Blogs > Liberty and Power > The "Madness" of Defending Warren G. Harding: Who is the Ideologue?

Jun 13, 2004 7:38 pm

The "Madness" of Defending Warren G. Harding: Who is the Ideologue?

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David T. Beito - 6/14/2004

I rather like Silent Cal but Harding has certain advantages. Unlike Coolidge, for example, Harding struck important blows for world peace (the Washington Naval Treaty) and for civil liberties (the release of Debs, etc). He also had a better civil rights record. He not only supported anti-lynching legislation but defended the rights of blacks in a controversial speech that he gave in the South.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/13/2004

If your proposition were that David Beito deserves ranking as "near great" or even "great" as a historian, I'd be right there on your side of the argument. And, if you must be put away, I'll be among those demanding that it be only in the finest facility.
But, David, libertarian values stand almost all received wisdom on its head. The Harding administration was marred both by widespread corruption at the highest levels; and by personal scandal on Harding's part. It's a bit like getting the worst of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in one administrative head.
Oddly, perhaps, I agree with you that Woodrow Wilson's positive state was shadowed by some really troubling aspects, but greatness rarely if ever lies in inactivity. Why isn't Calvin Coolidge, then, greater than Harding? Greatness lies in positive accomplishment: modeling a national government (Washington); saving the nation from disunion (Lincoln); leading the nation and the world in economic crisis and confrontation with totalitarianism (Roosevelt).