A REPUBLICAN TRIBUTE TO JOHN
If you grew up when the most prominent living Kennedy was Teddy, a lot of the Camelot imagery was probably lost on you. So it was a little bit disconcerting, for this Republican at least, to be bombarded with the same canned Kennedy family "Camelot" blather this past week, demonstrating nothing so much as the media's own insularity and narrow-minded parochialism.
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, I knew John, John was a friend of mine, and John was no run-of-the-mill Kennedy. So before the public memory of John is overtaken by the deluge of nauseating news coverage reminiscent of Princess Di, I'd like to pay a Republican tribute to John. You don't have to be a Kennedy worshipper, you don't even have to be a Democrat, to see that John Kennedy Jr. actually did have the looks, charm, intelligence, humility, kindness and class the mainstream media had somewhat mysteriously discerned in all Kennedys.
The first time I met John was at a George magazine luncheon at Le Cirque a few years ago to honor the magazine's "Twenty Most Intriguing Women in Politics." First of all, consider that I was named one of them. I've been reading those women's magazines' special power-woman editions for years and have rarely if ever seen (BEGIN ITALS)any(END ITALS) Republican included in the lineup. Gloria Steinem and Patricia Schroeder, yes. Phyllis Schlafly and Bay Buchanan, no.
But the magazine founded and run by the scion of the country's most famous Democratic family was truly a political magazine, not a Democrat magazine (as Vogue, Mademoiselle, Time and Newsweek are). About a year and a half after the luncheon, John hired me as a regular George columnist.
This was a new kind of Democrat.
John wasn't a part of the older generation of Stalinist liberals who try to censor differing viewpoints or engage in the politics of personal destruction to harm those who disagree with them. As his magazine's motto says, this was "not just politics as usual."
The importance of what John was doing to political discourse in this country cannot be overstated. If you've ever been on the receiving end of the politics of personal destruction, it's not that much fun to be accused of being a racist, sexist, homophobe, etc., etc. One can see why a lot of people might decide to opt out of the whole political enterprise altogether.
Through his magazine, and his very being, John had begun to take the bitter acrimony out of political dialogue. While political neophytes out of Hollywood jabber about getting the younger generation involved in politics, John actually did it.
Precisely because he was a both a Democrat and a celebrity, he was able to begin altering the political dialogue in a more important way than any heavy policy journal ever could. Not only was he was making politics fun and interesting, but he was also fair and kind to his political opponents. This, truly, was "not just politics as usual."
This is why it is so painfully frustrating to hear the media talk of John in terms of the Kennedy mystique of liberal mythology, or to hear him compared to that dysfunctional celebrity princess -- as if there were nothing more to the man than the celebrity to which he was born. Despite what the liberal media say about him, John was a great man. Perhaps more important, he was a good man.
That is part of what was so impressive about John. Though on some level, it sounds preposterous, it probably isn't a day at the beach to be remarkably wealthy, famous and good-looking. Why get up in the morning? Why not go the way of Howard Hughes or Elvis? It has always impressed me about Steve Forbes, for example, that he was born fabulously rich and still manages to be productive and civic-minded and have a normal, happy family life.
John, too, could have become a degenerate rich boy. But he wasn't. He was doing something desperately needed in this country right now. He was making it safe to talk about politics again, without risking personal attack. For that, this Republican is deeply grateful and mourns his loss.COPYRIGHT 1999 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE