Foreshadowing what many would later say about the nation’s 29th president, Warren G. Harding’s propensity to use too many meaningless words, Abraham Lincoln once wrote about someone with whom he differed on issues as follows: “He can compress more words into fewer ideas than any one else I know.”
Bloviation: Of course, Lincoln never knew Harding, who was born some seven months after Lincoln’s 1865 assassination, but Lincoln’s words are an apt description of Harding’s tendency to “bloviate,” as Harding himself described his speaking style. Harding described bloviation as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing.”
Harding’s speeches: Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of the treasury and son-in-law, William Gibbs McAdoo, was a contemporary of Harding’s and here’s how he described Harding’s pompous speaking style:
“His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea; sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly as a prisoner in their midst, until it died of servitude and overwork.”
Return to Normalcy: One catch-phrase that became Harding’s campaign motto in his successful campaign for the White House came on May 14, 1920 when he pompously argued that America’s need was “not for nostrums but for normalcy.” (A “nostrum” is defined as “a medicine, especially one that is not considered effective, prepared by an unqualified person.”) Click here to read this speech of the then Ohio Senator. Or you can click here to listen to Harding’s “normalcy” speech.