Over on NRO’s Corner Charles Cooke notes with delight that Chris Matthews has abruptly stopped his nightly plugs for his new hagiography of John F. Kennedy, most likely because of the obvious embarrassment of Mimi Alford’s new memoir Once Upon A Secret. There’s nothing in Alford’s story that we didn’t already know in general outline about JFK’s priapism, though the bit about how JFK pimped her out to Dave Powers ought to leave a mark.
Alford’s book arrives too late to make it into my Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents, but for what it’s worth, here’s an excerpt from my chapter on JFK:
Kennedy’s womanizing was on a scale so gargantuan that it would have made Bill Clinton blush. His “extracurricular activities” in the White House were so frequent and regular that the Secret Service had code names for some of the women with whom he trysted. “Fiddle” and “Faddle” were the code names for two young women on the White House staff that JFK would often see together. One of Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s aides remarked, “It was a revolving door over there. A woman had to fight to get into that line.”
His relentless sexual escapades were not all fun and games, though. One of his frequent sex partners was Judith Campbell Exner, who was simultaneously the mistress for Sam Giancana, a kingpin in the Mafia. Kennedy’s behavior made him highly vulnerable to blackmail, especially since the news media, which knew much of the behind-the-scenes story, covered up for him, and largely continues to do so to this day. In addition, Kennedy’s escapades may have literally put the nation in jeopardy, as he was on at least one occasion separated from the military aide who carried “the football,” the president’s command equipment for directing the nation’s nuclear defenses in the event of an attack. The Kennedy industry has worked very hard over the years to suppress critical books, documentaries, and film dramatizations that tell the seamy side of the Kennedy story, with a high degree of success.
Kennedy’s womanizing was not the only aspect of his behavior that should have disqualified him from office. Although Kennedy famously projected an image of youthfulness and “vigor,” he was a remarkably unhealthy man for his age. He suffered from Addison’s disease, a degenerative hormonal disorder that causes muscle weakness and fatigue, and ultimately destroys the adrenal glands. Treatment requires constant use of steroids, which in Kennedy’s case may have contributed to his already insatiable sexual appetite. But Kennedy didn’t stop with conventional treatment; he indulged in quack remedies from private physicians (especially Max Jacobson, who JFK referred to as “Dr. Feelgood”— Jacobson later lost his medical license for malpractice) who administered high doses of pain killers, amphetamines, and other medications (including at least one anti-psychotic drug) in an attempt to calibrate Kennedy’s mental and physical energy. He often wore a back brace on account of severe back pain. There are well-founded rumors that he smoked marijuana and abused other illicit recreational drugs. Had Kennedy escaped assassination, there is a high likelihood that his infirmities and reckless behavior would have made him unfit for office or brought him crashing down in scandal. (His medical records were concealed from historical researchers for more than 30 years.)
This is just one of the reasons I conclude that JFK is our most overrated president.