A kindly, genial man who should never have given up his career as a journalist.
A genial, kindly, well-meaning, lovable man, typical of a large group of Americans—this was President Harding. Every one who met him was attracted to his personality. To this favorable impression his fine appearance contributed not a little. Nobody could have been seen to better physical advantage than Mr. Harding on such state occasions as the burial of the unknown soldier and the opening of the Conference for the Limitation of Armaments. He was then both dignified and impressive. Moreover, after the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, it was a profound relief to have in the highest public office a man to whom one could make an appeal to the heart. The very fact that he had risen from humble origins, that most of his life had been spent in a small town characteristic of the Middle West, gave him a fellow-feeling for the plain American of which no rise in situation could deprive him. That kindliness and understanding made him release Eugene Debs, made him feel sympathy for many victims of the passions of the war, and disposed him generally to a kindly view of the world and its people. It is this quality of generous good-will for which Mr. Harding will, we believe, be chiefly remembered; it is with this that the saga we build up about our Presidents will largely concern itself when time deals with Warren Harding—precisely as William McKinley is remembered for his amiable personal qualities.
If one could stop here it would be a pleasure. But he who would record contemporary truths cannot afford either to paint but one side of the picture or to color the whole with that feeling of compassion for Mrs. Harding and the poignant regret and sorrow which every American must have felt when he read that not wholly unexpected news from San Francisco. The fact is that as President Mr. Harding was much to be pitied. He was pitchforked into the position not by the pre-nomination votes of large groups of his fellow-countrymen, but as a result of the final secret confab of a few machine leaders in a private parlor in the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. Not by training nor by antecedents nor by knowledge was he equal to his position, in which he could hardly keep abreast of the current work. To map out any really constructive policies was beyond him. The defects of his amiability made themselves felt hourly, for he found it harder and harder to take a position and stick to it—witness his three several positions upon the question of American participation in the new World Court.
In domestic problems he was as helpless as every similar Republican President is certain to be, being bound and pinioned by the historic party policies and that invisible big-business control which constitutes the real government of the country. He was aware that the times were out of joint; yet he had no remedies to suggest save the old salves and cures that were supposed to work wonders thirty-five years ago. So far as the situation of the world is concerned, Mr. Harding’s incumbency of the presidential office, together with the dominant influence exerted by Messrs. Hughes and Hoover in foreign affairs, has been a dreadful misfortune.