This President’s Day, let’s honor the chief executive that many people call the worst we have ever had… Warren Gamaliel Harding.
My friends know I have a mild Harding obsession as I’ve read way too many books about him. Yeah, he was totally unqualified for the job. He skyrocketed from newspaper publisher to Senator to President because a lot of corrupt people thought he looked the part, was a backslapping extrovert that everyone seemed to like and let the corrupt people do what they want.
And he assembled an astonishingly corrupt cabinet. When the Attorney General was a criminal and the Secretary of the Interior was selling off land for his own profit, then yeah… we’re dealing with some corrupt people. And many of the relaxed regulations from his era lead to the Great Depression.
And he seemed to have sex with everything except the original copy of the Constitution and supposedly had a child out of wedlock.
And of course he kind of died just before the brown stuff hit the fan, but I am not saying there was anything suspicious about that. How dare you accuse his wife?
But in Harding’s defense, there was peace and relative prosperity in his Presidency and putting him on the bottom isn’t fair. (I’m looking at YOU Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan!)
And Harding was an avid baseball fan. The Ohio native was a Cincinnati Reds fan but went to many Washington Senators games when he was a senator himself.
During his campaign for President in 1920, the Harding team hired Albert Lasker the advertising genius to mold the candidate’s image. At the time treating a Presidential candidate like a product was novel. Harding loved to golf but Lasker made sure that no pictures of him were made public. He felt that golf was too snobby. Baseball was the sport of the common man. And Lasker had connections with the Cubs.
So in September of 1920, 2 months before the election, Harding staged an exhibition game with the Cubs for his campaign. They played an Ohio Semi Pro team and guess who came in to pitch?
Yup, Republican Presidential nominee Warren G. Harding!
He then had a photo opp with Cubs pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. (This was written up in the great book Selling The President by John Morvello.)
He beat James Cox for the Presidency and was actually beloved in his time.
In fact Hall of Famer Warren Spahn was named after Harding.
He died (under odd circumstances in San Francisco) in 1923. The very next year, Washington had their lone World Championship. The bland Calvin Coolidge met the World Champion Senators. No doubt Harding would have given them quite a party.
So let’s salute Warren G. Harding. He wasn’t a great President… but I must say he seemed like a cool guy and certainly someone I’d want to see a ballgame with!