[This article appeared in the May-June 1997 issue of Conservative Review, pp. 10-14.] 


The Deviant Elite that Mocks American “Democracy” 

Dwight D. Murphey

Wichita State University


            Three recent books spell out in detail the behavioral deviancy, mainly sexual, of Presidents Kennedy and Clinton.  Prurient interest aside, this deviancy gives us reasons to add important elements to our understanding both of American “liberalism” and American “democracy.” 


What We’ve Understood: Moral and Cultural Relativism

            In the mid-1980s I wrote a history of “modern liberal” thought[1] that, among other things, traced several steps that have led to the moral relativism that is so important a part of liberal-Left ideology.  Here are the steps:

·        Beginning early in the nineteenth century, the main body of the American “intelligentsia” in New England became alienated from the main society.

·        By the end of that century, this alienation led to the existence of an intellectual subculture with a consolidated ideology (as distinct from the scatter-gun of differing points of view that existed earlier in the century) when a large number of American graduate students studied under the German Historical School.

·        The “modern liberal” ideology and political program have fundamentally reflected (as has socialist thought worldwide) an “alliance” of the intellectual subculture with a variety of disaffected or unassimilated groups.

·        That alliance, together with the intellectual subculture’s alienation from the commercial middle class, led naturally to the ideology’s adopting a morally and culturally relativistic worldview.

A principal value of moral and cultural relativism to the Left, especially during the heyday of the counter-culture, has been that it undercuts the values embraced by the main culture.  These are said to be “artificial structurings” and “no better than any other social choices.”  (With this, the Left undermined the ties people had with existing institutions and beliefs, freeing those for the changes advocated by the Left.)

Moral relativism also provides the rationale for an empathetic, therapeutic view of the behavior and ways of life of those who are less successful or outside the mainstream.  This is essential if the ideological and political relationship is to be one of appealing (conservatives would say “pandering”) to those people. 


What We Learn From the Recent Books

            What did not come to mind in that analysis was the extent to which this moral relativism has led American “liberalism,” the liberal media, and the Democratic Party to condone, when convenient, a lot of deviant behavior (if we judge it, as we well might in Conservative Review, by the norms of the mainstream culture).

            This includes not only sexual deviance, but also condonation of criminality.  The latter is illustrated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s appointment of Joseph P. Kennedy as the first head of the Securities Exchange Commission just a short time after Kennedy had made his fortune in stock manipulation and mob-connected bootlegging, and by President John F. Kennedy’s continued contact with the man, Sam Giancana, who was the United States’ leading mob leader after the death of Al Capone.  As we will see, Giancana credited himself with having gotten John F. Kennedy elected.

            In reviewing the books about Presidents Kennedy and Clinton, what is important is that we grasp that their behavior reflects a long-standing disposition on the part of certain major ideological and political forces in the United States.  Instead of seeing their behavior in isolation, we see it as a measure of what “modern liberalism” is willing to accept—even among its favorites as they occupy this country’s highest office.  This adds significant elements to our understanding of the role played by moral relativism.  The “liberal-Left” in America has long had three characteristics that go to its essence but that have scarcely been noticed:

            First, that the intellectual, political and media elite at its helm stands quite apart from the mainstream society, in effect mocking it with arrogance and disdain.  What inference could be more clear from John F. Kennedy’s having been injected with amphetamines, and having sex with a woman he’d never seen before, immediately going on national television for his first debate with Richard Nixon, or his “having sex in closets” during the presidential campaign?

            The acts themselves are bad enough, but even worse is the state of mind that must necessarily have accompanied them.  Here was a man, supported by the milieu that surrounded him, whose “reality” was totally different from the image he projected, and who showed by his actions that inwardly he held in contempt the way of life and moral standards of the millions of people he was inducing to embrace that image.

            Second, that with such a division between an inward reality-of-contempt and an outward appeal-to-the-masses, the “democracy” that the liberal Left has so long extolled is essentially, precisely as seen by it, a “suckers’ game.”  There is no respect for the millions of average Americans, or a desire truly to inform them, or any intention really to give effect to their mandates (certainly not in the moral area).  The millions have been there, and continue to be there, simply to be used.  In this regard, the electorate in “the world’s largest and oldest democracy” was much like the women author Edward Klein tells us John F. Kennedy used sexually and then lost interest in.

            Third, it is confirmed again, as it has been from so many sources, that the intellectual-ideological elite that has set the tone of twentieth-century American society in literature, film, the arts, and politics has been “depraved” to the point of pathology.  This has been no ordinary elite, certainly not a high-minded one.  If we want to understand, for example, the language, sexuality and brutality of post-1960s American films, we need to look nowhere else.  It tells us that the scandals over National Endowment for the Arts grants are not exceptions.  The point is that the elite itself is, and long has been, aberrant. 


John and Jackie Kennedy (and Others)

            The revelations in Edward Klein’s 1996 book All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy[2] are so devastating that it is necessary to start by evaluating its credibility.  It would seem that there are convincing reasons to believe it:

·        The author, Edward Klein, is a journalist at the peak of his profession; a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, he was for eleven years the editor of The New York Times Magazine.

·        His book is the product of painstaking work, based on interviews with 325 people close to the Kennedys.  He was personally acquainted with Jackie Kennedy.  (I will use informal references, such as to “Jackie” and “Jack,” because that is what Klein himself uses.)

·        Perhaps most important, Klein’s bias is pro-Kennedy and “liberal.”  This appears in various ways throughout the book, such as on page 215 when he attempts a rather obtuse justification for some particularly callous behavior on JFK’s part.  The book’s title itself, All Too Human, is a rationalization for behavior that most of us certainly don’t consider typical of “the human.”

·        He is quite obviously committed, despite that bias, to a “fair-minded reporting” of the facts as he found them.  He has done this despite severe personal cost.  (There is an odd piece written by him in Parade magazine’s August 25, 1996, issue, where his revelations are mixed with the most transparent sycophancy.  We can suppose that this marks something of a desperate effort to “make amends.”)

            Offset against these considerations is the fact that Klein and his publisher stand to gain financially from the book and the possibility that some of the revelations relate to behavior that some will think improbable (such as the description of how Jackie lost her virginity in an elevator).

            On balance, the evidence points toward credibility, especially when we consider than many other sources corroborate Klein’s account by telling of the same or similar behavior.  Indeed, the reviews in Time, Newsweek and the New York Times—sources that would certainly include many people who knew Jack and Jackie Kennedy—make no protest about the substance of the book. 


The Deviancy as Reported by Edward Klein

            What, then, are the facts, which I will recite as stated in the book?  I will break them down into categories. There is a lot that is explicit.  Any reader who will be offended should stop reading now.  There can, however, be no full appreciation of the extent of the deviancy without those details. 

John F. Kennedy’s Sexual Conduct

·        Klein tells how Frank Sinatra introduced JFK to Judith Campbell (later Judith Campbell Exner) in 1960, and how Judy became the mistress of both JFK and Sam Giancana, a combination that both men apparently welcomed because she was then able to serve as a liaison between them.  JFK, we are told, had sex with Judy in his marriage bed when Jackie was one-month pregnant and away in Palm Beach.

·        One of JFK’s advance men, a homosexual protégé from Harvard, “procured girls for him.”

·        On a trip to Vietnam, JFK went to a house of prostitution.  He liked to have two women in bed with him at once to maintain his sexual excitement.

·        We are told about his sex with Inga Arvad, a suspected German spy, after the beginning of World War II.

·        Klein relates that JFK and Senator Estes Kefauver had sex openly with two women at a party, and then exchanged women to continue.  The book says JFK liked group sex and watching two women have sex.

·        The book reports that JFK had intercourse with Jackie’s sister Lee while Lee’s husband overheard them from the next room and while Jackie was in the hospital giving birth to Caroline by Caesarian.

·        The revelation is made that JFK had himself injected with amphetamines, and had intercourse with a woman he’d never met before, within a short time before his first televised debate with Richard Nixon.

·        Klein says JFK was “screwing women in closets” during his presidential campaign.

·        JFK had sex with the French Ambassador’s wife.

·        He had a long sexual relationship with Marilyn Monroe, starting in 1954.

·        Nude women swam in the White House swimming pool, and JFK smoked marijuana with a woman who was his regular mistress after January 1962. 

Other Facts About JFK’s Character

·        Much of JFK’s book While England Slept was the work of journalist Arthur Krock, who rewrote the manuscript.  And most of the work on the famous Profiles in Courage was done by others.

·        JFK was spoiled and easily bored.  His attendance in Congress was poor.

·        He contracted a venereal disease, nongonococcal urethritis, in 1940, and was never fully cured of it.

·        He (and his coterie) hid from the electorate the facts about his health: his congenital spinal deformation, his venereal disease, and his Addison’s disease.

·        Klein describes the mob’s role in the 1960 West Virginia Democratic primary and Sam Giancana’s claim to have gotten JFK elected. 

Joseph P. Kennedy’s Criminal Past and Political Ascendance

·        Klein describes the ties that JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, had with the mob and his bootlegging activities during Prohibition.

·        Despite Joseph’s reputation for such activities, he was appointed the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, was prominently mentioned as a Democratic presidential contender if Franklin Roosevelt chose not to run in 1940, and was named ambassador to Great Britain.

·        We are told that Sam Giancana, the successor to Al Capone, saved Joseph’s life when Detroit’s Jewish mafia “put out a contract” for his death. 

Joseph P. Kennedy’s Sexual Conduct

·        Klein says that as a boy JFK witnessed his father having intercourse with actress Gloria Swanson aboard the father’s yacht, and that Joseph offered to share women with his son.

·        Joseph described his sex with Gloria Swanson in detail to Jackie.

·        He tried to get into bed with one of Jackie’s houseguests, and with Jackie’s sister, Lee.

·        In 1957, his secretary in New York City was his mistress. 

Jackie Kennedy’s Sexual Conduct

·        Her father was a sexual confidant with her, and told her about his adultery on his honeymoon.  Her stepfather collected pornography.

·        She lost her virginity in an elevator in Paris.

·        She had her diaphragm flown to Italy for use in an affair on a yacht.

·        She had sex with Aristotle Onassis while he was still married. 

Depreciation of “Bourgeois” Norms

            Klein tells the rationale for all this when he mentions its departure from what the Kennedy’s saw as “bourgeois” norms.  “They did not look for a lovey-dovey bourgeois relationship in which their husband would sit by their bed, hold their hand….”[3]  And again: “Jackie was envious of Lee’s ability to thumb her nose at bourgeois convention….”[4]


Two Books About the More Recent Deviancy

            A more recent history is told by two books—Gary Aldrich’s Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House[5] and Joe Klein’s novel Primary Colors[6]--that convey the flavor of the Clinton presidency.  Here, too, we see behavior that reveals a state of mind that arrogantly disdains the standards of ordinary Americans while at the same time a façade is created that makes a “sucker’s game” out of the American political process.           

“Unlimited Access” About the Clinton White House

            The main defense of Clinton against the revelations made by Gary Aldrich has been to deprecate Aldrich as though his observations lack credibility.  This runs directly counter to the credence that should be given.  He is arguably the person best situated to have observed first-hand the events within the Clinton White House up to the time of his retirement in June 1995.  He was also the observer who, by credentials and experience, would seem the most impartial.

            Aldrich served for thirty years as a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  He was one of the two FBI agents stationed permanently within the White House during the final two years of President (G.H.W.) Bush’s term and more than two years of President Clinton’s first term.  The job of the FBI agents within the White House was primarily to do background investigation for security clearances for White House and other executive branch employees.

            Some of what Aldrich reports are based on his direct observation, and much on talks he had with “well placed sources,” who were abundant around him.  For example, it was Craig Livingstone, the White House “director of security,” who told him of an affair between Hillary Clinton and Vincent Foster.  And it was “a well placed White House source” who told Aldrich that Bill Clinton disappeared from the White House at night for hours at a time; this was supplemented by word from “an experienced investigator” who told Aldrich that at those times the president would go to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington, clandestinely entering through the basement parking garage.  The reader should read Unlimited Access itself to assess the credence that should be given to these reports.  Credibility is enhanced, of course, by the fact that they are consistent with similar reports relating to Clinton’s time as governor of Arkansas from several purported participants—such people as Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and more than one state trooper.

            A point of emphasis in Aldrich’s book, naturally enough in light of his own work, is how Clinton personnel harbored a deep contempt for the security-clearance process, and were willing to play fast and loose with top-secret government information.  Among much evidence of this is the fact that the White House Counsel’s office held up 42 clearance forms for seven months while the staff members who were involved continued to have access to top-secret documents.  Fourteen months after Clinton was inaugurated, hundreds of staff members still didn’t have passes.  All this stemmed directly from the president and first lady, who spoke of Secret Service agents as “personal, trained pigs.”

            But what is most interesting is the counter-cultural tone of the Clintons and their assemblage, which included a sexual looseness in the Kennedy tradition (though stemming from an origin in the counter-culture of the 1960s rather than from the spoiled snobbery of a strata of uncultured rich).  For the preparation of the White House Christmas tree in 1993, a call was put out to art students around the country to submit decorations.  After it was decorated with such “ornaments” as condoms, male figurines with erect penises, drug paraphernalia, and “cock rings,” Hillary’s social secretary declared the tree “perfect.”  For the route of the public tour entering the White House, Hillary selected a statue called “Bertha” that sported huge naked buttocks.  An order had to be given for all White House staff members to wear underwear after a woman staffer bent over, revealing no undergarments.  Employees of the GSA Supervising Carpenter caught two male staff members having sex on a White House desk; and a woman staff member reported seeing two women having sex in a White House shower stall.  A cleaning lady complained that staffers threw garbage and trash on the floor.  During Clinton’s trip to the site of the Normandy invasion, staff members stole U.S. Navy towels; and at the Normandy cemetery a staff member intentionally kicked over the American flag at a soldier’s grave so that cameras could show Clinton putting it back.

            None of this, according to Aldrich, was out of keeping with the tone set by Bill and Hillary themselves.  Contrary to Bill’s affable and Hillary’s polished public images, each indulged in continual obscenity and rage.  They screamed at each other on the day of the inauguration, and had frequent rages with each other and the staff. 

“Primary Colors” About the 1992 Democratic Primary Election Campaign

            The Clintons’ Kennedyesque sexual tone is perhaps best brought out by Joe Klein (not to be confused with the Ed Klein who wrote about the Kennedys) in Primary Colors.  Although presented as a piece of fiction, so that no direct credence should be given to any particular detail, it is thought by the major media to be an uncannily accurate “insider’s account” of the 1992 Democratic primary election campaign.  “Whoever did it had both real inside information and a dead-on eye,” wrote Newsweek on January 29, 1996.  The book made a sensation when released, with the media speculating at length about who the author could possibly be.  Considerable anger was then heaped on Joe Klein, himself a columnist for Newsweek, for having lied when he had denied writing it, when finally he was unmasked as the author.

            Significantly, the cascade of speculation and anger about authorship was never predicated on the book’s having painted an inaccurate portrait of the Clintons (pictured through the fictional characters Jack and Susan Stanton) or their entourage.  There was no outrage that “they have been wronged.”  Nothing speaks more eloquently for the book’s essential accuracy than that omission by a great many people who are in a position to know.

            I won’t repeat the story, which is a novel recounting the campaign.  It is enough to note certain salient features.  One of these is that a central theme of the novel is “campaign sex”—between the character who narrates the story and another campaign staffer, between the first lady-to-be and the narrator, and between the presidential candidate Jack Stanton and a waitress with whom he fathers an illegitimate child.

            Equally important is the portrayal of Stanton’s personality.  It is that of a master at projecting warmth and sincerity.  Stanton captivated people with a caring gaze and a touch on the arm.  It is more than a little coincidence that All Too Human tells us, about Jack Kennedy, that “he developed a unique style of expression that created a sense of emotional intimacy between himself and his audience.  Women adored him.”  This is a precise picture of the fictional Jack Stanton—and of President Bill Clinton. 


            In the fact that the world can be so easily seduced, and the additional fact that an elite stands ready to allow it to be, we see important revelations about the nature of American “liberalism” and about the depth of the crisis, mentioned earlier, that has long beset American “democracy.” 



[1]   Although it was originally published under a different title by the University Press of America, the most recent published version of this book is my Liberalism in Contemporary America  (McLean, VA: Council of  Social and Economic Studies, 1992).

[2]   Edward Klein, All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy (New York: Pocket Books, 1996), hardbound, 406 pages $23.

[3]   Klein,  All Too Human, p. 209.

[4]   Klein, All Too Human, p. 218.

[5]   Gary Aldrich, Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1996), hardbound, 222 pages, $24.95. 

[6]   Anonymous (belatedly revealed to be Joe Klein), Primary Colors (New York: Random House, 1996), hardbound, 367 pages, $24.