I’m selling a history book, “The Dark Side of Camelot”. The book reveals, erm, the dark side of John F Kennedy’s presidency. This is not just a seamy underside, it’s a 180 degrees from the image of JFK we were taught in school and developed thanks to the media.

A new book about the Clintons sheds some interesting light on the legacy of this dark side. The following quote from a review of that book could just as easily and truthfully have been applied to JFK and his family:

the phenomenon that has allowed the Clintons to prosper from their unbridled hubris and brazen recklessness was identified by Stone with a reference to a book with that title: “Elite Deviance” by David Simon, is something that Stone summarily described as “an anomaly in which a tiny few people who have enough material wealth, political influence, and personal connections can immunize themselves from considering the consequences of their most abhorrent, destructive, vile, and even criminal behavior.”

Hubris. An interesting word. This article says the proper transliteration is “hybris”, and quotes the Greek historian Herodotus on the subject. A theme that runs through Hersh’s account of the dark side of JFK’s presidency is that of what might best be called hubris. Several people who were close to the Kennedy’s refer to their sense that they were above the constraints that bind ordinary mortals;  Hersh’s interviewees often mention JFK’s “recklessness” which seemed to come from a strong sense of invulnerability, a sense that they would suffer no untoward consequences for their actions. Here’s the Herodotus quote:

Herodotus believed that there were invariable laws to the rise and fall of empires.  Empires rose and fell—as they still do today—because of individual decisions made by individual leaders.

The greatest mistake made by those in power, like Darius, was the sin of hybris.  That Greek word means “outrageous arrogance.”  Hybris (and that is the way it should be transliterated) is the outrageous arrogance that marks the abuse of power.  Only those invested with enormous power can commit the sin of hybris.  Hybris is the imposition of your will, at all costs.  The Greeks believed that hybris was preceded by ate or moral blindness that makes you believe that you can do anything you want to and there will be no consequences from either Gods or men.  It was this hybris that led Darius to undertake a preemptive war against Athens.  It was his moral blindness that believed he would never know defeat.  He ignored all the warnings that the Gods sent him because he felt so secure in his power.