While the women of Italy declare that "Italy is not a brothel" and vow to have prime minister Silvio Berlusconi tried for allegedly having sex with an underage girl, salacious details have emerged from the FBI concerning yet another politician allegedly involved in a 'brothelgate'.
The politician in question is Ted Kennedy, who, despite being recently deceased, still seems to provoke violent emotions among diverse American groups. Following a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch -- a conservative organisation that purports to promote "transparency, accountability and integrity in government politics and the law" -- previously unpublished files held by the FBI have been released, to an uproar of moral indignation. As Judicial Watch's president, Tom Fitton, declared: "Ted Kennedy, one of Obama's leftist politician heroes, liked to hang out with communists and prostitutes."
Doncha just love it?
But is it true? And, if it is, does it matter?
What do the files -- which cover a trip taken by Kennedy to South America in 1961 -- actually say?
Seemingly, prior to becoming a senator, the youngest Kennedy brother went (was sent?) off to bolster his foreign policy credentials. His first stop was a meeting in Colombia with Lauchlin Currie, a lefty economist who was later accused of giving information to the Russians (an accusation still being debated by historians). From there he went on to Santiago, where he "made arrangements to 'rent' a brothel for the entire night". "Kennedy allegedly invited one of the embassy chauffeurs to participate in the night's activities." At the time. Ted Kennedy was a 29-year-old married man.
The meeting with a supposed dodgy commie shouldn't be that surprising -- Kennedy apparently asked to meet up with all the "angry young men" of the country. He wanted to meet with communists and others with left-wing views. And Currie was well placed to give him introductions. But was that wise?
Professor Harvey Klehr of Emory University, Atlanta, suggests that Kennedy may have been trying to help big brother JFK "shift US policy in Latin America away from autocrats and toward more democratic leaders". OK, so that may not have been wise, considering the Cold War climate, but it's understandable.
But what about the accusations that Kennedy was acting like a "pompous and spoilt brat" who woke his aides in the middle of the night and ordered them to take him "tom-catting"? Why was all this salacious information so diligently recorded by the FBI? Surely what a politician does in his personal time is his own business -- even if he is cheating on his wife?
We have to remember that this was the middle of the "Reds under the Bed" terror. Hoover was heading up the FBI and he liked to have files on everyone. As historian Professor Douglas M Charles has pointed out: "It was standard practice for Hoover ... to keep tabs on the activities of prominent politicians ... to protect his position as FBI director; to leverage influence for FBI appropriations; or simply to satisfy Hoover's own voyeuristic interest in the peccadilloes of the Washington elite."
And boy, had Hoover struck Peeping Tom gold with the arrival of the Kennedy boys on to the political scene. He was, however, a great believer in the institution of the presidency, and a quid pro quo seemed to exist between him and the Kennedys at the time. JFK's first announcement as president-elect was the reappointment of Hoover as FBI director.
So, what were the Kennedys doing that was so important to record?
Last year, an FBI file (again on Ted Kennedy) detailed sex parties at which the Kennedy brothers were participants. It also touched on a rumour that mafia bosses hoped to use the associates of Frank Sinatra "to ensnare brothers Robert and Edward in compromising positions with women in retaliation for a crackdown on organised crime".
Were Bobby, JFK and Ted putting themselves into positions where they could be effectively blackmailed?
One document, dated July 12, 1965, reads: "It was reported that Mrs Jacqueline Hammond, 40, has considerable information regarding sex parties which took place at the Carlyle Hotel, NYC, and in which a number of persons participated at times. Among those mentioned were the following individuals: Robert F Kennedy, John F Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy, Sammy Davis Jr, Mr and Mrs Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe."
Information is power. And mafia dons having stuff like this on the President, the Attorney General and their senator brother would surely make them vulnerable to pressure -- or worse.
To say that Bobby, JFK and Ted were sexually and politically reckless is a gross understatement. What is extraordinary is that they managed to get away with such irresponsible and abusive behaviour -- JFK once said that he "wasn't finished with a girl until he'd had her three ways" -- and still retain the adoration of the masses.
Remember going into your granny's house in the Sixties and Seventies? On the wall there was the 'trinity' of Pope Paul, Eamon de Valera and JFK. Did anyone know what the first Catholic President of the US and his brothers got up to when they weren't planning to invade Cuba and assassinate Castro, with the help of the mafia?
Did anyone care?
Clinton and 'cigargate' in the Oval Office has nothing on these guys. Berlusconi and his sad little call-girl parties seem pathetically innocent in comparison. Hillary Clinton's horror at the revelations about her husband's indiscretions pale into insignificance beside Jackie Kennedy's pathetic appeals to her private secretary, Mary Gallagher, to "call the President's secretary to inquire whether his schedule permitted [her] spending the evening with him"(as opposed to one of his many floozies and film stars).
Unlike Clinton, President Kennedy did not just have 'affairs' -- he had secret service men acting as pimps for him; he had girls brought in off the streets by friends acting as procurers. He and his brothers, Bobby and Ted, cavorted naked with these women, as well as famous film stars and musicians -- in the White House pool. Whatever about Ted renting a brothel in Chile, his brother managed to turn the entire White House into one.
And the press kept quiet.
Of course, Ted's most famous sexual scandal resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne when, following a party with six young female campaign workers on the island of Chappaquiddick, Kennedy was giving Kopechne a lift back to her hotel when he drove off a bridge. He escaped, left Mary Jo to drown, didn't report it -- and yet was charged only with leaving the scene of an accident. The Kennedys would seem to be above the law.
Brother Jack's sexual excesses may have ultimately cost him his life, however. While frolicking poolside with a sexual partner during the last week of September 1963, he severely tore a groin muscle. Medical staff at the White House prescribed a stiff "canvas shoulder-to-groin brace that locked his body in a rigid upright position". Combined with his usual back brace, this made it impossible for the president to bend in reflex when he was shot in the neck in Dallas -- making him an unmissable target for the second shot.
Were Bobby, JFK and Ted victims of this new-fangled 'illness' called sex addiction? Or were they just narcissistic, spoiled, irresponsible brats?How did they manage to get away with what was -- if not illegal -- immoral, reckless behaviour, and how compromised were their political decisions in consequence? Will we ever know?
And are there different rules, both legal and psychological, for people like them -- handsome, charming, clever, powerful and rich? Given thestill-exalted legacy of Bobby, JFK and Ted Kennedy, it would seem so.