“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” – Henry Kissinger
When Henry Kissinger spoke those words, they were meant as a witty retort to a question posed to him at the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner. He was responding to a reporter who had asked him about his ability to fill his dance card with a number of very attractive and successful women. Secretary Kissinger had enjoyed, albeit some very brief, relationships with women such as Barbara Walters, Candice Bergen, Jill St. John and Gina Lollobrigida. There are more, but you get the idea. What I am uncertain about is whether he realized the other implication in his remark – that on the male side of this equation there is an equally intoxicating effect.
A woman by the name of Mimi Alford has been doing a number of appearances regarding a book she has written, “Once Upon a Secret”. It contains some sordid material, but it also tells a story about two people who engaged in something that left them and their families damaged and broken. I watched an interview with Mrs. Alford conducted by Meredith Vieira on “Rock Center” Wednesday night. During this interview she revealed details of an affair with President John Kennedy which began when she was a 19 year old White House intern. (Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be interns.)
That President Kennedy had affairs is nothing newsworthy, in and of itself. Even Mrs. Alford’s 18 month long assignation was mentioned 10 years ago in another biography about John Kennedy. What I was disturbed by was the backlash about her book, and how the women in these situations are still judged more harshly than their male counterparts. I read a review of the book this morning in the New York Times. It is less a review and more of a brutal mockery of Mrs. Alford in which every aspect of her life and character is called into question. The author is a woman, Janet Maslin. There is not word about the betrayal perpetrated by the President. There is nothing that suggests any responsibility on his part for the seduction and acts that she was required to perform, not only for himself, but for others within the Kennedy circle. He receives a resounding pass. In the eyes of The Gray Lady, Camelot is alive and well.
She talked about their very first sexual encounter during which she lost her virginity. The President had offered to give the new intern a tour of the First Family’s residence. This incident happened in Mrs. Kennedy’s bedroom, on her bed. That, at least for me, moved his actions beyond betrayal and into the realm of contempt. The choice of location for this tryst was not accidental. There is a message there, not only about his feelings regarding his wife, but about his opinion of women in general.
None of us are shocked by sexual scandals anymore. In fact, they seem to be so common place that many of us sharply lowered our expectations for committed relationships. It goes on in our own neighborhoods, never mind politicians and celebrities. What I am shocked by is the criticism, the shame, that is still borne by women – particularly when it is leveled by other women. I don’t support or forgive her role in this affair. After the first time, she had ample opportunity to think about what had happened, and to reassess her desire to remain at the White House. During those 18 months, she went from innocence to complicity. Certainly, for every married man looking to stray from his marriage vows, there is a woman willing to assist him. I do think, however, that before we jump into any witch hunts, we should all take a deep breath and ask why we still allow ourselves to think “boys will be boys”. Perhaps critics should re-read “The Scarlet Letter”.
Taylor Armstrong on “Dr. Drew”
While I’m on the subject of book tours, Taylor was interviewed by Dr. Drew Pinsky on Thursday night. She told him that she has been reading books about survivors of suicides, so we can probably expect to hear a new set of buzzwords on that subject. We know that she is a quick study when it comes to picking up phrases related to her role as the victim. She has read the Cliff Notes and makes outlines with bullet points.
This woman truly has no boundaries. She told Dr. Drew that, although she has no independent memory of such a thing, she has discussed, with her therapist, the possibility that she may have been sexually abused as a child. This opens the door for a whole new set of excuses for her behaviors. I’m sorry for how this sounds, I really am, but I wouldn’t be surprised is she announces that she is also a survivor of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
She strongly defended her right, no her duty, to write her book in an effort to save other women in domestic violence situations. She spoke with such a sense of urgency, as if she alone would be the one to lead the real victims of this horrible crime into the light. Her book could not wait, to borrow a phrase from Brandi, “a hot minute”.
In response to a statement by Russell’s attorney that Taylor should prove her abuse allegations of physical abuse by releasing her medical records, Taylor volleyed back that it was such a coincidence as she was planning to release her CAT scan and medical records very soon. We will wait and see just what these records reveal. Understand that, unless she has gone rogue and is acting against the advice of her lawyers, those very same lawyers are recommending this move as a tactical way to get ahead of public opinion and a possible jury.
Dr. Drew is more than supportive of Taylor’s claims, and even allowed Taylor to become the interviewer when she turned the tables and asked him about why women are victimized. He shared her fear that, if Taylor is condemned for her story and her book, women might be even more afraid to speak out and get help. I have to say something about this from my own professional experience. It is when women make false claims that other women are driven back into the darkness. Women who lie about abuse or sexual assault make all women think twice about whether their own real pain will be believed. Should Taylor’s claims actually be found to be a great big lie, she has betrayed all women, whether they are victims of these abuses or may be in the future.
She then went on to talk about her compartmentalization of the little Shanna and the adult Taylor – the two separate and distinct personalities. This is true of those who suffered or witnessed traumatic, violent events as a child. Therapists will often address the childhood issues as a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is not an illness experienced only on the battlefield. Many people who, as children, have seen violence where they or their loved ones have been the targets often need to be treated for PTSD or it will linger into adulthood and shape all future relationships. In Taylor’s case, well, perhaps she has learned something about this, too.
She also responded to the criticism she has gotten from Russell’s family and friends. She basically said that they had no idea what they were talking about, and that she and Russell had little or no contact with any of them during her marriage to Russell. Russell’s sister will be talking to Dr. Drew on Friday night. I am interested in what she has to say.
I guess that I am not surprised that Dr. Drew offered his full support to Taylor and her mission. He has some conflicts of interest here. I couldn’t help but notice that Dr. Sophy’s name was never uttered. I’m at the point where watching these interviews is simply more mind-numbing than enlightening. I don’t see any signs that Christiane Amanpour is locked in mortal combat with the producers of “60 Minutes” over an interview with Taylor Armstrong. The only thing that I am getting from writing posts about these hug fests is a case of carpal tunnel syndrome.