As this generation's "long political nightmare" comes to an end, I've been thinking about conspiracy theories. It all started with a summary/review of a new book on the assassination of John F. Kennedy:[http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/hanchette302.html]. Whether or not you buy into the author's interpretation of the facts, one must admit his theory is well researched.
Of course, the violent demise of JFK was not the only mysterious White House death of the 20th Century. In 1923, for instance, President Warren G. Harding died under inexplicable circumstances, after a trip to Alaska. An unbiased look at Harding's death [http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/terrorists_spies/assassins/warren_harding/6.html]
postulates four possible causes; natural causes, negligent homicide [based on an ill-advised enema administered by Harding's homeopathic physician; his traditional doctor was kept away from Harding at this critical time, reputedly due to jealousy on the homeopath's part], suicide [the President's administration was mired in scandal, and Harding himself had just been revealed as the father of a "love child", the result of an affair that began while he was still a US Senator from Ohio, and had reportedly included a tryst in a White House closet. In those innocent, pre-DNA testing days (What would Maury do for programming in that era?), the claims of the "mother" could not be proved, but many people believed her account], or, most intriguingly, murder. Murder theorists [and there are still a few out there] base their theory on an unexplained case of food poisoning the President suffered during an Alaskan trip shortly before his death. Harding was the only member of the touring party to suffer from botulism, despite the reported fact that there was no food he ate exclusively during the trip. While the food poisoning didn't kill Harding by itself, it kept an already-weakened President [Harding had suffered from influenza in January of 1923, at a time when the flu was frequently fatal] on the verge of collapse. Harding made one final speech, in Seattle, then was rushed by train to San Francisco, where he died a few days later.
One intriguing theory concerns a possible mastermind for the murder; President Harding's wife, Florence. Rather than let her husband die in ignominy, in the wake of perhaps the worst political scandals ever to take place in Washington, the theory goes that Florence Harding ordered the death of the President, before any of the scandals were tied to him [I'd guess, if this theory is true, the whole "love child" thing might have entered her mind as well. But I speculate].
Meanwhile, George W. Bush, perhaps the most physically-healthy man ever to sit in the Oval Office, is also dogged by scandal [although, to be fair, infidelity does not seem to be on his dance card]. His wife, Laura, supports her husband in an "old-school" style that, one suspects, even Florence Harding could appreciate. Then again, there is that bothersome "judgement of history" thing to be considered, and one of the questions on the table is this; if it came down to it, could Laura Bush be as tough as Florence Harding was reputed to be, if it meant saving George's reputation? Only time will tell...