Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Personal Asides: Republicans Who Favored Lauzen Now Reconsidering How Lucky They were That Oberweis Won…More about Camelot from “Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House” by Sally Bedell Smith.


Lauzen Bitter?

A number of Republicans who favored State Sen. Chris Lauzen for the Republican nomination over Jim Oberweis in the 14th district (and I was one of them) have told me that in retrospect the party is far better off with Oberweis. Why? Lauzen, a true believer, was never very good at raising money whereas Oberweis has a spigot; he turns it on and it flows. The candidates were very similar on ideology anyhow, they say—and now with Oberweis facing a multi-millionaire Democratic nominee who will be reinforced by Rahm Emanuel who has a huge campaign wallet, they argue maybe it was for the better that Oberweis won. Else how could Lauzen begin to compare with the gusher of Democratic money that is due to be poured into the district.

Be that as it may, the word seems to be getting around that Lauzen never called Oberweis to congratulate him and that he may continue to be a pouter and sore loser. If so, it would be a tragedy because while the district is heavily Republican all the GOP needs is fratricidal bickering to continue in the race which could open it up for a Democratic upset. What Lauzen out to do is grow up and congratulate the winner. He has his state senate seat and if he wants to pursue a future in the GOP he ought to be a good loser. There is no better example than Oberweis who in his legendary past losing episodes congratulated many fellow Republicans who bested him for governor and the U. S. senate.

Camelot Revisited.

Kennedy Mixes Girl Friends, Jackie and Society, Heedless of Risk.

Joe Kennedy, lionized as the nation’s most patriarchal Catholic, paid little heed to circumspection with his girl friends. Once he took his family to Italy on the steamship Queen Mary but had Gloria Swanson tucked away in a private stateroom as well. Rose found out about it but she took on a long-suffering attitude. Joan Kennedy, married to Teddy, filled in Jackie about “Kennedy men” and their loves. Somehow, although Jackie was the epitome of the good wife, she learned to cope with John’s frequent escapades. For a short time she considered divorcing him for infidelity but his father-in-law volunteered to make it up to her with lavish endowments. The book is silent as to whether this turned the tide but Jackie was by all odds the most prolific spender among the First Ladies.

A case in point:

After an inauguration night party at the Statler Hilton, John Kennedy was driven to Joe Alsop’s home (he was a powerful columnist for “The New York Herald Tribune”). Alsop was gay, an elitist whose patrician accent was sprinkled with “dear boy” and “darling” as he drank scotch and waved his cigarette holder. “Many acquaintances suspected with a select group knew: Alsop was a homosexual. During a trip to the Soviet Union in 1957 he had been entrapped by the KGB and photographed in flagrante with a young man. The Soviets had failed in their attempt to blackmail him into espionage but he had been forced to reveal his behavior to the CIA and FBI. J. Edgar Hoover had shared the details with top members of the Eisenhower administration and by 1960 the secret had filtered out into the political and journalistic community. `Joe was gay and Jack Kennedy knew all about that,’ said Ben Bradlee. Pp. 71-72.

At Alsop’s home was one Helen Chavchavadze, “a 27-year-old brunette divorcee with two young daughters” who “had been involved with [Kennedy] since the previous summer. She was the first cousin of John Husted, the man Jackie had thrown over to marry Jack, as well as a classmate of Jackie’s sister Lee at Farmington. Helen Husted had left Bennington College after two years to marry David Chavchavadze, the son of a Russian princess who had grown up in the palaces of St. Petersburg. During four years in Berlin, where David worked for the CIA, Helen became fluent in Russian and German. `She was just gorgeous,’ said Ben Bradlee, `totally pretty, well educated and interesting.’ She was also unconventional in her attitudes with a mother who had graduated from Oxford and served as a `role model of freedom and rebellion.’

“Helen had met JFK in the Spring of 1959 when Jackie invited her to a small dinner party in honor of Lee. Jack took a keen interest in Helen’s knowledge of Russia, pelting her with one question after another, finding out about her life and her thoughts. `He was not at that point flirtatious,’ she recalled. A year later in the summer of 1960, Chavchavadze was teaching part-time and finishing her college degree at Georgetown when she got a call from Charley Bartlett inviting her to a dinner party [at Kennedy’s Georgetown home], [Bartlett was Kennedy’s close friend, a columnist for the `Washington Star’ and a pimp for Kennedy notwithstanding that he introduced Kennedy to Jackie and who shamelessly used his journalistic credentials to flack and hustle for JFK’s programs and find him girls].

“After dinner she was driving home [to her Georgetown home] in her Volkswagen beetle. “JFK pulled up beside her in his white convertible . `He followed me home,’ she said. `I had an affair with Jack and it began then.’”

“She saw him a few times and he once sent her a note from the campaign scribbled on Butler Aviation stationery saying he had been unable to reach her but planned to see her the following week. `One of the reasons is to discuss the education matter,’ he wrote. `There are, however, other reasons.’ ‘A little innuendo,’ Chavchavadze recalled. ‘I was surprised that he pressed me but I was up for it too.’ Once JFK was elected, she figured the affair was over. But when she saw him at Joe Alsop’s, she was surprised that he `was cold and negative. I remember feeling neglected . It was the first time I realized I might not be the only clandestine affair.’ She figured that `he may have snubbed me because he was having an assignation with someone else. It would not have surprised me if he had done that. It was typical of him.’

“Kennedy in fact had not given up on Chavchavadze. A few weeks after the inauguration, he walked into her house which was across the street from his church in Georgetown, with Florida senator George Smathers [a legendary womanizer]. `By his appearance he was saying `I am a free man. The Secret Service was not going to stop me,’ she said. `He was paying a call. It was broad daylight and it was a statement: `I will be free to see the women I want to see in the White House.’ Kennedy would invite her from time to time for intimate evenings when Jackie was away and Jackie would include Chavchavadze on the guest lists for their dinner dances and small dinner parties—the last of which was nine days before the assassination. `I never knew if Jackie knew but I felt uncomfortable about her,’ said Chavchavadze. ‘I always felt ambivalent and wanted to end it…I was never someone who had extramarital affairs. It was not my style but it was irresistible with Jack.”

Chavchavadze was more normal than Kennedy, after all. Applying for a job at the State Department without Kennedy’s help, she felt she was being interrogated very closely about her personal life and associations even to the extent of the abortions she had. Paranoia set in. She ended up in a mental hospital, tortured by her double life and guilt, wondering if Jackie knew. Jack continued free as a bird to have liaisons with many other women. The compartmentalization of his life stunned her. Her story is a very sad one. Before Bedell Smith finishes, you wonder if Kennedy was not a sex obsessed monster, so cavalier was he when national security was involved. For that matter there is still the thought prevalent that his sharing the same mistress with Sam Giancana contributed to his murder. Pp. 71-73.

Why the JFK recklessness? It was a somewhat different time from today where love affairs were kept out of the press—but even so, he was running a risk. Warren Harding never got away with his affairs 40 years earlier. But the insensate love affair the media had with Kennedy was corruptive and incestuous.


  1. You make an excellent point concerning the much maligned President Warren G. Harding. While he may have been mediocre and had some extramarital dalliances, he did not father an illegitimate child with Nan Britten. Subsequent to his death Britten filed a lawsuit for child support and lost.
    Nonetheless, Harding is repeatedly cited for having an illegitimate daughter on account of his mistress peddling a scandalous book about their affair. Harding was sterile. His wife, Florence, had a child by her prior marriage.

  2. Sen. Lauzen should call and congratulate Oberweis but that can be hard to do when a man uses his time and money to personally attack you and attempt to characterize you as corrupt and dishonest. If Lauzen does this, the goodwill might carry over when Oberweis quits and runs for Governor in two years.

  3. A classic story sums up press coverage of JFK's womanizing. At the end of 1960, the president-elect took up residence at a New York hotel to interview prospective cabinet members. The New York Times sent a reporter each day to sit in the lobby, and note any prominent visitors, providing the chance to speculate on possible appointments. According to legend, the reporter came back one day, and informed his editors that he hadn't seen any visits by any possible cabinet members, but he did see Marilyn Monroe.
    "Well, there's no story today," one editor replied.

  4. Lovie's LeatherFebruary 13, 2008 at 7:37 AM

    The wierd thing is Oberweis and Lauzen are from the same fraction of the party, the anti-machine conservative Republican. Lauzen probably has a personal problem with Oberweis. I can tell you, after meeting Oberweis (while volunteering for a different candidate in his Gov. campaign), I didn't like the guy one bit. Did I agree with him on 85% of issues? Yes. But my problem is, has been, and always will be, if you are a self-serving, egotistical, looking-down-your-nose type I am not going to like you and might not vote for you. So I can understand Lauzen's concern, even though he and Oberweis are almost the same on issues.