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Warren Harding fell in love with his beautiful neighbor, Carrie Phillips, in the summer of 1905, almost a decade before he was elected a United States Senator and fifteen years before he became the 29th President of the United States. When the two lovers started their long-term and torrid affair, neither of them could have foreseen that their relationship would play out against one of the greatest wars in world history--the First World War. Harding would become a Senator with the power to vote for war; Mrs. Phillips and her daughter would become German agents, spying on a U. S. training camp on Long Island in the hopes of gauging for the Germans the pace of mobilization of the U. S. Army for entry into the battlefields in France.
Based on over 800 pages of correspondence discovered in the 1960s but under seal ever since in the Library of Congress, The Harding Affair will tell the unknown stories of Harding as a powerful Senator and his personal and political life, including his complicated romance with Mrs. Phillips. The book will also explore the reasons for the entry of the United States into the European conflict and explain why so many Americans at the time supported Germany, even after the U. S. became involved in the spring of 1917.
James David Robenalt's comprehensive study of the letters is set in a narrative that weaves in a real-life spy story with the story of Harding's not accidental rise to the presidency.
Customer Reviews (39)
Facinating look at a presidental love affair
Newly disclosed love letters between President Warren G. Harding and the woman he loved, long time mistress Carrie Phillips open the view to a tawdry and little known part of Harding's life.Often in the bottom portion of presidential rankings, these letters shed light on Harding's obsession.The object of his affection, Phillips may have had ties with German intelligence, certainly she was a German sympathizer. Phillipsused her wealthyfather's home with a close proximity to a local Army base to seek the company of youngofficers and others.The local Postmaster observed letters from Phillips to her father and a local navy man and alerted the Ohio Bureau of Investigation.Soon the affair was no longer secret.The woman threatened to blackmail Harding when it appeared he might be the a nominee for president.These letters are not necessary to judge Harding a weak president...he chose less than qualified cabinet members and seldom spoke on any issues of import.The letters probably give more insight into how he actually felt on the nation emerging post World War II.Reading the details of his love affair may actually embarrass the reader....and raises the question what part the press may have played in overlooking his indiscretions. This is an eye opener.
What Puritans we have all become!
Look at that upright downright stalwart fellow on the cover of the book! Doesn't he look like a splendid and admirable character, worthy to be a president of the United States? Don't let him fool you. Harding's behavior makes Bill Clinton's sexual fun and games look like no more than a wink and a smile. It must have been a lot easier in Harding's day to keep your secrets secret.
The reviewer who thought the type was too small needs new glasses.
The book was sloppily written.
Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Warren G. Harding was not the first President to have an extra-marital affair. But his passionate and stormy love for Mrs. Carrie Phillips could have incurred more than general disapproval had it been revealed to the world at large; during World War One, when their relationship was at its most intense, Harding was a Senator with a stellar political future and Carrie Phillips was very likely a German spy.
Harding and Phillips were wrong for each other on many levels, something that became more evident as their affair wound to a close: she wanted him to abandon his political aspirations (it was alleged that she talked him out of running for president in 1916), and he begged her to bury the pro-German sympathies that had been instilled in her after years spent living in Berlin. Author James Robenalt skillfully parallels the deterioration of their relationship with the dissolution of U.S. - German relations as the war progressed.
In "The Harding Affair" Robenalt weaves the intense and volatile contents of some long-suppressed love letters with a well-researched account of the United States prior to and during the First World War. It's an incredible story: were it not for the fact that the events actually happened, the book would rank as one of the greatest espionage novels ever written.
James D. Robenalt's Transformative Book on Warren G. Harding
Five stars for good reason - James D. Robenalt has delivered a transformative book on Warren G. Harding, and an engaging one. Speaking personally, I can say that through his book I came to appreciate and respect Warren Harding's intelligence and ambition even more than before. I say "personally" and "before" because I was born and raised in Harding's hometown of Marion, Ohio, thus I grew up knowing people who knew him, people who in some cases seemed a bit bewildered - sometimes even indignant and offended - by the disparity between the bright, ambitious and successful man they remembered, and the image of Harding that coalesced after his death - the image of the man that 20th century historians so often voted the worst president in American history and often discredited with such adjectives as "buffoon" and "lazy." Discussion here of the disparity between Harding's presidency and his legacy would be totally outside the context and timeframe of Robenalt's book.
Suffice to say that Francis Russell and certain historians and opinion-makers have been to Warren G. Harding's reputation what Albert Fall, Charlie Forbes and Harry Daugherty were to his administration.
Robenalt's The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War continues a reappraisal that John W. Dean (who wrote the foreword) undertook a few years ago in his book on Warren G. Harding for the American Presidents Series. Both books begin to strip away some of the old negative views and clichés that have long haunted the Harding legacy.
Robenalt has done the unlikely. Using amorous letters that Harding wrote to another Marion resident, Mrs. Carrie Phillips, he allows Harding to illuminate his own personality, intelligence, and (ironically) his integrity.The letters are sometimes explicit, but many are also encompassing, dealing with events of the day - especially the Great War and events leading to the United States taking sides against Germany and the Habsburg Empire. Mrs. Phillips sympathized with Germany - dangerously so. Indeed, within the broad parameters of the Espionage and Sedition Acts, Mrs. Phillips most emphatically was a "spy," though presumably many people today (and at the time) would deem those laws an assault upon rights guarantied by the First Amendment. Surely no historian would confuse Carrie Phillips with the likes of Mata Hari, but then again, no one familiar with Mrs. Phillips, and with the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918, respectively, could doubt that she was fluttering her cape at a bull.
These letters show a lot, Harding's intense love for his mistress and, oddly enough, his devotion and concern for his wife, and on a broader stage, his concern and prescience for his country regarding how the future might unfold if the US failed - paraphrasing George Washington - to exempt itself from the broils of foreign and distant war.
Robenalt's book goes beyond its title and does much to restore Harding to his rightful place as a good, capable man who would soon become President. I am reminded yet again of the contention that I heard while growing up, that Mr. Harding would have grown in office, had he lived.
Robenalt touches upon an intriguing possibility, one of the great overlooked "what if's" of the 20th century - and thus by extension, the 21st century. What if Warren G. Harding had run for the presidency in 1916? (Mrs. Phillips did not want him to.) What if the charismatic and affable Harding had defeated the stern and cantankerous Wilson, as he almost certainly would have done?
Well, the 20th century would have unfolded so very differently. For one, a little German corporal with a comic man's mustache would surely have vanished unknown into history, like a polluted little raindrop falling into the sea. That supposition, of course, presumes yet another presupposition - that Corporal Adolph Hitler would have survived the Great War, which the US helped bring to an indecisive and perhaps abbreviated close.
James D. Robenalt's book, on a long ago adulterous love affair between two neighbors in a little town in Ohio, visits these great issues and more - and along the way, casts new light on one of our most maligned Presidents.
The Harding Affair
Enjoyed The Harding Affair very much, very informative, sourced and well written. I was interested in President Harding's affair with a German spy. The child born to him out of wedlock was of interest.
The book arrived in excellent condition I would purchase from this company again.
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