whitlock wrote to William Allen White, as one progressive Republican to another. "It has all the elements of an old Greek tragedy, with the angry and disgusted gods at the end wiping out all of the personages in a kind of Olympian Fury." SUPSUP SUPSUP White did not write the Harding story. For the Kansas editor was as fervent a believer in the small-town myths of America as was his proposed subject. When the disgusted gods had wiped out Warren Gamaliel Harding and his friends, they had also begun to wipe out the myths that had made him President of the United States. Main Street was rarely to enter the White House so easily again.

Warren Harding became the most notorious President in American history because the myths that had formed him were not adequate to meet with the power and responsibility of the Presidency after the First World War. As Will Hays commented when he was a member of Harding's Cabinet, "The government is like a corner grocery which a few years ago could be run by one man, and now we try to use the same system in running Marshall Fields."SUPSUP SUPSUP Harding could have run admirably a corner grocery, as he ran his small-town newspaper, the Marion (Ohio) Star. Unfortunately, social and political myths washed him into the Presidency and left him stranded there. He could not cope with the international and industrial complexity of postwar America with the beliefs of small-town Ohio. It was too late to muddle through.

As a man, Harding was uninteresting. He was not important . . .

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