Warren G. Harding's Presidency

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What did Warren G. Harding accomplish?

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Harding accomplished very little and is often ranked by historians as one of our worst presidents.

Harding ran on a platform of "return to normalcy," meaning what many describe as isolationism. After WWI's inconclusive peace (to many Americans), he called for an end to involvement in foreign wars and treaties. Ironically, one of his few accomplishments was limited disarmament, reducing the size of the navy and asking Britain and Japan to do the same. Relations with the new governments of the Soviet Union and Mexico remained strained. There was aid sent to the Soviet Union but no recognition. Mexico was finally recognized, but US troops continued to occupy three Latin American nations invaded by the previous president, Woodrow Wilson.

Domestically, Harding did little. The postwar recession ended on its own. Harding did not foresee the rise in tariffs contributing to the coming Great Depression. He did little for civil rights. He believed in an anti-lynching bill but was unable to pass it. He spoke to segregated audiences, publicly supported literacy tests, and restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.

His was one of the most scandal-ridden administrations. "The Ohio Gang," as the press called them, used public office to enrich themselves. Harding admitted what they did "kept [him] up at night." Attorney General Dougherty and Interior Secretary Fall took bribes for oil leases. Veterans Bureau Chief Forbes hired personal friends, most of whom didn't work, and himself embezzled two million dollars and took kickbacks, fleeing to Europe before later returning to be sentenced.

Harding himself was not part of the scandals outside of urging Forbes to flee. Harding died of a heart attack before his term ended. After his death, many of Harding's mistresses came forward, including Nan Britten, with whom he fathered a child outside of marriage.

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