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As Kennedy biographer Richard Reeves notes, JFK, who “received the last rites of the Catholic Church at least four times as an adult,” was “something of a medical marvel, kept alive by complicated daily combinations of pills and injections,” including a psychiatrically dangerous cocktail of painkillers and amphetamines regularly administered by celebrity physician Max “Dr. Feelgood” Jacobson.
Meanwhile, the man who’d pronounced the presidency America’s “center of moral leadership” exhibited near-pathological promiscuity with a succession of starlets and stewardesses, groping his way through the White House with all the delicacy of San Diego mayor Bob Filner (though, admittedly, with much more success).
Viewed up close, without the gauze of sentimentality, it’s not a pretty picture: “America’s prince” looks more like the imperial presidency’s Dorian Gray.
That may sound harsh, but 50 years after his passing is not too soon to take a clear-eyed look at JFK's legacy.
This article originally appeared at the Washington Examiner.