Don’t get me wrong. I really don’t like the Kennedy family. I don’t like how they are idolized. I don’t like how their flaws are papered over by historians. I don’t think JFK did a good job as president.
But when it comes to promoting and protecting their family, the Kennedys are fantastic. How else could the reputations of John and Jackie or Ted or RFK or John Jr. keep their sterling glow despite affairs, marriage to a coarse billionaire for his money, death of a girlfriend, affair with a star, nepotism and ineptitude? Every biography that comes out, every TV series, every negative accusation gets squashed by the remaining Kennedys before it gets off the ground.
The most recent example is the History Channel mini series on JFK that was completely in the can when Caroline stepped in. Apparently she threatened to withdraw her money and publicity with an upcoming book and the cable TV channels dropped their plans faster than Teddy could down a Chivas.
Not so with the Reagan children. Daughter Patty Davis embarrassed herself throughout Reagan’s term and beyond. She jettisoned his last name in favor of her mother’s. She posed for Playboy in direct contrast with Reagan’s moral beliefs. Now Ron Jr. has decided to undercut his dad’s reputation even more than he had previously by allegations in his new book.
In today’s Parade magazine excerpts, Jr. lets it rip.
“Three years into his first term as president, I felt the first shivers of concern that something beyond mellowing was affecting my father,” he writes. “The Iran contra affair was a perfect example of the sort of mess Dad was ill suited, at any age, to reckon with once it blew up in his face.”
I wonder what Ollie North would say about this. And perhaps he will.
Jr. began to think he needed to help his dad, citing that he would try to help with the debates or even on policy. Ron thinks he was a better thinker than his dad and thinks dad thought so, too. “He told me you make him feel stupid,” my mother once shared. Perhaps he did. Stupid to have had such a son.
In the debate with Mondale, Jr. ‘s “heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses. He looked tired and bewildered.” The slurs continue. – and in the most insidious way – suggesting something to the reader and then pretending to disclaim i t.
“I don’t want to give the impression that my father was mumbling incoherently during this or any period.” Then why say that? Jr. continues, believing that perhaps his dad had Alzheimer’s while in office. “Does this delegitimize his presidency?” Americans didn’t think so, but now the haters have ammunition from Reagan’s own son’s pen.
When the outrage about an unflattering Reagan miniseries on CBS surface, I don’t remember Ron or Patty coming to their parents’ defense. Rather it was outraged conservatives who did the work for them.
You won’t catch a Kennedy ever saying a negative thing about their saints John and Robert. To them, it was Camelot – a magical time – even with the Bay of Pigs disaster, Krushev promising to bury us or the deepening involvement in Vietnam.
Maybe Ron and Patty should take a page from their book.