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The Jazz Age President: Defending Warren G. Harding” is Ryan Walters’s new biography of the 29th president. Walters is adjunct professor of History at Collin College in Texas. His previous books include “Grover Cleveland: The Last Jeffersonian President” and “Apollo 1: The Tragedy That Put Us on the Moon.”

Warren Harding has long been disparaged as a historically poor president – a man ill-suited to the intellectual and ethical demands of the office, possessing a defective moral compass and perennially plagued both personal and professional scandal.

In this newly-published defense of Harding’s legacy, Walters attempts to correct what he sees as an unfair appraisal of his subject’s character and presidential performance. While acknowledging the magnitude of his task, Walters argues that no one in possession of the facts can doubt Harding was at least a “good” chief executive.

With 189 pages of text, “The Jazz Age President” is relatively brief and is delightfully easy to read. And it reads more like a book from The American Presidents series than a scholarly (and weighty) presidential biography. But where individual volumes in that series cover former presidents cradle-to-grave, Walters’s book is almost exclusively concerned with Harding’s twenty-nine month presidency (which ended prematurely with his death).

But while this book is primarily a defense of Harding’s legacy, it is also essentially a history of his presidency and of world affairs during those 2+ years. It tends to proceed thematically rather than chronologically, but is rarely hard to follow. And Walters injects enough historical context and commentary to provide most readers with an adequate understanding of the issues.

The book’s elemental strength is that it is consistently interesting, provocative and passionately argued. But nearly every important observation is conveyed through a distracting partisan lens. This pervades the text and taints even the most meritorious of its perspectives and conclusions. As a result, readers otherwise willing to be convinced of Harding’s qualities are likely to remain cautious and circumspect.

And readers hoping to more completely understand Harding’s personality, intrinsic strengths or personal life will surely be dissatisfied. There is virtually nothing in these pages of the five decades of his life prior to his campaign for the presidency – including his twelve-year political career and his extramarital affairs (one of which was proven in 2015 to have produced a child).

Overall, Ryan Walters’s “The Jazz Age President: Defending Warren G. Harding” is a thought-provoking and full-throated defense of Warren Harding’s presidential legacy which proves selectively convincing at best and needlessly partisan and two-dimensional at worst. But whatever you think of the author’s pugilistic style, one thing is certain: it cannot be rated as a traditional biography.

Overall Rating: “Unrated” as Biography