[FOUNTAIN]At the top, over his headSome people are put in a position they do not deserve, only to be crushed by the weight of the job. Warren Harding, the 29th president of the United States, was one of them. He confessed that he was not fit for the office of the president, and said he shouldn’t have taken on the responsibilities.
Mr. Harding became president thanks in part to Harry M. Daugherty, a clever politician from Ohio. Mr. Daugherty backed Mr. Harding and helped him become a senator, and ultimately president, because Mr. Harding was tall, had strong features that exuded confidence and was a gifted speaker. Once Mr. Harding became president, he appointed Mr. Dougherty as his attorney general. He also appointed his relatives and poker buddies to other govenrment posts.
President Jimmy Carter was surrounded by his “Georgia Mafia,” and President George W. Bush has his friends from Texas. President Harding’s “Ohio Gang,” however, was the most notorious. During prohibition, its members secretly hoarded alcohol from government warehouses in their hideout in Washington D.C. and sold official posts, government projects, pardons, paroles and acquittals for money. They also played poker twice a week at the White House.
They were poor gamblers. The Republican Party lost most of its seats in Congress in the midterm election. Key members of the Ohio Gang were charged with corruption. Charles Forbes, the director of the Veterans Bureau, was convicted of embezzling money from the budget and illegally selling military medical supplies. Secretary of Interior Albert B. Fall was found to have taken a huge bribe in return for selling naval oil reserves.
President Ulysses Grant was said to have opened the “Era of Good Stealings,” a parody of President James Monroe’s “Era of Good Feelings.” President Grant made the mistake of making important appointment decisions based not on reputation or public interest but on personal connections.
Vice President Schuyler Colfax was charged with embezzling from the federal budget. Secretary of War William Belknap received money from merchants operating on Indian reservations. An official in charge of tax collection in the Department of Treasury, whom Mr. Grant had called “the most honest and trustworthy man we have,” conspired with whisky distillers to divert tax revenue into his pockets.
What Mr. Grant and Mr. Harding have in common is the fact that they appointed friends and relatives to public posts. When you give someone responsibility he cannot handle, the appointer, as well as the appointee, will end up with a bad name.
by Kim Jin-kook
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.