Tuesday 23 January 2018

Tim Blacker: JFK intern Maria Crider's story has nothing to do with bullying or victimhood

Getty Images
Getty Images

IT is open season once more on the randy American presidents of the past. In a forthcoming TV documentary on Bill Clinton's sex life, Marla Crider, a former colleague (and, of course, lover), revealed that women were "totally mesmerised... it was like bees to honey". The womanising days of another priapic president, John Kennedy, have been recalled in a book called Once Upon a Secret, in which Mimi Alford tells the story of her own White House affair when she was a young and, briefly, virginal intern.

It almost goes without saying that a mini-hurricane of disapproval has attended Alford's book. One reviewer described her as a Barbie doll and Stepford wife, while Kennedy emerged "a deeply unpleasant individual, a liar and a hypocrite, vain and arrogant in equal measures". Even The Spectator, not noted for primness, asked in a headline, "JFK: The Nastiest President of the Twentieth Century?" This superior moral position is not shared by Alford. The closing scene of her book describes a visit to Kennedy's grave at Arlington Cemetery with her second husband. Standing there, she silently mouths the words, "Thank you".

This approach to past misbehaviour plays very badly these days. We know precisely what we are supposed to think. A powerful man who takes a 19-year-old intern's virginity and subsequently involves her in tacky sexual behaviour is a brute and villain. The woman, whatever she might say, is the victim. Yet any adult sexual being will know that this version is a nonsense, a comforting fairy-tale which takes no account of actual human desire.

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