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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short book that makes some good points, December 25, 2003
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This review is from: Warren G. Harding: The American Presidents Series: The 29th President, 1921-1923 (Hardcover)
John W. Dean's new short biography of Warren G. Harding, the twenty-ninth president of the United States, is a welcome addition to the scant amount of good literature on the president who enjoyed a great reputation while in office, but sank to the bottom of the list when scandals and corruption in his administration were exposed after his death. For us Harding enthusiasts Dean's book makes the explicit point that Harding wasn't really all that bad...that after all, he had some successes in the abbreviated term he served from 1921-1923. To this end, I believe Dean has made a strong case.
Warren Harding was a man whose entire life seemed to be clouded in intrigue and mystery. It's always been a wonder to me why historians haven't written more about him. From the gossipy "The Shadow of Blooming Grove" (1968) through Dean's book, one senses a definite uptick in Harding's reputation. Dean recites Harding's accomplishments....the Washington disarmament conference (1921-22), the creation of the Bureau of the Budget and his naming of former president William Howard Taft to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The author gives Harding praise for his efforts to help settle the coal and railroad strikes and his ability to stand up to Congress when he thought he was right. In Dean's book President Harding comes across more forcefully than in other books I've read about this president.
Dean suggests that one of Harding's biggest political achievements was his ability not to make enemies. Of course, this was his biggest problem, too. Dean is careful not to elevate Harding too high and the overall success of this book is to keep Harding out of the cellar of the ranking of presidents. Perhaps that space can now be occupied by James Buchanan.
John Dean conquers no new real historic ground. The book is very short and more, I think, aimed at readers who don't know too much about Warren Harding. Dean's prose is sometimes a bit wooden and I wish he had included a few more photographs. I particularly enjoyed the section on Harding's selection of the cabinet and the comments about Harding's speaking style and substance by William McAdoo and H.L. Mencken (page 73) are very funny.
Was Warren G. Harding fit for the presidency? Even Harding wondered about that, himself. John Dean has essentially said "yes" and I agree with him. The author has presented a well-researched book and one that deserves to be read.
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Location: Old Greenwich, Ct. USA

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