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These Few Precious Days

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And there were the other women. Jack engaged in “incorrigible promiscuity” and Andersen names dozens of women he bedded both before and after being elected president. But the list is probably incomplete: Jackie confided to her physician that “there was no way either she or he could possibly identify them all.”  At one point, the President even made a pass at Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill.   

Andersen makes clear that Jackie was aware of Jack’s philandering but claims that it did not bother her as long as she was not publicly humiliated. When Joan Kennedy, her new sister-in-law, expressed frustration at her own husband’s wandering eye, Jackie “laughed it off. ‘Kennedy men are like that,’ she said. ‘They’ll go after anything in skirts.  It doesn’t mean a thing.’" And she carefully avoided trouble: For example, she deliberately missed the famous May 1962 party where Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” for fear of embarrassment.   

Andersen also details the regular use of drugs by both Kennedys. Designed to reduce the president’s chronic back pain and to increase energy, the injections were administered by Dr. Max Jacobson, a New York physician who was informally known as “Dr. Feelgood.” The shots were a combination of amphetamines, steroids, and bone marrow, among other things, and were clearly dangerous.  But Jack was not troubled. “I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It works,” he said. The Kennedys became so dependent upon Jacobson’s treatments that the president unsuccessfully tried to get him to join the White House medical staff. 

The central theme of the book is that, as with any long-term relationship, the Kennedy’s marriage was continually evolving. Andersen maintains that the death of their infant son Patrick in August 1963 had taken the First Couple to a new place – the president became much more aware of and sensitive to Jackie’s feelings and ceased his philandering. Jackie responded warmly to this change and they were closer emotionally than they had ever been. 

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