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The Unitary ExecutivePresidential Power from Washington to Bush$
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Steven G. Calabresi and Christopher S. Yoo

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780300121261

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300121261.001.0001

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Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding

(p.261) 29 Warren G. Harding
The Unitary Executive

Steven G. Calabresi

Christopher S. Yoo

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses one of the worst presidents in American history—Warren Harding. In fact, even Harding himself acknowledged his own shortcomings, stating to Columbia University's president that “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.” A congenial man who eschewed conflict, Harding was by nature most comfortable remaining outside the fray and conciliating divergent interests. This outlook made him deeply suspicious of strong presidential power, which he believed could only lead to troubled relations with Congress, as it had during the Wilson administration. This vision turned the presidency into a largely ceremonial office whose main purpose was to serve as a beloved source of national pride. There was little room in it for political leadership. Harding's legacy was ultimately consumed by a series of scandals, which culminated in the conviction and imprisonment of one of his cabinet secretaries.

Keywords:   congenial man, Warren Harding, divergent interests, presidential power, troubled relations, Wilson administration, ceremonial office, political leadership

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