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Jackie

Dick Nixon overshadowed again

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 25, 1994.

It is only appropriate, one supposes, that Dick Nixon's one final moment of rehabilitation, when the nation was willing to be decent about it at the time of his death, that the Kennedys usurp him again. Even while the flags still are at half-mast for Nixon, the Haldeman notes come out and reconvict him and then, worse, Jackie Kennedy dies.

It was quick. She goes to the hospital on Monday, is condemned by unexpected cancer growth, and chooses to go home. She dies in her bed in her home surrounded by her family and friends. And Nixon, even in his ultimate act, is overshadowed yet again. As all through his life.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Like the old Tom Lehrer routine, she's the sort of person who points out how little you've accomplished in your life. After marrying a President of the United States and achieving a grace and perfection of moment at his death, earning and getting the affection of the world for her composure, she does, five years later, marry the richest man in the world, survive him, earn the respect and affection of her chosen profession, and through what she called an interesting life be perfectly consistent in her avoidance of publicity. No interviews. Not one. Even the far left, especially the women, find their prejudices flare less at the mention of her name, probably because her female virtues were spotless and her tragedies epic. She had lost three children when her husband was killed. Also, she was against the Vietnamese War. When you have Bob Dole and Lady Bird Johnson snuffling over the same grave, clearly it is a loss. Can you find anyone who has something remotely bad to say about her? Was there ever?

Well, yes. Sam Kinnison used to wonder why everyone felt sorry for John Kennedy: he was married to Jackie and was bopping Marilyn Monroe and all the beauties between. There were worse lives, he felt. Same for the widow. While she never was smeared with the whiff of sexual impropriety - whatever that is, precisely - she always seemed to come out with the man she wanted. And while both husbands made small secret of not being faithful to her, she
at least was smarter and more discreet than either of them or their doxies. Don't let any celebrity say it cannot be done. It has been.

Much is made of her composure during her husband's funeral, but photographs reveal more than composure and grief. The woman was furious. If looks could kill, there would have been more body bags than that of her husband's in November of 1963. She felt the United States had killed her husband, and her cynicism was bolstered five years later when her best friend and brother in law was assassinated. But she had already decided to marry Onassis, and now she insisted on living in Europe for much of the year. If she hadn't come to hate and fear her native country, she was on the verge.

It is forgotten that John Kennedy was, by nature, a charming lout like her father. The grace and eloquence of Camelot were due to her, not the Kennedys. She was only 34 when she had to jump on the back of a limo and retrieve a three-inch square of her husband's skull. It was assumed by some that she was trying to get away. The far right pushed the story that she was trying to pull up the secret service agent, a Mr. Youngblood, with whom she supposedly had had an affair. That's how it was in 1963. They didn't have the courage to go after John Kennedy for his stupid and dangerous liaisons, so they forwarded one about her when it was not likely anyone would respond. But you know, it just went away.

This is because she had the gravitas few Presidents have had, and that she has been, since 1963, one of the most popular people in the world. Will the tabloid crowd be able to survive without her? Will the memory of her husband, which was her stock-in trade, her attraction for Onassis?

Doubtful, both.