If the Kennedys are America's royal family, then John F. Kennedy was the nation's crown prince. Magnetic, handsome, and charismatic, his perfectly coifed image overshadowed the successes and failures of his presidency, and his assassination cemented his near-mythological status in American culture and politics. Struck down in his prime, he represented the best and the brightest of America's future, and when he died, part of the nation's promise and innocence went with him. That, at least, is the public version of the story.
The private version, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour M. Hersh, is quite different. His meticulous investigation of Kennedy has revealed a wealth of indiscretions and malfeasance, ranging from frequent liaisons with prostitutes and mistresses to the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro to involvement in organized crime. Though scandals in the White House are nothing new, Hersh maintains that Kennedy's activities went beyond minor abuses of power and personal indulgences: they threatened the security of the nation--particularly in the realm of foreign policy--and the integrity of the office. Hersh believes it was only a matter of time before Kennedy's dealings were exposed, and only his popularity and charm, compounded by his premature death, spared such an investigation for so long. Exposure was further stalled by Bobby Kennedy's involvement in nefarious dealings, enabling him to bury any investigation of his brother and--by extension--himself.
Based on interviews with former Kennedy administration officials, former Secret Service agents, and hundreds of Kennedy's personal friends and associates, The Dark Side of Camelot rewrites the history of John F. Kennedy and his presidency.
The big casualty in the Marilyn-papers fiasco is the five years of hard work Hersh put into his book. One may quarrel with his judgments but the man is a great investigative reporter, no lie, and when he says somebody told him something he makes it easy for doubters to check it out. Nothing in The Dark Side of Camelot
gives off even a whiff of the dead-fish aroma of the trust fund from Marilyn's Mom, but Kennedy loyalists, joined by others who just don't want to know, are using Hersh's terrible misstep to dismiss what he has dug up as trifling gossip and unsupported heresay. -- The New York Times Book Review, Thomas Powers
This warts-and-more-warts bio is so determined to kill off the Kennedy mystique it should be subtitled The Second JFK Assassination
.... Hersh packs so much sleaze and scandal between the covers, he makes Kitty Kelley look like a pussycat. Much of it is old news, of course, even if Hersh does document the allegations more assiduously than ever before. -- Entertainment Weekly