Friday, March 05, 2021

Today -100: March 5, 1921: Of rumble and bumble

Warren Harding is now the 29th president of the United States. His inaugural address (delivered via loudspeaker, a first I believe) is described by the NYT as confirming “the popular impression of him as a man who makes no pretense of uncommon wisdom or force,” while H. L. Mencken reviews it thusly: “He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm (I was about to write abscess!) of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.” I dunno, H.L., the phrase “we must strive for normalcy to reach stability” is surely as fine an example of presidential oratory as we’ve had. Mencken does admit that the speech is not intended to be read but to be heard and that it might appeal to you “if you are the sort of man who goes to political meetings, which is to say, if you are the sort of man that Dr. Harding is used to talking to, which is to say, if you are a jackass.”

Headline of the Day -100:  

Movie cameras are not allowed to film Wilson’s slow, painful walk to the car, and he gives up on his plans to stay through the ceremony.

The NYT says:  “Whatever opinion history may eventually record of Mr. Harding’s abilities and accomplishments, there is no doubt that as he came down the steps amid a burst of hearty cheering by the crowd he looked every inch a President.” Well, give him an inch... and he’ll still suck. He kisses the bible after taking the oath. Is that a thing other presidents have done?

Harding’s cabinet choices are confirmed. All of them. Just like that. The only delay comes when Harding names Albert Fall to be interior secretary before Fall has resigned the Senate. Which he does, at which point the rest of the Senate starts yelling “Get out” and “You are no longer one of us” at him, because they’re all overgrown frat boys.

On his way out the door, Wilson pocket-vetoes the immigration restriction bill, and regular-vetoes the Emergency Tariff Bill and the Army Bill reducing the army to 156,666.

Italian Fascists burn Labor Bureaus in Siena and Empoli. “Those responsible for the Empoli fire said it was set in protest against the violence of the Communists.” Fascists are not big on irony.

Sean MacSwiney, brother of deceased Lord Mayor of Cork Terence, is sentenced to 15 years for waging war against the Crown and having arms and explosives.

The Allies suggested that an international commission look into the dispute between Greece and Turkey over Smyrna and Thrace. Greece says no.

A 20-year-old sailor, the alliterative Harold Hammond, does indeed have a woman in every port. A wife, in fact, 14 of them. He interspersed abandoning wives with going AWOL, first from the army, then the navy.

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