Posts tagged ‘John F. Kennedy’

“Camelot” my Ass

In a December 1963 interview, the president’s widow gave a name to the Kennedy mystique, telling journalist Theodore White of Jack’s fondness for the lyric from the Lerner and Loewe musical about King Arthur: “Once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”

Much more than a “moment,” Camelot has proven an enduring myth.

JFK places near the top 10 in most presidential ranking surveys of historians, and in a 2011 Gallup poll, Americans ranked him ahead of George Washington in a list of “America’s greatest presidents.”

John F. Kennedy Was No National Treasure: He was lawless, reckless and anything but a national treasure

Anyone believing JFK was one of America’s greatest presidents just proves you can’t fix stupid.

The Dark Side of Camelot, by Seymour Hersh

Each fall since November 22, 1963, regular programming is pre-empted and whole rainforests are clear-cut to bring us books filled with the latest minor (and often delusional) variations on who killed Kennedy and why; the supposedly transformative effect of the “Camelot” years on contemporary geo-politics and, more plausibly, the hat-wearing habits of the American male; and counterfactuals about just how awesome—or awful—JFK’s second term would have been.

Whatever emotional immediacy, contemporary relevance, and news value this all once inarguably possessed, can we now admit that the topic has grown thinner than the post-1963 resume of Kennedy impersonator Vaughn Meader? It now lives on mostly as a sort of repetition-compulsion disorder through which the baby boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964) seeks to preserve its stultifying cultural hegemony even as it slowly—finally!—begins to exit the stage of American life on a fleet of taxpayer-funded Rascal Scooters.
. . .
The big, broad, deep lessons of the Kennedy saga have been duly taught, if routinely forgotten when it serves our fleeting partisan purposes. Among them: that history is a series of strange and often ugly contingencies, good-and-bad-faith mistakes, and wanton acts of evil, insanity, or a mixture of both; that our leaders—especially the ones with whom we fall in love—often lie, cheat, and obfuscate their way to power, which they then routinely abuse; and that governments cannot and should not be trusted, especially when they claim to speak the truth.

JFK Still Dead, Baby Boomers Still Self-Absorbed

Continue reading ‘“Camelot” my Ass’ »

Tags: , , ,

“Better Than Plowing” by James Buchanan (part 2)

And the tinsel prance and prattle of those who came along and called themselves the brightest and best obscured the raw injustice of a purchased presidencey [JFK, 1960].

(page 175-176)

Came the 1980s, and Reagan’s shining city on a hill, so real to their fathers and mothers, seemed fitting only for an ancient actor turned president.

(page 176)

Continue reading ‘“Better Than Plowing” by James Buchanan (part 2)’ »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Washington, The Novel

No, the fact is that Washington is and always has been irretrievably bogged down in process. And process doesn’t generally make for electrifying prose–unless you’re a fan of the novels of C. P. Snow, which describe the intestinal workings of inner-sanctum power struggles conducted by micro-megalomaniacs.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sjors Provoost

The days of the Georgetown hostess are gone; the hostesses themselves are gone, too. Their reign began to close years ago, when senators started canceling dinners to appear on shows like Nightline. (There’s a prefiguration of this in Larry McMurtry’s neglected 1982 Washington novel Cadillac Jack, in which a character pontificates on world-shaking matters of which he knows little.) The Washington pundit is also a thing of the past: it’s been a good while since any insider columnist had the kind of access or influence that Ben Bradlee enjoyed with John F. Kennedy. And the British Embassy, while it still stages some of the best dinners, is not the brokerage of influence that it once was. Yet–if we except the intermittent efforts at describing catastrophe or conspiracy, themselves mostly falling short of observable reality–this is the sort of stereotype in which the model remains confined.

In Search of the Washington Novel,” by Christopher Hitchens, City Journal, Autumn, 2010

For books about Washington, see “Political and Government Classics” from TheCapitol.Net.

You can also see TheCapitol.Net’s faculty’s favorite books and movies about Washington on Hobnob Blog’s Faculty Favorites.

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .

Tags: , , , , , ,