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Believeable And Depressing
on February 9, 2012
This book tells the story of Mimi Beardsley Alford, who as a 19 year old White House intern, had a sexual relationship with President Kennedy for an approximate 18 month period from June, 1962 to November, 1963. A relatively short book, it provides information about Alford's family background, her education, her affair with JFK,the fallout that came from keeping the relationship secret and then having it outed 40+ years later.
While the veracity of her claims have come under a lot of scrutiny, I tend to think that she is telling the truth. I also get it in regard to how a young woman can get hoodwinked into a sordid affair with a powerful man.
What I don't get is why this very short book was written. I saw Alford on a 60 minute television interview with Meredith Viera tonight after I finished this book. Truthfully, the interview basically covered the main points covered in the book. While on tv and in this book Alford remembers JFK with fondness, I thought JFK came off badly and at times really quite perverse. It was very obvious that Alford was one of many women that JFK used for sex. Speaking of her personal experiences with the president, Alford was blunt but not overtly graphic. Mostly she talked about the sexual liasons in the White House and on the road, playing what she called the "waiting game" which consisted of being sequestered in a hotel room(to avoid detection) until JFK had time for sex. She also had a pregnancy scare which turned out to be a false alarm, though first friend Dave Powers flew into action and managed to provide her with the phone number of an abortionist. Apparently the realities of her situation didn't shake up Alford enough as the relationship with Kennedy sputtered on for another year.
I guess as a woman in 2012, a lot of Alford's youthful reasoning regarding this relationship when it was going on sounds ludicrous. However, if you put it into perspective of the way a young woman might have thought in 1963 it probably seems more plausible. That Alford appears to have been extremely naive adds to that credibility. When all this was going on, she appears to have given little thought to the entire thing except to maintain the veil of secrecy that was in place to protect Kennedy. The best way I can describe the whole thing is that Mimi was extremely naive and was victimized on a lot of levels.
Interestingly enough, while all of this was going on it was an open secret to employees of the White House and the press who well aware of the president's activities. Kennedy wasn't concerned with subtlety on most levels and was unbelievably arrogant as many people in a position of power can be.
Does Kennedy's legend take another blow with this book? Probably not. This sort of thing has been out in print for years, but it seems like this is just another dent in his armor. He comes across even creepier than I imagined, but that's just my opinion.
In the end, I didn't dislike this book but it left me feeling bad that her youthful errors in judgement had long lasting and unhappy ramifications that haunted her for so much of her adult life. It also left me with a lot of questions that Alford concedes she cannot answer because she never thought about them at the time.
In the end, reading this book will get people talking and may alter the public perception of what kind of person JFK was.