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Nina Burleigh Headshot

You're No Jack, Mrs. C.

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What's so funny about this one is that the Jack Kennedy comparison really belongs to her husband - minus the war experience and impeccable social standing, of course.

Both men instinctively and unapologetically mixed political power with sexual power, making their ability to win voters and seduce women one and the same thing.

Like most Americans born after 1960, all I knew about Kennedy was the heroic myth until I started researching a book about one of his many, many lovers, an American aristocrat named Mary Pinchot Meyer who was murdered two weeks after the Warren Commission Report came out and who now belongs to the pantheon of names in the Great Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy.

Interviews with aging Georgetown ladies and old Washington hands who'd known "Jack" intimately revealed the assassinated hero to have been a routine casual womanizer, a man of gargantuan sexual appetites (although, the women intimated, limited actual skill). These people described how Kennedy's aides whisked hookers in and out of the White House, how married Georgetown women fell in and out of closets and beds with Jack at the wink of an eye, and how journalists watched it all happening, but never wrote word one about any of it.

As I was taping these interviews, in 1997, rumors about Bill Clinton's womanizing exploded from dinner party gossip to DNA-proven fact. The collapse of the Clinton administration over a blow job in light of what I was learning about the Kennedy years made the impeachment even more surreal. It was the photo negative, the mirror opposite of the Kennedy experience.

Powerful men and their appetites were presumed to go together in 1960, like Chevys and gas or warheads and uranium. By 1996, thanks very much to the work of women in Senator Clinton's generation - the women who invented the legal framework for sexual harassment, among other advances for women - powerful men's core appetites were deconstructed as abuses of the patriarchy, and at the very least, to be exposed and excoriated.

The examples of JFK and Bill Clinton now stand as bookends to an era of drastic change in what the academy calls the sociology of gender. Where Ben Bradlee in 1960 would never have dreamed of writing about a presidential blow job - would in fact have smirked complicity at a side door as the blushing young lady was led out - his descendants, my peers in Washington, regarded illicit presidential sex as the Watergate of our generation, no detail to be left unexamined in case Pulitzer came knocking.

Senator Clinton comparing herself to JFK, reveals A) her scarily tin ear about what the Clinton administration means in terms of the history of gender politics in America and B) how pandering always trumps a sense of irony in her camp.

The day will come, hopefully, when a JFK-like woman will run for President. She'll slither like a movie actress, shamelessly bed lovers young and old, seduce every sentient being in the room with a glance, and make world-changing speeches with fresh rug burns on her lissome rear end and knees, a man squirming with desire waiting in the back room.

That day, of course, will mark the fantastically successful completion of the process that young Hillary Rodham and her earnest, de-sexed sisters in the 1970s embarked upon, in their beauty-hiding business-clothes and au natural hair-dos.

Until then, though, Senator Clinton, as much as we girls may wish it were so, and oh, how we do, you're no Jack Kennedy.