Thursday, Jul. 12, 2012
Twist in Time: Harding, Clinton and the Oval Office
By Bill Coate
Harding, Clinton And The Oval Office
Warren G. Harding was never known for his dedication to principle. His administration has been characterized as a series of moral failures, the most notorious of which was the Tea Pot Dome Scandal. In addition to this national disgrace, President Harding is also remembered for his marital infidelity, and in this he anticipated the antics of one who would follow him to the White House, proving once again that history does repeat itself, even in the Oval Office.
Harding was considered to be quite a handsome man, and more than a few Republicans thought that his good looks and charm would prove to be a political asset. However, as much as Harding sought the female vote, he longed for their companionship even more, notwithstanding the fact that he was a married man. In his first known dalliance, Harding engaged the affections of Carrie Phillips, the wife of one of his good friends. This romance continued for 15 years, until Carrie insisted that they both obtain divorces and put their relationship on a respectable footing. This Harding was unwilling to do, so he dumped her and found a new object for his affections, a pretty 20-year-old blonde by the name of Nan Britton.
Harding was a member of the United States Senate when he began his clandestine meetings with Nan. She had been hopelessly infatuated with the older man for a long time, and when he went to Washington, she followed him there. So brazen was the affair that Nan conceived Harding's only child in his Senate office. The baby girl was named Elizabeth Ann, and the identity of her father remained a secret until 1929.
Meanwhile, in 1920, the Republicans nominated Senator Harding for president of the United States. When he was elected in November of that year, Harding and his wife held a joyous celebration, but his mistress, Nan, went into something akin to mourning. With her lover now in the White House, where would they hold their rendezvous?
All of Nan's worries were for naught. President Harding had it all worked out. With the help of the Secret Service, they would now hold their tête-à-têtes in the Oval Office. The president's bodyguards would deliver messages to Nan, and she would come to the White House where she was ushered in to see Harding. Their favorite hideaway was a small clothes closet adjoining the president's office, and that is how the president and his girlfriend set the stage for history to repeat itself.
As everyone knows, a small side room to the Oval Office was the meeting place for another U.S. president in the 1990s. In a bizarre twist in time, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski were not the first to find out that privacy was possible in the White House, even when the president's wife was at home.
President Harding and Nan Britton broke ground for that particular illicit activity, and Nan later wrote all about it. One has to wonder if someone else ever read her book.