“We choose to go to the Moon,” John F. Kennedy once said. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” These are words that still make the hairs stand up on the back of American necks. Spoken in 1962, JFK’s announcement that he would put an American on the moon by the end of the decade recalls a glorious time in his nation’s history and his family’s place writing it. This era of the Kennedy family seemed so pure that it was later mythologised by Jacqueline, JFK’s widow, as “Camelot”.
How times change. Half a century later, some members of the Kennedy dynasty are less Camelot and more Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Earlier this month, Joe Kennedy III, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, JFK’s brother, became the first of his name to lose an election on his home turf of Massachusetts. The Kennedy family was always thought to be indelibly marked on that New England state – his family have carried Massachusetts, on and off, since PJ Kennedy was elected a state representative in 1884. It’s a good pub fact that the period from 1947, when JFK became a member of Congress from Mass., to 2011, when Patrick J. Kennedy (PJ’s great-grandson) retired as one, marks a 64-year stint during which at least one Kennedy was in elected office.
But if anyone doubted that the Kennedys had had their day in the sun, it was surely when Joe III, 37, lost his primacy race for the US senate to Ed Markey, a 74-year-old who secured the younger, more progressive wing of the Democratic Party with sharper messaging. Joe, who comes from a lineage of square-jawed, boozy womanisers, incredulously said in his defeat speech that his family name “was invoked far more often than I anticipated in this race”.
History is neither repeating itself nor rhyming among the descendants of the great Kennedys. If you would like a decent idea of what America’s most famous political dynasty is up to now, consider the tale of Matthew “Max” Kennedy and Caroline “Summer” Kennedy, son and granddaughter of Bobby, who threw the house party to end all house parties in 2017. There have been a number of eyewitness accounts from that night, but it’s best to start with the official police report. At a rented pad on Cape Cod, close to the Kennedy compound of old clapboard houses at Hyannis Port, a frat-grade rager was in progress. Officer Armando Feliciano’s write-up of the fiasco, which is filled with delicious details, describes raucous noise, singing partygoers, thumping tunes and fireworks exploding out into the hot August night.
Kennedy, 52, did not respond well when Feliciano and his partner asked him to turn it down sometime after 1am, and was described by the officer as “irate” with “noticeably bloodshot and glassy eyes”, “sweating profusely”, “yelling and screaming and refusing any cooperation whatsoever”. He also appeared to be “very unsteady on his feet”. When Feliciano tried to come into the house and turn off the music, Kennedy grabbed a wall cabinet filled with glass valuables and threw it to the ground, smashing its contents. Deciding that Max was becoming a threat, Feliciano moved to arrest him – leading to a struggle. Friends started to surround the pair as Feliciano put the cuffs on Kennedy, and they shouted: “You don’t know who you’re messing with!” and “He was a district attorney!” Feliciano, spotting a large crowd following him outside, radioed for backup. At this point, Summer, 22, stepped in. Feliciano accused her of inciting her party guests “into an angry mob”, who roared and flailed their arms at him. Summer repeatedly shouted “f**k off” and grabbed hold of Feliciano’s car door and opened it, so she too got arrested.
According to the Boston Globe, Summer refused to offer biographical details when she was booked into the police station, telling cops: “I went to Brown and I’m a teacher, sweetheart!” Which, if you’re unfamiliar with American universities, it is like shouting, as you are led kicking and screaming into the cells: “You can’t do this! I went to Durham!”
Summer refused a breathalyser test, reportedly saying: “No. I’m drunk. I know that.” Both were charged with disorderly conduct: Kennedy paid a fine and his charge was dismissed, Summer did community service. This is a long way away from “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
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