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Honoring Harding

February 2024
1min read

IN “THE MOST SCANDALOUS PRESIDENT” (July/August issue) Carl Sferrazza Anthony lauds President Harding for his enlightened attitude toward members of minority groups: “Harding’s appointment of Albert Lasker as head of the Shipping Board was the first ever high-profile appointment of a Jew.” Lasker was not, however, the first such appointee. Some years earlier, in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Oscar Straus of New York the Secretary of Commerce and Labor. As Roosevelt’s biographer William H. Harbaugh recounts: “Before he appointed Oscar Straus … he besought the advice of the respected banker and pillar of New York’s civic-minded GermanJewish community, Jacob Schiff. Later, at a banquet of prominent Jews in honor of Straus, Roosevelt emphatically exclaimed that he had not even thought about Straus’s religion when contemplating his appointment. But Schiff, whose hearing was failing, bungled the cue. ‘Dot’s right Mr. President,’ he exclaimed. ‘You came to me and said, “Chake, who is der best Jew I can appoint Segretary of Commerce.”’”

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