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Jewish World Review July 23, 1999/ 10 Av 5759

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine -- HEADLINES CALLED US a nation in despair. The only interruptions in news coverage of the JFK Jr. death (the Bessette sisters, mere annexed mortals, quickly became historical footnotes) were commercials and occasional weather reports, tied to Massachusetts wave, temperature and haze conditions. There were interviews with friends, friends of friends and even John-John's neighborhood grocer. Gen Xers, on the streets of New York, offered these gems on one of their own, "She knew how to dress and I respect that," and "The fact that he flunked the bar exam twice made me like him even more." By Monday morning, MSNBC featured interviews with fellow journalists from Spain and Germany.

It is tragic to lose three young lives so senselessly because Mr. Kennedy made an imprudent decision to fly. Mike Barnicle expressed offense at this notion for the Kennedys are immunized against imprudence. Mr. Barnicle, a proven good story man, joined the chorus of American royalty nonsense, reincarnated Camelot hoopla, and mourned the Kennedy curse.

The Kennedy curse is living in the fast lane. Michael Kennedy died playing football while skiing and John, Jr. was an inexperienced pilot with an ankle injury from paragliding who picked a bad night to fly. Historian Paul Johnson explains, "the laws of God and the republic, admirable in themselves, did not apply to Kennedys, at any rate male ones."

No truth has been permitted to rain on the 1,000 days of the JFK parade.

The Kennedys are wealthy and arrogant, possessed of scruples reincarnated in Mr. Clinton. The Clintons have given us a Dogpatch Camelot, all the Kennedy tricks with none of the style. Rules are for mortals and morality for the uneducated. The Kennedy mystique continues for no one dares speak ill of the anointed, something as awkward for democracy as Dolly Parton at Lilith Fair.

There is the lying. Mr. Kennedy's chronic health problems, including his back pain, resulting dependence on amphetamines, and Addison's Disease, were concealed. Profiles in Courage was not only not written by Mr. Kennedy but became a best seller after Joe Sr. purchased 30,000 to 40,000 copies. Kennedy's alleged prolific publication during his Senate days was described by biographer Thomas C. Reeves as follows, "No national figure has ever so consistently and unashamedly used others to manufacture a personal reputation as a great thinker and scholar."

There is the corruption. According to FBI wiretaps, mafia money went to local election officials for getting out Kennedy voters and voter fraud was rampant. In one Texas precinct, a state where Kennedy needed to and won big, 6,138 votes were cast for Kennedy with only 4,895 registered voters in the precinct. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, described the Kennedy brothers taking over Washington, "It's rather like watching the Borgia brothers take over a respectable North Italian city."

There is the manipulation. For the Nixon-Kennedy debates, Kennedy staffers demanded that the candidates stand, knowing Nixon had knee trouble, then turned up the temperature in the studio to capitalize on the Nixon propensity to always let them see me sweat. Interestingly, Mr. Nixon, long the fiend of the last half century of American politics, refused to use Mr. Kennedy's Catholicism as an issue because he wanted his campaign to lay "to rest forever the issue of a candidate's religion in presidential politics."

Mr. Nixon also asked the New York Herald Tribune to discontinue its post-election series on fraud in the 1960 election.

There was the marrying well, but not for love. Jack married an upper class girl looking for shopping dough who would add the aura of arts and class he lacked. Love came from all the wrong places in the form of serial adultery with everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Gene Tierney to campaign workers.

There was the lack of depth and fecklessness in foreign policy. Eisenhower described Kennedy's conduct in the Bay of Pigs as "A Profile in Timidity and Indecision." The alleged brilliance in the missile crisis pales next to Mr. Reagan's strength and wisdom in ending the Cold War. Mr. Reagan brought down the wall in English, a far superior approach to Kennedy's fractured Ich bin ein Berliner. Translated, Mr. Kennedy said "I am a doughnut."

With full complicity, the media gave him a pass on that and much more and had mere mortals enamored of the Kennedys. Immune from scrutiny, with a public eager for something more than Mamie, the Kennedys came, saw, bought and conquered. The immunity victory is alive nearly four decades later in the latest Kennedy event. One reporter, describing the deep religious faith of the Kennedys, was asked by the news anchor about the family's Sabbath day as they awaited word from the Coast Guard, "They went sailing. The Kennedys have always found solace in the sea." Ah, worshiping on the waves in full camera view.

Diana, Elvis, Jack, Jackie and now the canonization of John. Despair over a young man who Roller-Bladed through the streets of Manhattan with Daryl Hannah after his mother's death and prior to her funeral, having shed not a tear in announcing that she had "passed on." The world awards sainthood to the editor of George who put Cindy Crawford's navel in a George Washington costume and pose for his inaugural cover. The celebration of celebrity, not accomplishment. Worship, regardless of truth. The laws of gravity never kick in on Kennedy mystique.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments to her by clicking here.


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06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

©1999, Marianne M. Jennings