Warren G. Harding: A President Overshadowed by Scandal

Warren G. Harding became the 29th President of the United States in 1921, promising a “return to normalcy” after the turmoil of World War I. While outwardly popular, his presidency would later be remembered less for his policies and more for the scandals that would tarnish his legacy.

Small-Town Roots to the National Stage

Born in rural Ohio in 1865, Warren G. Harding’s career began in journalism. He purchased a struggling newspaper, The Marion Star, transforming it into a successful business – a cornerstone of his reputation in the community. Harding’s genial personality and handsome looks made him a well-liked figure, propelling him into Ohio state politics, and eventually, a seat in the US Senate.

A Dark Horse President

Harding wasn’t considered a frontrunner for the presidency in 1920. However, a deadlocked Republican convention led to Harding emerging as a compromise candidate. His campaign’s promise of a return to simpler times after the war resonated with a public weary of international involvement. He won the election in a landslide.

Policies and Politics

Harding favored pro-business policies and reduced taxes, leading to economic growth during his short time in office. He also played a role in easing international tensions, particularly by arranging the Washington Naval Conference aimed at limiting global naval power.

The “Ohio Gang” and Scandals

The biggest stains on Harding’s presidency come from the friends and associates he appointed to high-level roles in his administration. Many of these individuals, known as the “Ohio Gang,” used their positions for personal gain and profit. The most infamous scandal, the Teapot Dome affair, involved the Secretary of the Interior accepting bribes to lease government oil reserves to private companies without competitive bidding.

A Sudden Death

Harding died suddenly in 1923 while on a cross-country trip, likely from a heart attack. The full extent of the scandals his administration harbored wouldn’t come to light until after his death. His Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, succeeded him.

A Legacy Tarnished

Warren G. Harding is often ranked as one of the worst presidents in US history due to the rampant corruption within his administration. While he himself might not have been directly involved in the scandals, his judgment in appointing questionable figures to positions of power has left a lasting mark on his presidency. His story is a cautionary tale about the importance of ethical leadership and the lasting damage corruption can cause.

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