Bahia de Cochinos
o endure an exhausting campaign while suffering from a bad back and Addison's disease, an adrenal gland disorder, Senator Kennedy was forced to rely heavily on a New York physician, Dr. Max Jacobson. Friend and confidant Chuck Spaulding introduced both John and wife Jackie to the former German refugee after being “saved” from a furious bout of mononucleosis. Bedazzled by his impressive list of celebrity patients, including Judy Garland, Billy Wilder, Yul Brynner, Eddie Fisher, Truman Capote, Alan Jay Lerner, Van Cliburn, Mickey Mantle, and Stavros Niarchos, as a true believer Kennedy was glad to be on such a privileged client list. A week prior to the first nationally televised presidential debate, JFK submitted to the first of countless treatments at the hands of Dr. Feelgood, as Jacobson came to be colloquially known around New York City. At about the same time, Jackie went to Jacobson for relief from the torturing headaches and depression she had developed after the caesarean birth of John, Jr.; to cope with the daily strains of post childbirth, becoming the First Lady and the anxiety-inducing loss of privacy, Jackie joined her husband in a search for deliverance from pain.
In his plush Manhattan office at 155 East 72nd Street, the guru of medicine would first inject himself with his mysterious cure-all before shooting another trusty vial into one of his famous patients. The dark-haired dogmatic doctor touted his secret serum as the perfect elixir for a total health system. His patients admired his seemingly boundless energy, confidence, and wisdom.
After several meetings with Dr. Jacobson, Jack Kennedy was convinced that the treatment had helped supply the energy needed to sustain his inhuman schedule. But nothing could have been worse for a man who suffered so many ailments. In addition to Jacobson's concoction, Kennedy was also using the painkiller Demerol and cortisone for the Addison's disease. The combination of drugs (now considered contraindicated) undoubtedly worsened his condition by lowering his adrenal function. Even against Jacobson's advice to discontinue the Demerol, Kennedy persisted, injecting himself with the painkiller on top of the usual two or three shots a week from Jacobson.
When Jackie discovered Jack's vials of Demerol in the bathroom, she repeatedly ordered him to stop. But the addicted President vehemently defended his use of the drug, citing his chronic back pain, the Addison's disease, and the horrendous burden of being America's commander-in-chief during a time of crisis.
With all the drugs taken simultaneously, the president underwent long stretches of intense highs and then severe lows, the highs characterized by grandiose overconfidence in his abilities and a vastly increased sex drive. Jack had become insatiable.
After months of his brother's having injections, Bobby grew alarmed over Jack's condition and subsequently sent the vials for laboratory investigation. The serum was found to contain high levels of amphetamine, steroids, hormones, animal cells, and a lesser amount of vitamins. Many unsuspecting clients would enjoy the treatment until later they would suffer from acute memory loss, depression, anxiety, weight loss, hypertension, paranoia, hallucinations, and other debilitating symptoms. Ultimately, the New York City Medical Examiner's Office determined that one of Jacobson's patients had died from “acute amphetamine poisoning” and, fortunately for public safety, the doctor eventually lost his license to practice medicine.
Late during his administration, President Eisenhower had planned a secret CIA mission to overthrow the newly installed Castro government. The fact that the tiny Marxist regime posed such a serious danger to the United States delighted archenemy Russia. With the constant threat of deployment of long-range missiles directly from Cuba, the U.S. government planned to oust Fidel Castro once and for all. Even before the election, Kennedy had his father briefed by John Foster Dulles, the CIA director who was instrumental in the planning of the secret invasion. A few days before the televised debates, the following statement was released from Kennedy headquarters: “We must attempt to strengthen the non-Batista, democratic, anti-Castro forces in exile, and in Cuba itself, who offer eventual hope of overthrowing Castro. Thus far, these fighters for freedom have had virtually no support from our government.” The senator would later claim that he had not ever seen the release. He may well have been too wired on all the drugs to even notice or recall such a potentially damaging and embarrassing statement.
Recognizing the national security threat caused by Kennedy's inept remark, Nixon cautiously covered for his opponent during the debate, branding his proposal as “dangerously irresponsible.” Nixon went on to successfully argue that the loss of Latin America and United Nations support would simply serve as an open invitation to Mr. Khruschchev to engage us in a civil war with Latin America and possibly “worse than that.” Privy to the covert operations for arming the anti-Castro exiles at their training base in Guatemala, the vice president was disgusted with Kennedy for jeopardizing the secret plan solely for his own political gain. Nixon went on the air presenting a soft stance on communism (the complete opposite of his actual beliefs), meant to cover for the senator's strategic faux pas. The overamped, drug-ridden candidate denied the accusations as an “honest miscalculation.” Ted Sorensen rushed to Jack's defense, explaining that during the briefing the senator had not been made aware of the invasion plans. In later efforts to further explain away the incident, Richard Goodwin declared that Kennedy had indeed been briefed, but that by the time the statement was written, he could no longer be reached for approval at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. Instead, at Goodwin's request, the Secret Service had not disturbed the President, who was supposedly sleeping at the time.
By the following day, Kennedy was busy clarifying his position on Cuba, ultimately declaring: “I have never advocated, and I do not advocate, intervention in Cuba in violation of our treaty obligations.... We must use all available communicationsâradio, television, and the pressâand the moral power of the American government, to let the forces of freedom in Cuba know that we are on their side.” The change in positions clearly affected the candidate's perceived strengths, with Nixon appearing soft on communism and Kennedy coming across tough. But Nixon preserved and protected the operation. In October 1962 Kennedy would reckon with the Cuban Missile Crisisâthe direct consequence of his misinformation blunder. After learning of the plan, in self-defense, Castro enlisted Khrushchev's assistance against the United States invasion and assassination attempts. When nuclear missiles were subsequently installed in Cuba, U.S. reconnaissance aircraft photographed their presence. After an even closer call, Khrushchev would finally agree to dismantling the missiles in exchange for a U.S. commitment never to invade Cuba.
An aide would later reveal that Kennedy's head was clearly somewhere else during the debates. Ninety minutes before airtime, Jack was in his hotel room with a call girl. Then just after the debate, JFK was asking, “Any girls lined up for tomorrow?” The drug therapy was pumping his appetite to unprecedented heights. Jack would later boast that he had to have sex before each of the debates to ensure his confidence and victory in the election.
During the early months of his presidency, Kennedy was well aware that the mob was holding sufficient cards in the covert operation. Its gambling and vice activities in Havana had been stopped abruptly during the Castro takeover and the mob was angered.
The CIA had opportunistically enlisted the Mafia's assistance in its proposed attempts to overthrow Castro's government. A great deal was at stake for the Cosa Nostra. Castro had cost their “tax free businesses” hundreds of millions of dollars. Even after contributing millions and promising a cut to Castro in the hope that he would eventually allow the casinos to reopen, they could only stand idly by. Castro remained undecided, continuing to hold Santos Trafficante, a Cuban-American gambling czar, in jail. Jack Ruby, who would a few years later murder Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK's alleged assassin, was assigned the task of negotiating for Trafficante's release. Concerned about losing his drug-smuggling operations, New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello soon participated in arming a group of Cuban rebels for the operation.
The President's own regimen for personal happiness seemed at odds with his public life. JFK's initial reaction to his father's insistence that he run for President was to break down in tears. Jack wanted only to party and party hard. As the oldest living son of one of the richest and most powerful men in the country, and holding a Harvard degree, Mr. Kennedy longed only for the life that would afford him the luxury of being an international playboy. He felt that being President would weigh him down with too much responsibility. Jack felt ill equipped to follow in the footsteps of his deceased older brother, Joe, Jr., who had died on August 12,1944, in an explosion of his experimental bomber that was designed to knock out V-1 “buzz bomb” launching ramps in France during World War II. Frustrated for eight months in England without doing anything courageous like sinking a submarine or shooting down a plane, Joe, Jr., was thought to be the son of the “yellow” Ambassador to Great Britain. Out to disprove the charges floating around England about his father's questionable political affiliations, he quickly volunteered for the perilous top-secret V-1 mission.
The patriarch's plans for Joe, Jr., were shattered in the explosion. Since he had not become President himself for having lost credibility when labeled “soft” on Adolf Hitler, the senior had designs on junior fulfilling his dream vicariously. Suddenly, JFK was next in line to carry the torch for the Kennedy clan. Until Jack miraculously pulled through his coma in the hospital in 1954, Joe never believed that his sickly son had “the right stuff” for the Presidency. Being merely retentive was not nearly enough to take on the overpowering commitment of the Oval Office, so Joe was destined to call the shots.
Nearly every decision deemed remotely important in the White House was controlled by Joe. When it came time to choose his cabinet, Jack was forced to submit to every one of the old man's selections. JFK especially opposed Joe's choice for attorney general, younger brother Bobby, who had never even practiced law. Kennedy's close friend, Torbet Macdonald, asked the President for Jack's displaced Senate seat, but the ex-ambassador quickly appointed Benjamin Smith as the senator until Ted was of age to run. Smith clearly understood the senior Kennedy's dictum: the seat was to be reserved for the younger brother. These usurped decisions caused great angst for a man who had no control over his future. Joe Kennedy desired to surround his son with intelligent yes men. Joe wanted no interference with his policy making and continual dominance over his son. Former North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges was appointed secretary of commerce, Stewart L. Udall of Arizona was named secretary of the interior, Connecticut's Governor Ribicoff agreed to be secretary of health, education and welfare, and veteran union attorney Arthur Goldberg was appointed secretary of labor. These men served to highlight the President and give Joe's directions more credence; and Jack continued to rely on the decision-making abilities of the Patriarch. Weekends were usually spent at Hyannis, conferring with the ex-ambassador over government policy. Joe never had to be subtle when demanding his son follow his dictates. At the Kennedy dinner table, Jack resigned himself to a nervous titter in the Old Man's presence. Joe would continually brag: “And to this day, not one of the boys has beaten me at anything. But I think they may have thought that I retired from tennis a bit too early. But I beat Bobby and Teddy at golf the last time I played them.” Losing his potency in the shadow of such an overbearing father figure, the misplaced and unwilling John hid himself in his drug and sex addictions.
Early on in the Kennedy administration, Sam Giancana had to grapple with the appointment of Robert Kennedy as attorney general. In spite of John's strong objections, Joe believed his choice gave the Kennedys the edge over the mob. Even the Kennedy family attorney, Clark Gifford, advised against it. Sam could not have agreed more. (Later Giancana would discover that Kennedy had omitted important sections of the reports containing activities against the mob.) Giancana eventually concluded that the Kennedys were systematically attempting to erase their obligations to the Mafia. As Bobby was continuing to prosecute and apply constant surveillance of mob operations, Giancana continued to bug and tap rooms frequented by the president and his brother.
By March 1962, the attorney general was making serious strides, preparing a nineteen-page FBI document delineating Frank Sinatra's close underworld ties (the report would be dated August 3, 1962, just days before Monroe's death). The report had been instigated by J. Edgar Hoover, who told Bobby Kennedy in a private meeting that FBI operatives had noticed that the president was sharing the same mistress with Chicago gangster, Sam “Momo” Giancana. Humiliated by Hoover, and incensed over his brother's compromising position, Bobby retaliated by ordering the investigation into Sinatra's associations. The final draft would provide copies of monitored telephone conversations between the mobsters and Sinatra, including exact times and dates of the “special” favors Sinatra was performing for them. A car dealer named Peter Epsteen had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Sinatra to record a commercial for Epsteen's Pontiac dealership in Skokie, Illinois. Epsteen called upon the services of his friends Joseph and Rocco Fischetti, cousins of the infamous Al Capone. After negotiating with the brothers, Sinatra made the commercial without charge, as Epsteen's former wife reported to FBI agents. Sinatra received two Pontiacs as a gift from Epsteen. In defense, Sinatra said that the “favor” had nothing to do with the Fischetti brothers. The FBI would point out that later a lady friend of Rocco Fischetti's would be seen driving a Pontiac “bearing Epsteen's dealer's license plate frame.” Sinatra bestowed a number of other favors upon notorious mobsters. Joe Fischetti received payments as a talent scout from the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach whenever Sinatra performed there. The investigation gathered more information by April 1962, when, under the assumed name of Joe Fischer, Joe Fischetti received seventy-one checks from the Fontainebleau Hotel, each in the amount of $540, totaling $38,340. The FBI correlated the entries with Fischetti's income tax returns for 1959 and 1960 and determined that fees of $12,960 were paid to him from the Fontainebleau as a “talent agent.” The report would add that in Miami Beach “Fischetti would mean Sinatra” was performing for a contract price with the cash deal handled directly by Fischetti. In addition, Sinatra had lent Fischetti $90,000 to invest secretly in interests in a Miami restaurant. His relationship with Giancana would be noted as well. Giancana had been rejected by his draft board in 1944 because he was considered a psychopath. By fifteen he had already been in jail for auto theft, and by twenty he had been questioned in connection with three murders.