Even Jack Kennedy doesn't escape. JFK visited Dwight D. Eisenhower in California in 1962, and when Kennedy got back he (according to Schlesinger) told Schlesinger, "You know what he said to me? We were talking about Laos. Eisenhower said, 'A State Department man told me--and it was odd coming from him--that Laos is a nation of homosexuals.'" Schlesinger then goes on to say, "The President repeated the phrase I have italicized with a kind of wonder." I have parsed and parsed this passage, and for the life of me I can't figure out who comes off as the biggest idiot. Bigoted Ike? Hopelessly hetero naïf JFK? A certain striped-pants cookie-pusher? Or long-bow-pulling Arthur?
Then there is a splendidly stupid entry about a get-together with Mick Jagger that makes one wonder if Schlesinger's whole life wasn't spent on some moron preserve or nincompoop reservation:
We . . . made our way to the west side for a party at Mick Jagger's. The whole thing was rather mysterious--especially why we were asked. But Jerry Hall . . . is an amiable, very pretty, tallish Texan [blah blah blah]. We expected a packed house with a lot of drinking, cocaine, noise, etc. Instead, it was a party of only moderate size and, so far as we could see (we left shortly before 1 A.M.), entirely seemly. Most people were young, except for Norman Mailer, Andy Warhol, Jean Stein and Ahmet Ertegun (who could not get over the fact that we were there--actually we met Mick Jagger first at his house). . . . [blah blah blah] Mick Jagger appeared from some upstairs retreat and sat down and talked for half an hour or so, mostly about communism, war, the threat of Cap Weinberger and so on. He is alert, funny, intelligent (Alexandra told me later he had attended LSE [the London School of Economics]--can this be so?) . . . [blah blah blah] But I still could not understand why we were there.
Ditto for reading this book.
In fact, ditto for writing this review. I'd like to escape from further comment on Journals. I'm looking for a way out of this article. I consult the notes that I took as I flipped through the opus. "I cannot bear to read it, partly because of the vulgarity of the diction, partly because of the nakedness of the self-exposure, partly because of the frustration over not being able to review it. I cannot recall any political autobiography in American history which has represented quite such an orgy in unconscious self-revelation," I wrote.
Except I didn't write that. I figure, as long as I've admitted not reading this book, I might as well go the whole hog and be a plagiarist, too. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote that. He thought he was writing about Six Crises by Richard Nixon. But as usual, Arthur was wrong.
P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.