Well, one minor mystery of the American presidency was clarified this week.
According to the New York Times, DNA testing seems to have confirmed that Warren Gamaliel Harding, who served in the White House during 1921-23, had in fact fathered a daughter by one of his mistresses, Nan Britton. The child, named Elizabeth Ann Britton Harding, was born in 1919, and so had been conceived when Harding was a senator, not president. But her paternity had been a matter of speculation, and some controversy, ever since her mother published a sensational memoir, The President’s Daughter (1927), about her six-year liaison with Harding.
The Times exaggerated the controversy, to some degree: It reported, in its opening sentence, that Britton had been “denounced as a ‘degenerate’ and a ‘pervert,’ accused of lying for money and shamed for waging a ‘diabolical’ campaign against the president’s family that tore away at his legacy.” That is true, as far as it goes. But it was various members of the Harding family, including the late president’s sister and brother, who spoke in such lurid terms about Britton when The President’s Daughter was published four years after Harding’s death. In fact, historians have tended to be divided on the question of Elizabeth Ann’s paternity, but most have accepted Nan Britton’s assertion that she and Harding were, at some point and to some degree, clandestine lovers.
It’s a sad story, in many ways. Nan Britton was the daughter of a Marion, Ohio, physician whose family was well acquainted with Harding, owner-publisher of the Marion Star, and whose sister had been one of her teachers. At the age of 14, in 1910, Britton seems to have developed an adolescent infatuation with the 45-year-old Harding when he ran, unsuccessfully, for governor of Ohio -- and she never outgrew it. Harding was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1914, and three years later, now 21 and finishing a secretarial course in New York, Britton wrote to Harding asking for his assistance in getting a job. Harding not only agreed to help but met her at a Manhattan hotel for the first of many liaisons. In the memorable prose of The President’s Daughter, “I became Mr. Harding’s bride – as he called me – on that day [July 30, 1917].”
Part of the problem for Nan Britton is that the rococo language of The President’s Daughter has never inspired confidence in its veracity, and the book’s details, while plentiful, are nearly impossible to verify. Both she and Harding destroyed the bulk of their correspondence, and Harding, while indiscreet – as senator and, later, president – was not foolhardy. He used pseudonyms whenever necessary, and of course, Nan Britton’s name is nowhere to be found in any White House logs or registers.
This much we can assume is true: According to Nan Britton, Elizabeth Ann was conceived on a couch in Harding’s Senate office, and after her birth in Asbury Park, New Jersey, he seems to have furnished occasional financial support. We will probably never know whether, or how frequently, they met after Harding’s election as president in 1920, but Britton’s description of their White House meeting-place is not only reminiscent of a recent president’s practice but a classic in the annals of Washington romance:
This was a closet in the anteroom, evidently a place for hats and coats …. We repaired there many times in the course of my visits to the White House, and in the darkness of a space no more than five feet square the President and his adoring sweetheart made love.
Harding, of course, died suddenly in August 1923, and few in the late president’s family or official circles were inclined to believe Nan Britton’s insistence that Elizabeth Ann was his child, or that he had intended to support her indefinitely. The President’s Daughter, which sold 50,000 copies, was privately published by Britton as a fund-raising device under the aegis of her Elizabeth Ann Guild Inc., and dedicated “with understanding and love to all unwedded mothers, and to their innocent children whose fathers are usually not known to the world …”
Nan Britton seems never to have married, and died in Oregon in 1991 at the age of 94. Elizabeth Ann married and settled, ultimately, in Glendale, California, where she resisted the efforts of historians and journalists to interview her, and died ten years ago. In the Times story, her grandson claims that “the family lived with scorn for decades. They were followed, their house was broken into and items were stolen to try to prove the relationship was a lie.”
The New York Times notes that the Clintons have decided to contribute between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. “That may reflect their enhanced wherewithal” – they earned more than $30 million in the past year and a half, and, it would seem, want to share the wealth. Actually, as the Times later points out, “They did not write personal checks, however: the money was transferred from a smaller charity, the Clinton Family Foundation, to the larger entity.” Oh.
In the summer of 1994 the Clinton administration faced the gravest crisis on the Korean peninsula since the signing of the armistice agreement in 1953. The genesis of the crisis had come in 1992 when Pyongyang concluded an agreement accepting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safeguards in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Subsequent IAEA inspections discovered inconsistencies between Pyongyang’s initial declaration regarding its nuclear program and IAEA findings. Pyongyang then threatened to withdraw from the NPT triggering an international crisis.
A new TV ad argues the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran is repeating history, drawing parallels with the 1994 nuclear deal President Bill Clinton brokered with North Korea. The ad, produced by the Foundation for American Security and Freedom, interchanges lines from both president's speeches announcing the deals, showing how similar promises were made about how the deals would stop the spread of nuclear weapons. After noting that North Korea admitted to having nuclear weapons in 2005, the 60-second video asks, "Is Iran about to repeat history?"
As he has for much of his post-presidency, Bill Clinton was on the road again in June, traveling to Europe at the end of the month for various conferences and other public appearances. After a few days in London, the president popped over to Paris for a day or two to shop at Hermès, a well-known luxury boutique. Such trips, however, do not come cheap. Hotel contracts for the president's Secret Service team for the Paris leg of the trip alone came to over $48,000.
Twenty years have now passed since the brutal subjugation of the besieged town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, after which 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Serbs commanded by ex-Yugoslav army general Ratko Mladic.
Senator Chuck Grassley has written a series of letters to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanding answers about a shady uranium deal with a company tied to the Clintons.
Bill and Hillary Clinton vacationed in the Dominican Republic around New Years, visiting at least two exclusive resorts, Punta Cana and the Casa de Campo. The once-and-possibly-future first couple spent the week, of course, under the watchful eye of the U.S. Secret Service, but the security required for the trip didn't come cheap.
Former Clinton advisor Paul Begala told CNN's Chris Cuomo Tuesday morning that Hillary Clinton "absolutely" has to answer for standing by her husband when he served as governor of Arkansas and defended that state's flag's relationship to the Confederate battle flag.
"Does she have to answer for her time as first lady in Arkansas with Bill standing by the Arkansas flag proudly when it, too, is said to borrow from the Confederate symbology?" Cuomo said.
"Well, sure, absolutely," said Begala. "Times change. Circumstances change." Watch the video below:
When news broke this spring about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s appetite for other people’s money and their indifference to other people’s rules, I was rereading my way through a shelf of old Hillary biographies. My memory thus was doubly stimulated. In the fresh revelations, as in the books, the traits of the Clintons were spread out for a new generation to marvel at: the furtiveness, the shifting accounts of hazy events, the parsing of language, the bald and unnecessary denial of often trivial facts (did she have two phones or one?).