August 12, 2023

Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding

Source: Harris & Ewing

ATHENS—With energy bordering on the demonic I strut around an ancient stadium trying to make up for the debauchery of the past two weeks in Patmos. Alexandra has flown back to Gstaad and I’m staying with my oldest friend, Aliki Goulandris, whose magnificent country house north of the capital brings back very pleasant memories. Just saying her name, which is Alice in English, makes me think of my youth and my two tiny children who both grew up in this house. It was the golden age: Davis Cup, karate championships, polo in Paris, sailing the Nefertiti and Bushido, Lolly and JT and Alexandra swimming in the pool, and parties galore.

Among her many great qualities—she is an opera buff and a voracious reader—what I like most about Aliki is her refusal to order the lives of others. There are children and grandchildren, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, and many, many friends, and their habits and points of view remain their own, as Aliki believes in minding her own business. A friendship that spans close to seventy years is the result, and looking back, it is a past full of wonderful memories. Politicians, reformers, and suchlike are always giving advice, and nothing gets more on my nerves than having a total stranger tell me what’s good for me.

“Not only was Harding a great president, but he followed the worst ever: Woodrow Wilson.”

I know, smoking, booze, drugs, gambling, and loose women are all bad for one, but the last thing I want to hear is that they’re bad for me from a stranger or even a friend. People are always dispensing advice, but how can one advise another how to act unless one knows the other better than one knows oneself? We can only guess at the thoughts and emotions of others, yet many bores dispense advice like confetti at an Italian wedding. Needless to say, politicians are among those dispensing free advice at the drop of a hat, as are club bores. The present occupant of the White House is always telling us what we should do, but he’s among the phoniest ever. This is why I love Warren Harding, the greatest American president, who died one hundred years ago this month. Not only was Harding a great president, but he followed the worst ever: Woodrow Wilson. I’ll get to the great Harding in a jiffy, but first a few thoughts on the dastardly Wilson.

The Princeton professor who became president never came to terms with his mediocrity. Instead, he jailed critics of his war, suspended civil liberties, and managed to act like a dictator until a stroke sidelined him and his ghastly wife took over and ran the country. It was banana-republic stuff until in 1920 when the great Harding was elected and things returned to normal. Harding liked women and people and drink, and won more than 60 percent of the vote, something only Richard Nixon, another great president, managed in 1972, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and FDR in 1936. FDR and Johnson are not my cup of tea; Harding and Nixon are my real heroes.

Harding is always ranked near the bottom by the lefty press because he was conservative, kept mistresses, and liked people, things those who write for, say, the Bagel Times would like to be able to do but are physically too repellent to achieve. Hence, Harding ranks low. He also fathered a child while in the White House, which is a healthy thing to do, at least as far as I’m concerned. Better a birth in a big house with plenty of staff than in a crowded tenement already full of screaming hungry children. Am I right or am I right?

Harding died in office, and millions lined the railroad tracks to honor his corpse being brought back from California to D.C. Now some dickheads in the press say Harding was not a great president. I say who elected the dickheads to tell us what they think? Wilson told a major lie and split the nation when he entered the war, all for personal glory, whereas Harding united the people afterward with his bonhomie, honesty, and good nature. The great military expert Professor Taki is adamant about one thing: Had America not entered the great conflict in 1917, there would have been no communism in Russia nor Nazism in Germany following.

Never mind. The past is the past and there’s nothing we can do about it except to try and not repeat some of the stuff that harmed mankind. But here I am sounding like a bore giving advice. A young friend of my son who has been reading me for a very long time asked for some advice only last week during a party. He’s in his late 30s, lives with an American gal in Athens, and wanted to know which city I’d pick to live in if I were in his situation. I used to know his mother, who at one point was the prettiest girl in Athens, and he’s very rich. Here it is:

Paris has totally changed from the party place it used to be, so the City of Light is out. London’s weather is known to make some people used to the sun quite miserable, and it is very crowded to boot. New York is filthy, dangerous, overrun with migrants, and for masochists only. I told him Rome’s his best bet, and now my son tells me Rome is his buddy’s next destination. Mine is a grand sailing boat and perhaps some Hollywood floozies.


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