John F. Kennedy's last year in office was arguably his most personally tragic — his infant son Patrick died — but by November of 1963, his policy agenda was driving forward with force. A wonderful new book, Thurston Clarke's JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and his Presidency, reminds us of how unusual the usual was. Here are 10 strange facts about his last year in office.
1. He fretted openly about a military coup, and was so enchanted by, and scared by, the novel Seven Days In May that he left the White House for a weekend so filmmakers could shoot exteriors. JFK wanted that film made.
2. A month before his death, he created a fake James Bond movie, one depicting his assassination, complete with grieving widow (played by Jackie) and frazzled Secret Service agents, played by reluctant Secret Service agents.
3. He opened a secret back-channel to Fidel Castro
4. He mused openly about dropping LBJ from the ticket in 1964
5. He was afraid to run against Michigan Gov. George Romney because Romney was completely viceless and without guile.
6. His Justice Department deported a German citizen, Ellen Romtesch, who was allegedly linked to several high-profile U.S. politicians — including JFK himself — and struggled to cover up the White House's connection to the case.
7. Whenever he was in New York, he would visit a Greek kouros in a museum across from his Carlyle Hotel apartment, staring at it in silence.
8. He spent time in the company of his mistresses, but after the death of his infant son Patrick in August, he did not have sex with any of them. He grew closer to Jackie than ever before, determined to "keep the White House white" after the tragedy.
9. His last and most controversial appointee, would-be Postmaster-General John Grounouski, was controversial only because he was Polish.
10. For a race-conscious president, he was unusually restrained about the September 8, 1962 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birminghan, Ala., probably because he worried that sustained presidential focus would distract him from his tax policy and United Nations General Assembly speeches.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- Israel has only two choices: Eliminate the Palestinians or make peace
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 9 things you probably didn't know about the moon
- What I learned from totally unplugging and shutting up for three days
- 10 burning questions you've always wanted to ask about investing
- Why America is duty bound to help Iraqi Christians
- Immigration, charity, and conservatives' unholy assault on Glenn Beck
Subscribe to the Week