Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnJohn-John Is My Co-Pilotrn.^side from the non-resignation and nonruinrnof President Clinton and the noncampaignrnfor the RepubHcan presidentialrnnominadon, the biggest non-event ofrn1999 was undoubtedly the non-survivalrnlast sunmier of John F. Kennedy, Jr.,rnwho, true to the traditions of his family,rnmanaged to seize international headlinesrnwhen his own recklessness and incompetencernled to disaster—this time not onlyrnfor other people, which historically hasrnbeen the major accomplishment of thernKennedy clan, but also for himself. Hisrndeath was indeed a sad occasion. Giftedrnw ith fame, looks, and legend, if not withrnany discernible talent, John-John wasrnbest known to the American public as thernsmall boy who was made to salute hisrnfather’s funeral cortege on that barernand bitter day in 1963. But that, indeed,rnwas the extent of the young man’srnachievement. Being dubbed “The SexiestrnMan Alie” by People magazine andrnfounding a frothy gossip sheet for fashionablernManhattan coffee tables would,rnfor any serious person, be not so muchrnachievements as embarrassments; but forrnJohn-John, thev were the pinnacles of hisrngrown-up vocation. His death was sadrnbecause he seems to have been entirelyrnharnrless, much like any other victim of arnplane accident, but not because of anyrnsignificant future that his mind or characterrnhad promised.rnNational mourning of the death of anrnattractive celebrity who happened to bernthe son of a former president would havernbeen entirely appropriate, but the propagandarnorgans of the Ruling Class werernunable to leave it at that. From the momentrnof John-John’s disappearance offrnthe Massachusetts coast, the establishmentrnpress set off such a howl of griefrnand so protracted a yelp of pain thatrnone would have thought that Pearl Harbor,rnthe Alamo, and the HolocaustrnMemorial Museum had all suddenlyrnbeen vaporized in a nuclear attack byrnwhite supremacists from Idaho. ThernWashington Post ran a banner headlinernabout Kenned’s plane crash the dayrnafter it happened, and staff writerrnMichael Grunw aid set the tone and pacernof what would quickly become a nationalrnmania. “John F. Kennedy, Jr., the dashingrncelebrity who represents the bestknownrnlink to his father’s Camelot era, isrnmissing at sea,” Mr. Grunwald moanedrnin what passes at the Post for a news storv,rnand Kennedy’s apparent death was “anotherrnstartiing blow for the star-crossedrnfamily that has become America’s versionrnof political royalty.”rnAnd so it went in newspapers and onrnnews shows all over the world for a solidrnweek and more. Not since the murder ofrnGianni Versace had a death in the UnitedrnStates brought so much lachrymosernfoam to the jowls of the chattering class,rnand not since the death of Princess Dianarnin Paris had the mob that pays attentionrnto the mewlings of the chattering classrnhad a chance to wallow and cavort in sornmuch manufactured grief. That thernmass mourning for John-John was manufacturedrnis incontestable. For all his cosmeticrnprettiness and personal harmlessness,rnthe young Kennedv was simply notrnmuch of an object of popular affection orrneven interest. Spontaneous mass grief forrnthe deaths of Elvis and Jimmy Stewart,rneven of Diana herself, makes sense. ForrnJohn-John, it just doesn’t.rnThere were manv reasons why therndeath of yet another Kennedy representedrna swell opportunity to manufacture yetrnanother mythical hero, not the least beingrnthe sheer volume of sales that the fabricationrnengendered. But there was also arnpolitical purpose, which was to formulaternyet again the mythology of Camelot asrnthe incarnation of what America is supposedrnto be but has never been able to becomernbecause the vast right-wing conspiracyrnof assassins that murdered Johnrnand Bobby keeps shooting anyone whornmight make it reality. The latest death ofrna Kennedy was thus the occasion irot onlyrnfor inventing another hero as fake asrnthe one that crawled out of PT-109 duringrnWorld War II but also for pouring thernold myth into a new bottle from whichrnthe mass mind of the New America willrnbe able to swig its fill of cultural and politicalrnfantasy.rnOne of the more interesting, if ratherrnbizarre, reformulations of the Kennedyrnlegend popped up in a long essay onrn”The Kennedy Myths” b- Norman Podhoretzrnin the Wall Street Journal of Julyrn29. Mr. Podhoretz, the retired editorrnof Commentary magazine, one of thernfounders and chief articulators of “neoconservatism,”rnand now in his old age thernpaterfamilias of a vast spawn of talentlessrndimwits even less gifted than thernKennedy family, showed little interest inrnthe death of young Mr. Kennedy but arngood deal in the image of his father andrnhis father’s political legacy. As is not uncommonrnwith neoeonservatives of anyrngeneration, Mr. Podhoretz mainly managedrnto distort and miss the real point ofrnthat legacy, though not so much fromrnthick-headedness, perhaps, as from a desirernto repackage the Kennedy legend inrna wa’ that will be useful to neoconservativernpolitical purposes.rnIt was the main burden of Mr. Podhoretz’srnargument to claim that, whilernJohn Kennedy and his politics seemed tornMr. Podhoretz in his radical phase duringrnthe early 1960’s to be a betrayal of,rnand an obstacle to, serious social and politicalrnchange, they seem now, in the maturityrnof Mr. Podhoretz’s wisdom as arnneoconservative sage, to be not especiallyrnliberal at all. “Indeed,” Mr. Podhoretzrnwrote, “shocking as it may sound on firstrnhearing, the policies advocated by JohnrnF. Kennedy made him more a precursorrnof Ronald Reagan than of his twornyounger brothers” —i.e., the brutal andrnswaggering Bobby and the oafish Ted.rnIt is indeed shocking at first hearing,rnbut Mr. Podhoretz makes a reasonablyrngood case for this claim. Like Reagan,rnKennedy campaigned in 1960 on promisesrnof a tax cut, an arms build-up, andrna committed antagonism to connriunism.rnIn Mr. Podhoretz’s view, it was notrnJohn Sr. who sired the leftism that nowrnstruts up and down the cultural and politicalrnpower centers of the country but hisrnbrothers:rnSo little did Ted’s views have inrncommon with those of JFK that itrnwas as though Sir Lancelot had returnedrnfrom his quest for the HolyrnGrail and revealed that he had renouncedrnChristianit)’ and becomerna pagan.rnBut the resemblance between Ken-rnNOVEMBER 1999/35rnrnrn