A prime-time TV special introduces new generations to “the most mysterious, fascinating–and feline–woman in American political history” through 47-year-old audiotapes made soon after JFK’s assassination.
For those possibly confused by abject adoration of her husband and bitchiness toward most other political figures of their time, some first-hand footnotes on the apparent contradictions.
In the tapes, Jacqueline Kennedy describes her marriage as “a rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic relationship,” and when Arthur Schlesinger suggests, “A Japanese wife,” she agrees. But it was more complicated than that.
When Mrs. Kennedy was about to become First Lady, she sounded more like a Stepford wife, telling a reporter I sent to interview her, “The most important thing for successful marriage is for a husband to do what he likes best and does well…If the wife is happy, full credit should be given to the husband because the marriage is her entire life.”
When the reporter put away his notebook, Mrs. Kennedy looked him in the eye and said, “But I’m smarter than Jack, and don’t you forget it.”
This kind of ambivalence goes a long way toward explaining the Mona Lisa smile that eventually captivated a nation and the world.
It did not start that way.