Beware of ‘leaders’ who charm; their lives may not be so charming

It is rather common knowledge now that President John Kennedy was a womanizer with little respect for his marriage vows. He took up the behavior modeled by his father.

“While [John] Kennedy deftly separated himself from his father’s politics, he didn’t hesitate to emulate the old man’s rather manic sex life,” writes Michael Kazin. “Joe had spent many nights in Hollywood with Gloria Swanson, perhaps the most popular film actress at the time. Joe took other women to bed whenever it suited him and, one hopes, them.”

Kazin wrote a review of Fredrik Logevall’s book, JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956, in the May 27, 2021, issue of The New York Review of Books. The review is titled, “Ending the Kennedy Romance.” I’m now reading the book itself. Logevall writes:

“For his part, Joe Kennedy knew that his philandering was wrong, that adultery was contrary to God’s word. But he also believed in confession and the forgiveness of sins. So he went on straying from the marriage bed. Obsessively focused on winning, on conquest, he always wanted more, more, more—in all areas of life.”

Kazin noted that a journalist who knew Joe Kennedy speculated that for him, a mistress was “another thing that a rich man had—like caviar. It wasn’t sex, it was part of the image…his idea of manliness.”

That last quote describes so many “leaders” who are driven by a need to win, and they show up in many walks of life — politics, business, and religion come quickly to mind.

So, there are two warnings in this:

1) If you have these tendencies but do not want to be pulled into a life of destroying others, understand the importance of placing boundaries on yourself, and you had better get some good friends around you who will help hold the boundaries when you push them.

2) If you encounter one of these people, beware. And I’m not just talking about the women they seduce; I’m talking about their “followers.” They are very enticing; they can lead you down a bad road very quickly and at the end of that road there is a good chance they will still shine while you are shucked to the side.


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