As always, I renew my objection that there aren’t more books about the Warren Harding administration. People write off Harding as yet another dull mediocre white guy who briefly served in office before dying. But there’s more! Harding’s time was fascinating, both during and after his death. Ludicrously corrupt politics amidst the background of the Roaring 20s? Come on, now.
Anyway, I was hoping this would cover Harding more but instead, it focused on Harry Daugherty and his dirty deeds. And that’s fine. It was still a readable, fascinating look at Burt Wheeler’s pursuit of justice, imperfect though it was. Daugherty and his ilk were worse than even I knew through the Teapot Dome scandal and Nathan Masters brings all the juicy details of Wheeler’s crusade. While he can sometimes get tied up in detail, he keeps his focus well and the narrative never loses momentum.
Masters also wrote at length on something I didn’t know: the DOJ bringing trumped up federal charges against Wheeler, no doubt in part because of his pursuit of Daugherty. What a mess. Even J. Edgar Hoover was involved, beginning the “Bureau of Investigation” under the Attorney General. Masters also touches on the fact that Wheeler was by no means some sort of super hero crusader: he relied on embellishment and innuendo in his campaign against Daugherty, and spent his final years in office stumping for Charles Lindbergh’s anti-Semitic America First party before and during WWII. There are no real winners here.
Anyway, this is an easy-to-read look at a political corruption scandal in the US that should be better known.