From Publishers Weekly
Dean-of Watergate fame and author of the memoirs Blind Ambition and Lost Honor-does his best to make Warren G. Harding's lethargic life and scandal-laced presidency sound interesting. Throughout his entire pre-presidential career-including stints in both the Ohio state senate and the U.S. Senate-Harding was, for the most part, nothing more than an amiable nonentity. No bill of any consequence bore his name nor did he champion any measure worth recalling. Elected the nation's 29th chief executive in 1920 by an overwhelming vote in a postwar reaction against Wilson's foreign policies, Harding was the first president born after the Civil War. He was destined to die in office in 1923, but even before his death, he allowed the infamous Teapot Dome fiasco (based largely on dubious dealings conducted by the most notorious of Harding's many mediocre appointees-the anticonservationist secretary of the interior, Albert B. Fall) to occur. In an attempt to give Harding his due, Dean points out that he did at least bring to an end President Wilson's longstanding practice of excluding blacks from federal appointments. As well, in a speech of rare passion and boldness delivered in Birmingham, Ala., he called for political, economic and educational equity between the races. His most permanent domestic accomplishment, however, was as dull as it was necessary: the creation of the Bureau of the Budget. Dean (and Arthur Schlesinger's American Presidents series) is not to be faulted for the fact that Harding's life is a yawn-but a yawn it is.
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–Harding is perhaps the best-known president about whom we actually know very little. His administration is seen as marking a conservative reaction to the progressivism begun by one Roosevelt and setting up the conditions for the progressivism of another. More personally, he appears as the hapless front man for the gang of thieves whose crimes culminated in the Teapot Dome Scandal, the acme of political scandals until Watergate. Dean is from Harding's hometown in Ohio and learned about him from residents who knew him there. Taking full advantage of the president's papers, which generally have been unused by historians, the author set out to discern who Harding was. The man who emerges is far more nuanced and interesting than would be presumed. He comes across as an individual of skill and drive who was caught up in the issues of his day, such as international disarmament and industrial conflict, and at a time far more demanding and dangerous than tends to be conjured up by images of the 1920s. Some of his officials served him well and others behaved badly as Harding sought to carry the country into the future without losing touch with the past. Readers cannot deny that there is more to this figure than they ever assumed and Dean deserves a great deal of credit for making them aware of that.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
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