JFK’s Roots: His father Joe Kennedy. When he died in 1969, Joe Kennedy was one of the richest men in the U.S. with a net worth estimated at half a billion dollars. He made his fortune in the stock market, movies, and through various criminal means including bootlegging during Prohibition and partnering with organized crime.
Joe had lofty political aspirations. He made significant contributions to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential election campaigns, but FDR, who didn’t trust Joe, declined to offer him a cabinet position. Joe successfully lobbied President Roosevelt for the ambassadorship to England. The leverage he used was FDR’s son James, whose friendship he solidified by supplying James with women. Joe was openly adulterous; at times flaunting it in front of his wife and their guests. As ambassador, Joe Kennedy was reviled in England for his defeatism and regarded as a coward when, during Luftwaffe bombings in 1940, he left London to spend his nights at a country estate. While ambassador he engaged in profiteering; commandeering valued transatlantic cargo space for the continued importation of British scotch and gin to his importing company.
He was anti-Semitic and willingly ignorant of European history. He sought, without State Department approval, a personal meeting with Hitler with the intent of keeping the U.S. out of the war. Over the objection of the State Department and FDR, he met with a high-level Nazi official seeking to reach an agreement to pay the Nazis up to $1 billion for peace.
Ambassador Kennedy once briefed a group of American journalists about a plot of dissident German generals to overthrow Hitler; even giving them the names of the dissidents jeopardizing their plotting and lives. Joe Kennedy used his contacts in the press to position himself for a presidential nomination in 1940. FDR isolated him from the American public by keeping him in London.
Unfortunately for FDR, Kennedy had access to secret FDR-Churchill communications including those indicating FDR’s willingness to assist England in war against Hitler. This was powerful blackmail material against FDR as the American people wanted to remain out of the war. When Kennedy returned to the U.S. in October 1940, 10 days before the presidential election, he was expected to endorse Republican Wilkie. After a private dinner with FDR, Kennedy agreed to endorse FDR in a radio speech. It is not known why but it was probably because both men had the goods on the other (FDR having access to Kennedy’s tax returns and IRS problems and, through his friend J. Edgar Hoover, FBI information on Kennedy).
Kennedy’s speech included the lie that no secret commitments had been made and that FDR was not trying to involve the country in war. Three days after FDR won re-election, Kennedy self-destructed. He claimed Hitler had won the war and that democracy was finished in England and perhaps in the U.S.. His public support collapsed and his dreams of high public office ended. He resigned as ambassador to England a few months later and he never served in public office again. He refocused his considerable energies on his two oldest sons, Joe and Jack. When Joe Jr., a naval aviator, died in 1944, the emphasis shifted almost entirely to Jack.
Though he won a Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography Profiles in Courage, it is likely the book was largely ghostwritten and it is the case that his dad’s money kept it on the bestseller list and Joe’s connections won it the Pulitzer. JFK had an undistinguished legislative output in the Senate, but his looks and personal appeal and Joe Kennedy’s planning, connections, and money were behind marketing efforts that made him a national celebrity.
During JFK’s presidency, his desire and demand for loyalty resulted in his capable staff serving him poorly as they preferred to please him rather than enlighten him. What the public saw in JFK was an attractive, glamorous, hardworking President devoted to country, wife and family. Four former secret service men who were assigned the Kennedy presidential detail were interviewed for The Dark Side of Camelot. They reported they saw a president obsessed with sex, willing to take enormous risks to gratify that obsession, a president who came late many times to the Oval Office and who was not readily available for hours during the day.
Jack Kennedy had a severe case of Addison’s disease; an often fatal disease that weakens the immune system. He was given last rites on four occasions but recovered each time. He was often sick as an infant. He nearly died from scarlet fever at age 2, at 4 he missed two thirds of his nursery school days due to illness, at 13 he almost died due to appendicitis, and in college he suffered a back injury playing football that led him to wear a back brace much of the rest of his life. He was born with one leg slightly longer than the other so he had back problems even before the football injury.
JFK had been treated since his early twenties for a series of often painful venereal diseases. He was repeatedly reinfected and presumably infecting his wife and many other sex partners. Basically, pain was a constant in JFK’s life. To deal with it, he enlisted the services of Dr. Max Jacobson. Dr. Jacobson was known to the secret service agents as “Dr. Feelgood”.
He often treated the president with “painkillers” (apparently a combination of cortisone and amphetamines), and provided drugs and hypodermic needles for self-administration. There were periods during his presidency when JFK would get an injection every six hours. He received treatments shortly before one of the televised debates with Nixon, during Presidential travels to Europe, moments before a summit meeting with Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev, and during the tense moments of the October 1962 missile crisis. Dr. Jacobson’s license to practice medicine was revoked in 1975 for misuse of amphetamines.
President Kennedy once told a friend, “You know, I get a migraine headache if I don’t get a strange piece of — every day.” Apparently he didn’t have many headaches. His affairs were legion. He even slept with one of his long time lovers in the Georgetown home he shared with his wife and two children the night before his inauguration.
Secret service agents were frustrated by the many “unknown” women who were brought to the President for one-night stands. The women were not searched before meeting the President. The agents feared that one of these women would blackmail or even kill JFK. This was not the only way the agents felt derelict in their duty, they also allowed crimes to go unreported. When travelling, oftentimes local officials would bring call girls and hookers (often more than one at a time) to the President.
The agents, rather than arresting the President or his aides, friends and supporters for procuring prostitutes, would say nothing. There were many budding Hollywood starlets brought to the White House for their “services” with it made clear that sex with the President could help a career but news of the affair would end it. JFK’s skinny-dipping lunchtime pool parties at the White House with two young female staff aides (Fiddle and Faddle) sometimes included his brothers Bobby and Teddy.
The full condensed PDF is here: http://bztv.typepad.com/Winter/DarkSideSummary.pdf