What comes across in the new book about Jackie Onassis and her conversations with historian Arthur Schlesinger is how much of a snob she was.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, she was after all a child born into privilege, Yale-educated father and a wealthy Irish American mother.
Art history, poetry, French history and literature were her preferred pursuits we read and you might also add, contempt for those lesser classes who failed to see the importance of such aesthetic pursuits.
Consistently, throughout the book that snobbishness comes through.
She dislikes her mother-in-law Rose Kennedy because she is too Catholic and has a persecution complex.
She dislikes the Irish mafia around Kennedy because she thinks they are very bitter people.
Why she even complains about Irish stew being made in the White House kitchen and she wants to replace it with proper French cuisine.
She dislikes Lyndon Johnson because he’s a Texas rube who should not be trusted with anything.
She dislikes Martin Luther King because he had affairs.
She fails to see the complete person in all her comments, merely taking the superficial as the reality.
Johnson and King together dragged civil rights into the 20th century.
They have no equal in history.
The Irish mafia that she complained about propelled Kennedy to the presidency and played key roles in creating the ‘Camelot’ mystique right after he was killed.
On the other hand every obscure French or foreign intellectual, painter, artiste is treated as the greatest genius on earth. Most are now utterly forgotten
Perhaps she was a woman of her times, afraid to go beneath the manners and the social niceties that dominated a wife’s role back in the early 1960s.
Typical of the period her husband could do not wrong, Jack Kennedy comes across as an almost saintly presence, ironic when we know now he was all too human when it came to human failings.
She knew of course, but choose to bury it in the fashion of the times but canonizing her husband makes her book far less authentic.
Jackie Kennedy proved herself before and after leaving the White House, becoming a woman of the world.
She raised two great kids, given the incredible pressure she was under.
She also saved so many historic buildings in Washington from developers not to mention landmarks such as Grand Central Station in New York that her legacy as a great First Lady is secure.
But there is no doubt also a French-influenced disdain for the unwashed who failed to see the greatness in idle intellectual pursuit and vanity.
Perhaps we should never be surprised that our heroes are mere mortals after all.
In her own voice in this new book, Jackie makes all that abundantly clear.