It's one of those odd periods of American history that don't get much attention....the early part of the 1900's. Over a sixteen-year period, we had three guys assume the Presidency, who should have been named the professor, the 'nice-guy' and the stoic man.
As Taft got into a messy Republican issue with former President Roosevelt and split votes in Taft's re-election attempt....the outcome was a bit shocking. Woodrow Wilson would end up as President of the United States.
If you wrote Wilson's resume....it'd be a fairly curious and short resume. Wilson was a southerner and the son of a Presbyterian minister. He was a fairly intelligent guy and ended up going through Davidson University and later attended Princeton University out of New Jersey. It's safe to say that he impressed the professors at Princeton. After graduation, for law school....he picked the University of Virginia.
What you can generally say is that he spent roughly a year trying to be a lawyer after graduation, and eventually just gave up. Some folks sum up this part of his life as impatient and having a significant amount of stubbornness.....sticking to one strategy and not able to move onto a plan B when required. It'll be a trait that follows him for the rest of his life.
After the lawyer business....he leans toward a PhD (John Hopkins University), and achieves that in 1886. You can use common sense on this but the only thing a PhD was worth was a full-time professor job....and that's route ahead for him.
Four years, with the help of 'insiders' at Princeton (his old college).....he got himself appointed onto the board of the university. He attends yearly meetings, gives speeches at various dinners, and talks up the changes needed at Princeton. Twelve years would pass, and negativity would brew at Princeton over the leadership of the college. Being on the board, Wilson had various opportunities to help in the brewing process. The college president was terminated because of ineffective leadership and the board wanted changes.....Wilson was offered the chancellor's job and set into play various changes.
It's safe to say some changes were acceptable and some were not. He went after more donations to the university and enlarging the quantity of professors. He brought more attention to the school, and made it clear that he didn't want the previous status of a rich-kid's school where you paid for a degree but didn't clearly earn it.
From 1902 to 1910.....for eight years.....Wilson ran Princeton and got attention throughout New Jersey. At some point in 1910.....the governor's race opened up and he ran. He won with a fairly safe number of votes, and then proceeded to do four brief years of governor duty. In 1914.....with Taft and Roosevelt heavily engaged in a personal vendetta situation....the Democrats didn't see great opportunities and went with a lesser known Wilson as their choice. Oddly, Wilson wins.
From professor, to college president.....mix in four brief years as governor, and now President of the United States.
You can give him mostly positive marks for six years of his period, with the war as part of his record. The last eighteen months? Because of the stroke, he was basically non-existent. No public appearances and the few cabinet meetings held really didn't demonstrate much of anything. The nation wanted a full-time President and a strong guy.
Warren G. Harding would be this strong President character, at least acting that way. Harding's resume? Not much better.
Harding would pick up ownership of a marginal newspaper in Ohio after college and spend the next three decades improving upon it. Most people will note that the real motivation of the newspaper and effective business plan.....was mostly the work of Harding's wife. Harding was a guy who knew how to wear a three-piece suit and looked distinguished no matter what the occasion was. He gave bold speeches throughout Ohio and eventually was noted as someone with political potential. In 1904, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Ohio...spending two brief years in the job before being elected as Senator of Ohio.
After arriving in DC, he generally got known as a 'nice-guy'. Republican and Democratic Senators liked him. He seemed impressive. His staff, coming out of Ohio with him.....were quickly noted as well.
Harding had two hobbies.....women and poker. His staff had two hobbies.....poker and heavy drinking. It was a good match situation in DC.
Harding, after six years as senator....went for the Presidency and won. Roughly sixty days into the new Presidency....what can generally be said was that his five-star speech ability was mostly bogus and the speeches were empty. The intellectual side of Harding which people had been impressed with during the Senate period had dissolved.....Harding was mostly a marginally bright guy with a bunch of corrupt guys around him. For roughly two years, the corruption situation ran in turbo fashion.
Eventually, Harding kinda woke up and realized the amount of corruption going on. Oddly, on some trip out to the west coast.....Harding died. What historians note is that in the two brief years as President.....he'd packed on a lot of weight and had virtually no physical activities (some suggest he'd gained roughly fifty pounds in two years).
Calvin Coolidge arrives into a job that no one expected him to fulfill. Cal had worked himself up.....lawyer activities, state legislature, and mayor. He was more of an administrator than a leader. He went through both Lieutenant Governor and Governor....getting noted as a practical manager. He ended up on as the VP on Harding's ticket and became a quiet unassuming VP.
It's best to say that Cal quietly did his best to clean up the corruption of the first two years of the Harding administration after he inherited the Presidency. He would run for another term, and then quietly retire from office. If you were looking for one single President with stoic tendencies and simply a good administrator of the office.....Cal is by himself on that level. He was what the nation needed.....a competent guy with no corruption and no intellectual side. Today? No one really mentions Cal much, for the simple reason that he never wanted the attention.
Yeah, for sixteen years....that's the cast of three characters that the nation got stuck with.