Jackie: savvy, manipulative, disingenuous—and lacking the class for which she was so admired

Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair:

Cn_image_size_hitchensMuch of the commentary on Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy has focused on the self-subordinating, near-doormat opinion that Jackie voiced of her own status as a wife. Enhanced by the unexpected breathiness of her voice (almost Marilyn-like on some portions of the tape), the avowal of being confined to an awful Victorian or “Asiatic” kind of marriage, or a “Japanese” one, as Schlesinger prompts her to say, has upset her granddaughters and those ladies on The View, who believe in the tradition of strong womanhood. But when examined carefully and in context, the pouting refusal to have any ideas except those supplied by her lord and master turns out not to be evidence of winsome innocence but a soft cover for a specific sort of knowingness and calculation.

Left out of the boys’ conversation and kept in the dark, eh? She tells Schlesinger, when the subject of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights is raised, that she regards Dr. King as a moral monster who goes as far as to arrange orgies in Washington hotels. She can have been in a position to say this only if, as a special treat, she had been cut in on the salacious surveillance tapes by which J. Edgar Hoover kept the enemies of the Kennedy clan (and Kennedy himself) under his thumb. This was the rawest and raunchiest underside of access to crude power. It has to make one ask how much else she knew, about the president’s stupefying consumption of uppers and downers, for example—rather difficult to conceal from a wife—let alone how often she had to close her eyes or her ears as the door practically banged on the heels of a departing mistress or hooker (or Sam Giancana’s moll Judith Exner).

More here.