Saturday, July 30, 2016

Because Kwizgiver got me thinking ...

This past week saw the anniversary of Jacqueline Kennedy's birth and the nomination of Hillary Clinton for President. On my post observing the former, my blogging buddy Kwizgiver asked, "Would she be fun to have around for this historic moment?" Which got me musing ... 

These two First Ladies had a lot in common.

•  John Kennedy and Bill Clinton each romanced more than their fair share of starlets and beauty queens, but when the time came to wed, they each went for brains.

•  Jacqueline Bouvier and Hillary Rodham each believed the men they married were less their choice than their destiny.

•  Rose Kennedy and Virginia Clinton were frequently exasperated and confused by their extremely independent daughters in law.

•  Both of these women share an almost pathological need for privacy which, given their  life circumstances, is completely unreasonable. I think it's because neither of them could bear the thought of having the disappointing truth about their marriages exposed. And yet the truth came out and humiliated them both.

I love this photo of an emotional Jackie in Caroline's wedding day.
•  Caroline Kennedy and Chelsea Clinton both grew up in the public eye, and both made their mothers proud. It makes me happy to know that Jackie, who died rather young at 64, did live to hold all three of her grandchildren.

Both wives were political partners. But here's where 50 years of history reveals its impact: Jackie hid her influence on her husband.

In real time, she was assumed to "hate" politics. Turns out that isn't true. What Jackie hated was press scrutiny and analysis. She enjoyed her place in history and believed completely in her husband.

Listen to her oral history. She admits, after prodding, that she did indeed author the first-ever White House Guide Book. But only because the curator was slow and distracted! It's not like she wanted to do it.

And, OK, maybe she did help her husband with one of the most famous American speeches of the 20th century. ("Ask not what your country can do for you ...", "Let the word go forth ...") But really, she didn't do that much. She was recovering from John Jr.'s birth and he'd sit on the side of her bed and read his notes to her and, you know, talked to her, asked her opinion. 

Listen to her talk with pride about charming Khrushchev, Nehru and DeGaulle. Lest she overstep, she also insisted she had no political opinions that were not her husband's.

Solely on the strength of her will and personal relationship with the French Minister of Cultural Affairs, the Mona Lisa left the Louvre for the first time since 1913 and arrived in the United States. All JFK did was show up at the unveiling. Yet she barely mentions it in the oral history.

And the familiar look of Air Force One? She came up with the design that's been used by every President for the last 50 years. Her original sketches are at the Kennedy Library. She drew it out. She chose the font and those two particular shades of pale blue and the placement of the American flag. The only deviation from her original design is the addition of the Presidential seal. This she doesn't mention in the oral history at all.

So I think Jackie would have been shocked in 2000 when Hillary Clinton chose to run for Senate. She would understand Hillary's need to resume her career after the White House and after Chelsea left for college. She once told Gloria Steinem, “What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren't supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown — watch the raindrops coming down the window pane?” And after Onassis died and her own kids were on their own, she embarked on a career as book editor.

But to run for public office? To choose to remain in the public eye? To create a portfolio that could rival her husband's? No way would JBKO -- born in 1929 -- understand those choices.

Running in New York social circles, Jackie met Donald and Ivana Trump at society and charity functions. I can't imagine her liking them. Jackie took taxis to work and only redecorated her luxury apartment at 1040 5th Avenue when forced to. (She rather bitchily used to say that it was her sister Lee who had time to keep track of whether throw pillows should have tassels this season; she was too busy.) Trump enjoyed flaunting his wealth. On the other hand, she did marry Ari, and he was about as vulgar as they come. So maybe she found The Donald amusing.

 Jackie stares down the paparazzi Hillary doesn't even notice
We do know that she and Hillary were fond of another. While Jackie wouldn't vote for Hillary -- she never voted again after 1960 because she wanted the last vote she ever cast to be for the man she loved -- she would have lent her name and her money to this campaign. 

And I think she would have been proud to be quoted in Hillary's acceptance speech. In December 1963, in response to Khrushchev's condolence call, Jackie wrote:

"The danger which troubled my husband was that war might be started not so much by the big men as by the little ones. While big men know the needs for self-control and strength, little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride."

Those are the words Hillary used to indict Donald Trump: Jackie, sharing her opinion through the prism of her husband's wisdom and accomplishment. Yes, I think she would have liked that.

1 comment:

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