If you listen to political pundits today, many will compare the administration of Barack Obama to the administration of Jimmy Carter. Most pundits do this because Jimmy Carter is considered to be the least successful one term Democratic President in American history. Upon further review, however, it is evident that the Obama administration has little in common with that of Jimmy Carter and more to do with another one term, twentieth century President, Warren G. Harding.
The parallels between the administration of Warren G. Harding and Barack Obama truly are stunning. The election of Warren G. Harding was essentially a referendum on his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson and in particular his foreign policy and the structure (or lack thereof) of the League of Nations. The election of Barack Obama was essentially a referendum on George W. Bush and in particular, the war in Iraq. Even in the campaign the parallels are so interesting they are almost impossible to ignore.
Harding conducted a front porch campaign from his house in Marion Ohio, while his opponent James Cox traveled 22,000 miles and delivered 400 speeches all of which went for naught. Barack Obama’s opponent: John McCain travelled over 25,000 miles and delivered exactly 412 speeches between the Republican National Convention and the November General Election. James Cox was the first Presidential candidate to visit Alaska, ninety years later; John McCain was the second and picked up his Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin along the way.
Harding, like Obama was also an eloquent speaker. He said in his inaugural address that “a world super government is contrary to everything we cherish and can have no sanction by our public. This is not selfishness it is sanctity. It is not aloofness it is security. It is not suspicion of others it is patriotic adherence to the things which made us what we are.” Here, Harding was trying to align himself with pro League of Nations voters while attempting to distance himself from the actual League of Nations. Similarly, in his first year in office President Obama put together a series of Wall Street reforms all the while trying to distance himself from Wall Street bankers.
Harding surrounded himself with the best of the best in government saying “we need to think like Lincoln.” Barack Obama said the exact same thing after Hillary Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State. Harding’s Secretary of State was Charles Evans Hughes who had worked in the administrations of William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson. Harding’s attorney general Perry Dougherty was indicted for conspiracy to defraud the government. He survived two hung juries and eventually claimed vindication, however a bill of impeachment was filed against him with the House Judiciary Committee charging him with among other things; failure to enforce antitrust laws and using undue influence with Corporate Conglomerates and spying on unfriendly members of Congress. Harding professed confidence in his Atty. Gen. and the impeachment effort failed.
Pres. Obama currently has a secretary of the treasury who has overseen many of the same charges but like Dougherty, the current Congress lacks the evidence to impeach him. The AIG crisis is no different than the misdeeds of Harding’s Atty. Gen. in that both sought to enhance private institutions using public welfare.
The likenesses don’t stop there. After Hardings’ death in 1923, Calvin Coolidge summed up Harding with these words: “He caught the ear of a war-tired world. He called our country back to paths of peace and gladly it came. He beckoned the nations to come and sit in council. He sought for men and nations a peace, the only true and lasting peace, based on justice and right. He led the way in monumental accomplishments and was always selfless in his pursuit of public justice.” Sound like a recent twenty-first century President?
Perhaps the most interesting parallels are those which don’t garner the spotlight. When Harding assumed office his party held 59 seats in the United States Senate. When Barack Obama assumed office his party held (you guessed it) 59 seats in the United States Senate. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Harding had a 40 seat majority. Barack Obama held a 42 seat majority when he took office (he now has a 40 seat majority.)
Also of interest is the rise of these two political stars. Warren G. Harding was a state senator who served less than one term in the United States Senate before delivering the key note address at his party’s convention in 1916, four years before he would be nominated himself. Barack Obama was a state senator who served less than one term in the United States Senate before delivering the key note address at his party’s convention in 2004, four years before he would be nominated himself.
One year into his term a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Tokyo, Japan, requiring a major U.S. effort to help stabilize the country. 140,000 people died. One year into his term, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Port-Au-Prince Haiti, requiring a major U.S. effort to help stabilize the country. 140,000 people died.
In case this tumultuous amount of evidence isn’t enough for you, consider their Vice-Presidents. Calvin Coolidge was the first Vice-President with the first name Calvin and was the first Vice-President from Delaware. Joseph Biden was the first Vice-President with the first name Joseph and is the second Vice-President from Delaware. Got goose bumps yet? You should.
Warren G. Harding was born August 4, 1871, making him 49 at the time of his inauguration. Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961, making him 48 at the time of his inauguration. Both Harding and Obama were practicing Southern Baptists and both had two children.