Speaking of JFK

That Presidents—chief magistrates of the nation—ought to possess solid character was taken for granted in the early Republic and for a long time thereafter. No longer is this the case. Character comes up for discussion mainly when someone like Gary Hart, caught with his pants down, throws the political odds-makers into a sudden tizzy. Even conservatives have relaxed their standards to accommodate, after the fashion of the new age, Presidents divorced from their first wives.

Twentieth-century Americans probably would acknowledge, if polled, the desirability of high standards in political leaders. On this basis, it isn't easy to explain the enthusiasm of an older, primmer America—and the continued wistfulness of those who remember him and of those who were unborn when he died—for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who: conducted endless affairs and one-night (sometimes five-minute) stands his whole adult life, including his years in the White House; fornicated on a Mediterranean-anchored yacht while his wife wrestled with a difficult pregnancy; lied about his precarious health; lied about his war record; talked crudely and profanely as a matter of course; pretended to intellectual attainments and interests that weren't his at all; loved power more than principle; and so on.

Professor Thomas C. Reeves, of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, does not address in detail the reasons for our self-deception...

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