The Kennedy Legacyrnby James Hillrn’Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.”rn—William ShakespearernThe Dark Side of Camelotrnby Seymour M. HershrnNew York: Little, Brown & Company;rn498 pages; $26.95rnJ; ust the facts, ma’am.” Joe Friday’srnprescription for getting at the truthrnhas been followed by Seymour Hersh,rnwhose investigation of the secret life ofrnJohn F. Kennedy, America’s “prince ofrnthe people,” is peppered with facts as recalledrnby those—many of them on theirrndeath beds or close to it—who guardedrnthe secrets while spinning up the imagernof Camelot.rnThe facts, indeed, are devastating.rnBut then, they are also there for therntelling. Had the guardians of these secretsrn—in particular the big-name journalistsrnof the era who glorified in beingrnpals with JFK—put the national interestrnahead of personal loyalt}’, the seamy sidernof Camelot would have been exposed inrntime and American history from therndarkest period of the Cold War mightrnhave taken a different turn, perhaps forrnthe better—or so Hersh argues.rnMore than three decades after his assassination,rnJohn Fitzgerald Kennedv’srnreputation continues to preserve its saintlyrnluster, resisting the tarnish of time andrntruth. Those of us alive in 1963 will carryrnto our graves the shock of a youngrnPresident cut down as he rode throughrnthe streets of Dallas by the senseless act ofrna lone gunman perched in a schoolbookrnwarehouse. Never mind that the autopsy,rnwith its finding that the President hadrnbeen suffering from a long-running casernof venereal disease, was sealed, or that incriminatingrnrecords and logs were removedrnfrom the White House and presumablyrndestroyed. In his moment ofrndeath, John F. Kennedy became thern]ames Hill is working on a book aboutrnthe proliferation of gambling in America.rn^prnfmil f i l l *rn111 ! •rnI l l 1″rn• • • • ^rn• ! • • ^rn•••• Xrnh” rnJKrnsymbol of a new generation of Americansrndenied, by violence, its place at therntable; he has haunted the national psychernever since.rnBeing a practical. God-fearing people,rnAmericans naturally wanted to knowrnwhy this horror had visited them. Whenrnthe answers began coming in—that thernassassination was the work of a nobodyrnintent on impressing someone, mostrnlikely his estranged Russian-born wife —rnpractical God-fearing Americans didrnsomething entirely unpractical: they suspendedrntheir belief in reality. And so forrnthe first couple of decades following thernassassination, they pursued hundreds ofrnconspiracy theories all the way to theirrninevitable dead ends: Johnson did it,rnCastro did it, the mob did it. Eventually,rnthe facts got in the way. While no crediblernperson has ever come forward tornclaim credit for the conspiracy, plenty ofrnthose who had a piece of the combinationrnto the secret chamber at least maderna start at telling what they knew, while attemptingrnto present their stories in such arnway as to maintain intact the myth of arnwealthy but socially shunned familydescendantsrnof Irish immigrants—attainingrnthe pinnacle of American power tornassume the role of protectors of all therndowntrodden. Theodore Sorensen andrnArthur Schlesinger, Jr., published booksrnintended to confirm the greatness of thernman on whose behalf they had labored;rnaides Kenny O’Donnell and Dave Powersrn(skipping a few details such as thernprocurement of the presidential bimbos)rnpenned a loving tribute to the late President;rnand soon everyone who had beenrnanyone in the New Frontier was droppingrna detail here, a detail there, usuallyrnfor reasons that one can only assumernwere ultimately self-serving.rnAs serious historians compared thesernnotes and accounts, however, an altogetherrndifferent picture of John Kennedyrnbegan to emerge: that of a wife-cheatingrnplayboy with a sexual addiction abovernthe heroin level; a President who cavalierlyrndisregarded the checks and balancesrnof constitutional government in orderrnto have his way, even if that wayrnalmost started a nuclear war; a man whornmade pacts with the devil (mobster SamrnGiancana), while bopping his girlfriend;rnthe scion of a clan so infatuated withrntheir purchased position as America’srnsingle-family aristocracy that they wouldrngo to the bunker to protect it. Still, if thernportrait no longer flattered, the myth atrnleast was secure. As recently as the earlyrn1990’s, two books-JFK; Reckless Youthrnby British biographer Nigel Hamiltonrnand President Kennedy: Profile of Powerrnby Richard Reeves-presented the 35thrnPresident, warts and all, in ways that leftrnJack Kennedy an heroic figure nonetheless.rnSeymour Hersh gives the lion’s sharernof the credit for having opened the vaultrnto these two works and to Doris KearnsrnGoodwin’s The Fitzgeralds and thernKennedys and to Michael R. Beschloss’srnThe Crisis Years. He recognizes others asrnwell in source notes (but, alas, not in arnbibliography, which is missing from thernbook). Clearly, however, the treasurern34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn