Jackie Kennedy's tart tongue
The Kansas City Star
Jackie’s comments, largely ignored
I read a book once about a first lady and her dog and I won’t do that again.
It wasn’t that it was a bad book. It was that it was like most books by staffs of first ladies — too nice. No conflict, no love or squalor, just polite people working well together in a great country.
But about a year ago I read a short comment about how this hottie first lady has a really compelling book out. They wouldn’t even let people read it until after she died.
The first lady was Jackie Kennedy. I thought, this hot book, so different from all the others, will be a sensation. I will read it.
But I didn’t hear any more about it until I was in the library recently to check out a movie. I noticed this beautiful boxed set, book and recording, of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Historic Conversations, with historians Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Michael Beschloss. The book is mainly Schlesinger asking her questions.
Wow! It really is hot. Jackie is the best gossip since Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, who said, “If you can’t say something good about somebody, sit right here by me.”
Alice would have liked Jackie.
Oh. Maybe not.
Here’s what Jackie said about Alice’s dad:
“… He (President Jack Kennedy) would say to me, ‘Listen to how fatuous Teddy Roosevelt was,’ and then he’d read to me … always in sort of a throwaway, ‘And then I marched up San Juan Hill and killed five natives’ — and rather apologetic about it. I think he saw through a lot of Theodore Roosevelt.”
About Teddy Kennedy’s not being like Jack: “Teddy can go down and tell stories. … But Jack never — he never said, ‘Hi, fella,’ or put his fat palm under your armpit, or you know, any of that sort of business.”
What kind of vice president was Lyndon Johnson? Jack “gave Lyndon so many things to do. But he never did them. … What he really liked to do was go on those trips. … So what (Jack) would do, he’d send him into Pakistan or something. Well, then he’d be really interested in the camel driver when he came back.
“Or then he’d ask to go to Finland or something, and that would be fine. Then he’d bring back a lot of little glass birds with ‘Lyndon’ written all over them that he’d give out. … And he always kept pushing for a larger plane. So that’s the kind of vice president he was.”
Jackie’s comments also bruise Nikita Khruschchev, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and many others. The main villain, though, is Ted Sorensen (“so sneaky”), who she thought tried to take too much credit for Jack’s inaugural address and his book, “Profiles in Courage.” She said Jack gave Sorensen all the profits from the book.
I wondered why the press has ignored Jackie’s hot book. And then there are her comments about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
They are, to put it charitably, negative. OMG! There we have it. That is soooo not the agenda.
The friendship of the queen of Camelot and the King of civil rights has long been used to boost the Democratic Party. Now Jackie reports relations were not warm. And that not all politicians, even Kennedys, are always admirable.
Jackie has made a mess. What can the Democrats and the press, sorry for the tautology, do to clean this up?
Omerta. The code of silence.
It has been used successfully by progressive groups for centuries: Let’s move on, to what the press knows we really want to hear: how the president’s lead in the polls is widening as his “green” plan lowers energy costs and as his secretary of state’s diplomacy eases tension in the Middle East.
Bob Friskel of Kansas City, Kan., is a retired journalist. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108.