Whatever his obvious faults and flaws, it is somewhat understandable that Richard Nixon would ruminate about how Jack Kennedy got away with a lot during his assassination-shortened presidency. And there is no doubt that the 37th President of the United States saw all of the “Camelot” hype as mythology born of cynical public relations. While Nixon was being criticized for conducting a purported “Imperial” presidency by the likes of Arthur Schlessinger (a pro-Kennedy historian), he no-doubt resented the cult of personality that survived his old rival’s violent death.
RN would be 97 today—JFK would be 93 in a couple of weeks. It’s hard to envision the forever-young Kennedy as an old man, though we saw Nixon live into his 80s. They were friends at first, with Nixon the early-on transcendent figure. Then came the rivalry marked by increased and enduring bitterness. But it was always more complicated than that.
Americans too young to remember either man have been taught the party line that Kennedy was a great man and Nixon was a bad man. JFK was the hero of the Cuban Missile Crisis—Nixon was the villain of Watergate. JFK had charisma; Nixon had no charm—and so it goes.
The truth is actually quite different.
The History Channel is moving forward with production of an eight-part mini-series scheduled to air next year called, The Kennedys. Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine) will play JFK and Katie Holmes will play Jacqueline. The producer is a man named Joel Surnow, who is the creator of the highly successful and soon to expire series, 24.
Surnow is also reputed to have politically conservative tendencies (Gasp! Horrors!). Reportedly, the upcoming dramatic portrayal of the years of the New Frontier will include material about some of Kennedy’s flaws—and the guardians of his image are mobilized to “stop the smears.”
I say it’s about time that popular culture is exposed to the truth about the man behind the Camelot myth—before fact is fossilized.