I’ve always been interested in this period of time and this book did not disappoint. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt & Herbert Hoover were the six presidents. The biggest “if” would have been if Theodore Roosevelt hadn’t died in 1919—he was the obvious choice for the Republicans and would have gotten his third term. Interesting stuff for speculators.
As is usually true, real history is more interesting than speculation. For instance, Woodrow Wilson was a cad and overrated as a president. He was a self-centered micro-manager who had no business being president after his stroke. His wife and doctor sheltered him from the public and his wife made decisions that only he should have made. Most surprising was he was plotting a third run for president in 1924, but died.
On the other hand, Warren Harding was a better man and president than he is usually given credit. Yes, he liked the ladies and cheated on his wife; he also relied too much on cronies who did not serve him well. However, he had good intentions and the nation improved under his leadership.
Calvin Coolidge is a man that I want to know more about and the new biography on him is on my reading list.
FDR did not make a good impression in this book. He was portrayed as an opportunist who was more concerned about appearances than substance. This was, of course early in his career and I think he grew into the person who was a good president—perhaps the polio played a role here.
Pietrusza’s analysis of the characters of these men seem “spot-on” and I really enjoyed his insights. He writes a great narrative that is really readable and entertaining.
The amazing thing is that reading history, for me, leads to interest in other history. Reading about Robert Lincoln lead to an interest in Chester Arthur, which lead an interest in this time period (1920s). This book piqued my interest in Calvin Coolidge and FDR. Reading these biographies is more than reading about the men—it’s learning about their times too. David Pietrusza is one of the better story-tellers that I have encountered in my pursuit of history and what makes us the US.