Chris Matthews has a strong interest in Kennedy. He has written a book about Kennedy and Nixon, and quoting many sources, he seeks in his biography of Kennedy to present a talented and flawed man.
In short, Matthew presents a man who lived his life in compartments. At one moment he could kneel at his bed in the evening and say his prayers like a little child. In another moment and circumstance, he could ignore his beautiful wife while he "worked the room" as a man seeking election. In yet another instance, Kennedy could seek sexual favors from more than one woman, usually a young one. Then, in the same breath he could call a troubled Mrs. Martin Luther King to console her upon her husband's incarceration for promoting racial justice.
The subtitle of the book "Elusive Hero" captures what Matthews tries to do. Kennedy is his hero. They both grew from Irish roots, profess Christian and Catholic faith, and give witness to a strong sense of equality and justice for all.
So, Kennedy is a hero, according to the admiring Matthews. But he is also elusive.
I was in my 20s when Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas. I had no knowledge then of his complex life. He was not my personal hero, though I liked his wit and banter. I was a supporter of Adlai Stevenson and thrilled when he challenged the Soviet representative to the United Nations on the issue of missles in Cuba. I was genuinely saddened when Kennedy died, but was even more deeply moved when Stevenson suddenly dropped dead.
If I had held in my hand Matthews' eulogy of JFK, I might have admired that president more. For, you see, my life's work was helping sinners receive forgiveness. In those bedside prayers, JFK may have asked his god for relief from any guilt he may have had.
Matthews might not agree with me, but it is my opinion that regardless of praise due to him, John F. Kennedy served in the highest office just a thousand days. Is that brief period enough to give our dead president a laurel wreath?
Posey is a retired Presbyterian-USA minister who lives and writes in Charleston.