Warren G. Harding by John Dean (Pres. Bio. Series)

Probably the only thing that we really associate with Warren Harding a century after his life is scandal. Even there, we wouldn’t call it exciting scandal, because it essentially forgotten in our country. Perhaps you remember a history teacher saying something about the Teapot Dome scandal, but then again, probably not. If you are into presidential history and biography , perhaps you have noticed that Harding has always been a serious competitor for the worst president ever. At least that is what I have always thought. Now enter this biography by John W. Dean. Believe it or not, he moved my opinion of Harding… a little.

This biography is part of the American Presidents Series, a series I always turn to for the lesser known presidents. Lesser known presidents who have no particularly outstanding accomplishments generally don’t have an awesome biography anyway. For an investment of less than 200 pages you can get a concise biography in your quest to cover every president. Some of them are better than others, and this one is at least well written for what it is.

This one is perhaps unique in the series as the one that is the most driven to rehabilitate the reputation of its subject. One of Harding’s scandals is his fathering a child out of wedlock just before he assumed the presidency. Mr. Dean was convinced Harding was innocent, but subsequent DNA testing has proved the accusation was, in fact, true.

Still Mr. Dean lead me to believe that something of a hatchet job was done on Harding. As he points out, Harding‘s wife burned his papers thinking she was doing his reputation a favor when in fact any proof to counteract wild claims went up in the smoke of her actions.

Perhaps Harding did pick a few cabinet members who were crooks without his knowledge. His legislative record was not outstanding but was sufficient for his times. He took no egregious positions and showed some real political skills in a variety of ways. He is still miles away from being a great president, but as long as John Tyler is remembered he should be spared from being the worst!

As I usually do, I kept my eyes peeled for the religious background of this president. To be frank, very little existed beyond some perfunctory religious statements. He clearly had some personal life issues. Still, he was likable and decent to all those he worked with. In fact, he often tried to be very cautious about needlessly angering his opponents. For what it’s worth, both the opinion of his friends and the public was phenomenally higher before his untimely death than when several took up the pen to destroy his name afterward. My opinion: The real Warren Harding probably fell somewhere between the high marks given in this biography and the flunking grades given by many over the years. To be fair, had he not died unexpectedly of heart trouble, he might have been able to have addressed the scandal and got it turned around. There’s really no other failure in his term of office that should cause his reputation to get so thoroughly creamed. The dark stain on his reputation is exclusively from his private life and scandal involving subordinates.

I will also judge this biography a success because even beyond it’s near whitewashing of some aspects of his life it got me, the reader, to slightly sway my opinion of Harding. That would have to be a win for the biographer.

Amos (NICOT) by M. Daniel Carroll R.

I’ve been hearing that this commentary was coming for many years and it’s always been said that when it arrived it would be a good one. I’ve been reviewing commentaries for several years now and have much experience in even reading about some scholarly subjects that are beyond the scope of my personal interests. One thing is clear to me, when it comes to a detailed scholarly commentary on a book of the Bible, we are in the hands of a master in this volume.

It’s not that he takes a completely different approach to the task of writing a commentary. No, all the usual subjects are found in the introduction and what is explained in the commentary proper is within the usual parameters. It’s the deftness, proficiency, and expertise that shows up in paragraph after paragraph.

The icing on the cake is the generally conservative conclusions that are given. Sometimes you have a person who is a whiz at writing a commentary yet who concludes nonsense, but you will not find that here even though some scholarly subjects are so esoteric that you wonder why scholars even trouble themselves with it.

Instead of breaking down all the things covered in the introduction as I usually do, I’m going to skip to the chase. If you are building a first-rate scholarly library you simply must have this volume. There’s really no debate. I’ll make a prediction too: this commentary will be one of the most quoted on Amos in scholarly works for at least 25 years. Pastors will want other works too, but this is THE scholarly work on Amos now that it’s been released.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.