Chris Matthews has written a book. So has Michael Moore. So have Bill Maher, Glenn Greenwald, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Joan Walsh.
Yes, folks, the pimping season has arrived, just in time for the Christmas sales.
This is why you see Michael Moore appropriating Occupy Wall Street, even though pimping his latest Forrest Ga-hu-hu-hump fantasy is pure capitalism. That’s why Joan Walsh appears twice daily on MSNBC opinion programs for no fee at all and out of the goodness of her heart. This is why Greenwald is here, there and everywhere, unfortunately. Maher plugs his book weekly on his show. Self-publicizing is too much for vanden Heuvel’s impeccable Fifth Avenue breeding. She sticks to Twitter.
Chris brought his book into the foray on Hallowe’en. Maybe that’s why Hardball viewers were subjected to a particularly surreal 12-minute segment where he invited his usual cronies, hack’s hack Howard the Hack Fineman and Mike (Disgraced Journalist) Barnicle to interview him.
The occasion for the interview was the release of Matthews’s Kennedy biography, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, which was to go on sale the following day. I don’t know what was more ironic – that Matthews’s laudatory man crush book of myths appearing in print, appropriately, on the traditional Catholic holy day of obligation, All Saints’ Day, or the bizarroworld trumped-up, pretend interview between MSNBC’s Fineman, Barnicle and Matthews on Hallowe’en.
All that was missing from this epic was Joan Walsh, Pat Buchanan and the firewater.
The entire twelve-minute interview revealed that Matthews’s book was nothing more than a rehash of Kennedy myths, the ones his people spun to the adoring public and the ones we were fed as Catholic parochial school children growing up during his administration:-
– That he was a war hero, swimming to the shore towing an injured crewmate with a belt buckle in his mouth. (Yes, we remember the Jimmy Dean song and the Cliff Robertson movie).
– That he wrote Profiles in Courage and won a Pulitzer Prize for it. (Yes, we remember the stylised television program, of the same name, every Sunday night at 7pm during the Kennedy Administration.
– There were the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile crises. (I was seven and being subjected to nuclear air raid drills weekly. We had to crawl under the desks. Had it happened, we’d have been Hiroshima, really).
But I almost spewed the coffee I was drinking when Matthews proclaimed, with a straight face, that Kennedy was a self-made President. That is a blatant lie. Kennedy became President largely because of the money and influence of his father, Joe Kennedy, who had a pretty chequered and funny past, himself, as related by Seymour Hersch, in the outline of his work, The Dark Side of Camelot:-
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 illicit 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.
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.
Joe Kennedy also had cross-party friendships. Amongst one of his closest friends, was Republican and fellow Hitler-admirer, Prescott Bush, whose son also became a war hero and a President.
That Jack Kennedy even served in the Navy at all, much less as an officer, is, again, down to dear old dad and his contacts. Jack Kennedy was a sickly youth, with Addison’s Disease. Most normal guys from ordinary backgrounds would have garnered a 4-F military classification, but Joe obtained a commission and a cushy desk job in Naval Intelligence for Jack in Washington.
Jack mostly lived the live of a bon vivant during this time, engaging in a liaison with a Danish diplomat’s wife, Inga Arvad, who was also a German agent. Trouble was, that Jack’s post-coital pillow talk was most always classified information, meant to impress the lady in question. This resulted in an embarrassing episode and Joe pulling strings again to get Jack a promotion and a PT boat command. Talk about a reverse Peter Principle in operation!
Last year, as homage to the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon debates, the BBC, a pretty reliable news and documentary source – well, more reliable than our news media, anyway – did a spot-on documentary about Kennedy the campaigner entitled John F. Kennedy and the Art of Dirty Politics.
It seems that Nixon wasn’t the only politician into ratfucking. Kennedy did a pretty good job of ratfuckery on not only Nixon, but Hubert Humphrey, in seeking to obtain the Democratic Presidential nomination.
So it comes as a shock to properly study Kennedy the campaigner. The story of how a rich, preppy party boy from Massachusetts managed to raise a roar for underdog America loud enough to carry him to the White House is gripping. But uplifting it certainly isn’t.
Yes, it’s a tale of soaring and risk-taking rhetoric, partly fashioned by the late lamented Ted Sorensen, and of a candidate with remarkable energy.
It is also, however, a tale of big money, smears, bribes, wire-pulling and bottomless cynicism. If you are asking what has gone so wrong with modern politics, Kennedy’s 1960 election campaign is a good place to start.
And in that campaign, West Virginia, the impoverished and sidelined state where Kennedy polished off his main Democratic rival Hubert Humphrey, is better still.
West Virginia is still the wooded, hilly, coal-mining-ravaged place of small towns, military volunteers and neighbourliness it was when the rivals clashed there.
On the one side came Kennedy with his private plane, a present from Daddy, and huge amounts of money for campaign commercials.
He came with promises about more money for the state but above all he was selling an image – the naval war hero, the glamorous wife, the kids, the homespun family with their little sailing boats.
Against them, Hubert Humphrey had a classic old-fashioned campaign. He had been too ill to fight in the war. His finances were meagre.
His wife was homely and old-fashioned. He had no private plane, but a bus – with a broken heater – instead.
He was one of the most intelligent, compassionate and literate politicians in modern American history, who had taken on Communists, organised crime and racialism when these were very dangerous fights to pick, and who understood middle America far better than Kennedy. But he was about to be crushed.
The Kennedy team dealt with their Catholic problem above all by smearing Humphrey as a draft-dodger. They saturated the state with advertising, money and helpers.
By the end, a stunned Humphrey, who had compared his fight to that of a corner store against a supermarket chain, was reduced to using the few hundred dollars he and his wife had saved for their daughter’s education to pay for a final campaign ad.
Having smeared Humphrey and trashed his reputation, the Kennedys washed their hands and denied it all.
What was most annoying about the Matthews “interview,” was simply that it was a ruse, just another way that three, old white guys could sit around and drum up ways they might give the black President “advice.” Chris even went as far as hoping President Obama read his book. This is the same President Obama, mind, who Chris “sometimes” forgets is black and whom other times, he chastises for being elitist (psst! that’s another Yankee word for uppity, but you know, those Yankees aren’t racist in the least). In fact, I wonder if Chris were aware that his hero, JFK, usually referred to African Americans and poor people in general as “poor bastards.”
Matthews and Barnicle – a disgraced journalist, who shouldn’t even be allowed to associate with political opinion media in a professional manner – kept referring wistfully to a speech Kennedy made during his 1960, to the Pennsylvania delegation and having received a lukewarm introduction from the Governor of Pennsylvania, David Leo Lawrence, who was the state’s first Catholic governor. Kennedy, then, publically rounded on Lawrence during the speech, and told the delegation that if they couldn’t vote for Kennedy because he was a Catholic, then they had no business being Democratic delegates.
Matthews, Barnicle and Fineman all agreed that Barack Obama should be following that tack and should have followed it rigorously from campaign to present day.
Ummmmm … let’s see the analogy here. Kennedy whacked recalcitrant Democrats for not stepping up support for him because he was Catholic. So he plaed the religion card – which, I suppose, is permissable today, unless you’re Mormon.
But Barack Obama isn’t Catholic. Or Mormon. Or Muslim, for that matter. The only thing the President or Candidate Obama could have called Democrats’ reluctance on was one thing and one thing only, and that’s something he would never do.
Imagine how Chris and his ilk, not to mention the Republicans, would boo-hoo and cry should the President play the race card?
There’s presently too much of this comparison crap between the current President and those who have gone before him. He’s not a tough arm-twister like Johnson – yet Lyndon Johnson went from hero to zero in two years because of white backlash against Civil Rights (which occurred mainly in the North, as in Mike Barnicle’s hometown of Boston) and Viet Nam. FDR and JFK were born into the highest strata of society. The former was a bona fide aristocrat who was born to govern and give orders. They were all white and enjoyed a degree of white privilege not open to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And then there’s always the ubiquitous comparison to Bill Clinton.
Chris Matthews’s book of Kennedy myths, doubtless, doesn’t touch on the serial adulterer, liar and cheat Jack Kennedy was – a man who did far more than smoke a cigar used as a sex toy on a White House intern and who numbered amongst his conquests Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and the girlfriend of an underworld gang boss.
The 24/7 cable media was just coming to the fore when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was brewing, and there was no stronger and more vociferous critic of that than Chris Matthews. (Barnicle was otherwise engaged in pallin’ around with Whitey Bulger and his brother; Fineman was picking his nose someplace).
Can you imagine how Jack Kennedy, or even Franklin Roosevelt, who was effectively separated from his wife (who may have been bisexual), would have fared in the glare of the modern-day celebrity opinionating media?
They’d be toast. Like Chris’s book.
It’s almost 2012, and four years ago Chris was talking about Obama giving him a tingle up the leg whilst verbally pissing on Hillary Clinton in the most sexist way.
Chris needs to realise that Barack Obama is President of the United States and that Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy are toast.