The similarities between Bertie Ahern and Warren G Harding are not complete. Bertie Ahern is clever, whereas Harding was not. Harding was handsome, whereas Bertie Ahern is not. However they resemble each other in an ability to mangle language. It is reported of Harding:
His liabilities were not at first so apparent, yet they were disastrously real. Beyond the limited scope of his political experience he was “almost unbelievably ill-informed,” as William Allen White put it. His mind was vague and fuzzy. Its quality was revealed in the clogged style of his public addresses, in his choice of turgid and maladroit language (“non-involvement” in European affairs, “adhesion” to a treaty), and in his frequent attacks of suffix trouble (“normalcy” for normality, “betrothment” for betrothal).â€?
They also resemble each other in their resort to companions whom it would be better to avoid, given the readiness to offer, and in the case of Bertie Ahern and Harding, to accept, â€śpolitical donations for personal useâ€?.
In the case of Jess Smith, the right hand man for Hardingâ€™s Attorney General, Daugherty, he set a fish bowl on a table in the centre of an hotel room and secretly watched from the next room while â€śfriendsâ€? of the Administration entered the room and left money in the bowl.
Bertieâ€™s friends, in one aspect, belong to the Harding era; they attack the Mahon Tribunal and its counsel without regard for the fact that the Tribunal and its counsel are doing their jobs and the stink is from the material uncovered and not from the methods of discovery. The unarticulated premise in 1924 and now, is the determination to defend the status quo. Here is an account of the Harding scandals;
When the oil scandals were first spread across the front pages of the
newspapers, early in 1924, there was a wave of excitement sufficient to
force the resignations of Denby and Daugherty and to bring about the
appointment by the new President, Calvin Coolidge, of special
Government counsel to deal with the oil cases. But the harshest
condemnation on the part of the press and the public was reserved, not
for those who had defrauded the government, but for those who insisted on bringing the facts to light. Senator Walsh, who led the investigation of the oil scandals, and Senator Wheeler, who investigated the Department of justice, were called by the New York Tribune “the Montana scandalmongers.” The New York Evening Post called them mud-gunners.” The New York Times, despite its Democratic leanings, called them “assassins of character.” In these and other newspapers throughout the country one read of the “Democratic lynching-bee” and “poison-tongued partisanship, pure malice, and twittering hysteria,” and the inquiries were called “in plain words, contemptible and disgusting.”
Newspaper-readers echoed these amiable sentiments. Substantial business men solemnly informed one another that mistakes might have been made but that it was unpatriotic to condemn them and thus to “cast discredit on the Government,” and that those who insisted on probing them to the bottom were “nothing better than Bolsheviki.” One of the leading super-patriots of the land, Fred R. Marvin of the Key Men of America, said the whole oil scandal was the result of “a gigantic international conspiracy . . . of the internationalists, or shall we call them socialists and communists?” A commuter riding daily to New York from his suburb at this period observed that on the seven-o’clock train there was some indignation at the scandals, but that on the eight-o’clock train there was only indignation at their exposure and that on the nine-o’clock train they were not even mentioned. When, a few months later, John W. Davis, campaigning for the Presidency on the Democratic ticket, made political capital of the Harding scandals, the opinion of the majority seemed to be that what he said was in bad taste, and Davis was snowed under at the polls. The fact was that any relentless investigation of the scandals threatened to disturb, if only slightly, the status quo, and disturbance of the status quo was the last thing that the dominant business class or the country at large wanted.â€?
Bertieâ€™s friends are particularly brazen in claiming â€śunfair proceduresâ€? on the part of the Tribunal. Of what do they think cross-examination consists? Do they think counsel should write down his questions and give advance notice of them in that format? And not deviate from the script?
In â€śThe Art of Cross-Examinationâ€? by Francis L. Wellman the author records the cross-examination, in 1911, of Congressman Foelker by Max Steuer in The People v Gardner. Gardner was accused of offering bribes to New York State politicians and in particular to then State Senator Foelker, to vote against a proposal to ban racetrack betting. Foelker testified that Gardner offered him $3,000 in a private room on a train from Albany to New York to vote against the proposal.
STEUER: Parlez-vous Francais?
FOELKER: What did you say?
STEUER: Parlez-vous Francais?
FOELKER: I donâ€™t know what you are getting at.
STEUER: It seems to me that you should at least be able to say oui, in view of the fact that you passed an examination in French with a grade of one hundred per cent. You recall taking the Regentsâ€™ examination so as to qualify for the Bar examination?
Steuer went on to explore the oddities of Foelkerâ€™s qualification to practice law. Foelker had passed an examination in logarithms and advanced algebra with a grade of 95%; he could not say what a logarithm was. He had passed an examination in syntax with a grade of 98%; he could not define syntax. He could not recall where he had sat his Regentsâ€™ examination. He did not recall what kind of building it was or where it was located. He was sure he had never taken an examination in French and could not account for the Regentsâ€™ record that he had passed French with a grade of 100%. He admitted he had never studied logarithms or advanced algebra. He could not account for the terrible mistake of the Regents in giving him such high percentages in subjects in which he had never passed an examination. He could not account for the fact that his examination papers were missing from the records in Albany but he certainly had nothing to do with their disappearance.
He admitted that he received $2,500 from a man who had a bill pending in the legislature for the sprinkling of the streets and, that he, Foelker, had voted in favour of the bill and the man later received the contract for the sprinkling of the streets. His explanation for the receipt of the cheque was that the man sent it to him as a campaign contribution. It was of course true that the man did not live in Brooklyn where Foelker was a candidate nor could he distinctly remember that he had ever met the man, but he accepted campaign contributions, no matter from whom they came, without inquiry, because that was the custom among members of the legislature.