Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
JFK’s Intern Affair Tests Presidential Character
Feb 9, 2012 4:45 - Robert Dallek - The Daily Beast
A new book full of revelations about JFK’s affair with an intern, prove once again that our politicians often fail morally, but historian Robert Dallek asks if they should be barred from office?
The publication of Mimi Alford’s book describing an 18-month affair with President John F. Kennedy provides titillating details that have made it an overnight media sensation. Aside from the prurient interest so graphic a description of the president’s love life evokes, the book indirectly raises serious questions about presidential character that the candidacies of Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich had recently brought back into public focus.
When Gingrich attacked CNN’s John King for bringing up his alleged proposal of an open marriage to his second wife, Gingrich accused him of lowering the level of discourse in a presidential debate, suggesting that such a discussion is unworthy of consideration by voters.
Was he right? Not by my lights. Presidents are not only the country’s principal policy chief, shaping the nation’s domestic and foreign agendas, but also the most visible example of our values. As a country that prides itself on being the world’s exemplar of human rights, the rule of law, and moral standards, it is embarrassing to have men seeking and/or serving in the presidency who fall short of our highest ideals. True, most Americans give lip service to the proposition that even the most exalted among us have their flaws, but we are eager to believe that presidents manage to rise above the limitations that beset the rest of us.
We have been constantly disappointed in the many ways presidents and lesser public officials have fallen short of what we expected of them—Harding’s Teapot Dome scandal; Harry Truman’s influence-peddling associates; John Kennedy’s hidden medical history and compulsive womanizing; Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick; Lyndon Johnson’s vulgarity that many complained undermined the dignity of the presidency; Richard Nixon’s resignation for abuse of power; Ronald Reagan’s Iran-contra scandal; Bill Clinton’s Monica; and George W. Bush’s Valerie Plame expose are among the most memorable of our recent public embarrassments.