March 31, 2004 - Washington Post : Nepal RPCV Laurence Leamer writes about the Kennedy's - America's Fallen Royals

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: March 31, 2004 - Washington Post : Nepal RPCV Laurence Leamer writes about the Kennedy's - America's Fallen Royals

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 5:27 pm: Edit Post

Nepal RPCV Laurence Leamer writes about the Kennedy's - America's Fallen Royals

Nepal RPCV Laurence Leamer writes about the Kennedy's - America's Fallen Royals

Nepal RPCV Laurence Leamer writes about the Kennedy's - America's Fallen Royals

America's Fallen Royals

By John Aloysius Farrell,
Washington bureau chief for the Denver Post and the author of
Wednesday, March 31, 2004; Page C03


The Fate of an American Dynasty

By Laurence Leamer

Morrow. 638 pp. $27.95

This much we can say about the current crop of Kennedy men: Their behavior has been so churlish, their accomplishments so middling, their spending so wasteful and their scandals so base and harmful to others that -- in one generation! -- they appear to have freed their descendants, and maybe us all, from the load of the so-called Kennedy dynasty.

The Kennedy name is so tarnished and the fortune so disbursed as to make one wonder about intent. Perhaps their lives were so perfectly miserable, played out in such ghoulish celebrity, that the young men of this generation unconsciously set out to destroy the family "myth" to liberate themselves and their children from its burdens.

How else to explain such havoc? Early in "Sons of Camelot," author Laurence Leamer lets us in on how the grandsons of that Irish American buccaneer, Joseph P. Kennedy, earned their reputation as, in the memorable words of John F. Kennedy Jr., the "poster boys for bad behavior."

Three of old Joe's 17 grandsons have died violently, Leamer notes, "one by drug overdose, one by playing a dangerous game on the ski slopes, and one in a private plane crash brought on largely by overconfidence." Two have been accused of rape, with one case "involving a fourteen-and-ahalf-year old." Seven admitted their addiction to drugs, or are self-proclaimed alcoholics. At least half a dozen young women have had their lives ruined, or lost, by running with this crew. To be sure, Leamer reports how the sons of Sargent and Eunice Shriver have performed noble work for worthy charities, like the Special Olympics and Best Buddies. The "Very Special Christmas" albums produced by Bobby Shriver raise funds for the mentally disabled, and he has joined with Bono, the Irish rock star, to put a spotlight on the issue of Third World debt.

Before he quit politics, Joseph P. Kennedy II had a record as a capable, if abrasive, congressman. His brother Robert has done penance for his wastrel days by soldiering in the environmental movement. And their cousin Patrick still represents a Rhode Island district in the House of Representatives. But these are hardly dynastic achievements, particularly when one considers the social, financial and educational advantages that allowed a Kennedy boy to start life on third base. As uncomfortable as it may be for the family courtiers to acknowledge, the star of this generation is an immigrant Austrian brother-in-law: the weight lifter Arnold Schwarzenegger, who parlayed his limited talent into fame and wealth in Hollywood, married Maria Shriver, and overcame reports that he likes to grope women to win election as governor of California. There's a man to make the old pirate proud.

The dissolution of the Kennedy stock may be a good subject for glossy magazines. There is a certain morbid fascination to it, like the feeling you get when, while channel-surfing, you chance upon the grainy police video of a high-speed chase and linger to watch the tire-smoking, car-flipping finish. But if the Kennedy saga teaches us anything, it is that life is fleeting. Why invest our time in one more morbid telling of the squandered lives of David, Michael and John, or the squalid Willie Smith rape trial? No doubt there are gloating Republicans, or Kennedy sycophants, who are yet fans of this long-running soap opera. But the author doesn't offer the rest of us a compelling reason to slog these paths again. There's no provocative analysis of the corrosive effects of fame or the effect on a son of a father's murder, just a few fresh tidbits, some of them sordid, about JFK Jr. One wishes that an insightful theorist like Garry Wills ("The Kennedy Imprisonment," "Reagan's America") had tackled the subject.

There are also irritating hollows in Leamer's reporting. When rendering his verdict on the sons of Camelot, he is roughest on the dead -- Bobby's sons David and Michael Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy Jr. -- and more protective of the surviving Kennedy and Shriver boys, especially those who sat with him for interviews. Other members of their generation -- the Smith brothers, Christopher Lawford and Edward Kennedy Jr. -- are barely mentioned. Maybe they weren't cooperative.

Leamer is a veteran Kennedy biographer: This is the third volume of his "epic multigenerational history of America's first family." As the author of "The Kennedy Men" and "The Kennedy Women," he knows his stuff. He can pluck the Camelot strings and has the Sorensenian cadences:

"Camelot was born not with the inauguration of John F. Kennedy but with his death, and that birth found expression in the figure of his only son saluting his fallen father. Camelot was an emotional repository of a people's inchoate feelings about a youthful president, a newfound elegance, a nation of endless promise, and a world of hope. Young John bore those mythic dreams, and as much as he tried to flee them, darting down Manhattan streets on his bicycle or flying above the clouds, they were always with him."

There are moments when Leamer's analysis hits home. Consider this comparison between Joseph Kennedy II and another son of a famous family, which rings true for those who know the men: "As Joe rushed along the corridors, he might have a cigar in one hand, his drugstore reading glasses in the other, a splotch of his lunch on his tie, and scruffy shoes on his feet. He was the first downscale Kennedy," Leamer writes. "The politician of his generation he resembled the most was Governor George W. Bush of Texas, an aristocrat who had reinvented himself as a middle-class Texan with a schoolmarm wife."

Who would have predicted, 20 years ago, that the fusty old Bush-Walker clan would rise to eclipse the dashing Kennedys? Why did one dynastic family perpetuate itself, reaching new heights while the other sadly crumbled? The "Sons of Camelot" offers some scattershot hints but not the answer.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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Story Source: Washington Post

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal; Writing - Nepal; President Kennedy; Peace Corps Directors - Shriver



By nawaraj ( - on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 10:52 pm: Edit Post

dear sir

iam from nepal nepal nawaraj lamichhane . iwant to say that here is to many national problebs but the not thinking so . they are only for cropction.they dont think about peace and people plz help us and we are beg our life. thank you

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