Breaking Ranks

updated 08/25/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/25/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NEXT TO A PENCHANT FOR PUBLIC service and really nice teeth, loyalty is perhaps the most durable Kennedy family trait. Or at least it seemed to be until last week's issue of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s George came out.

In a personal mini-essay on the perils of temptation, Kennedy—cofounder and editor-in-chief of the political monthly—chastised scandal-scarred cousins Joe and Michael as "poster boys for bad behavior" who "chased an idealized alternative to their life." Accompanying the barbs was another shocker: a coyly seductive photo of a sinewy, apparently nude John-John posing as Adam. What, exactly, was going through that well-coiffed head?

Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy—on the hot seat for having wangled an annulment of his 12-year marriage to Sheila Rauch—had a theory. "Ask not what you can do for your cousin, but what you can do for his magazine," he quipped after his cousin's critique (Michael, accused of sleeping with his underage babysitter, also shrugged it off). Others, however, saw Machiavellian motives. "He's gearing up for a political career," postulates C. David Heymann, author of 1989's A Woman Named Jackie. "He's distancing himself from the scandals of the other Kennedys." As for the beefcake, "What comes through is how narcissistic he is," says Edward Klein, author of All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy. "He can't seem to get enough attention."

Most likely, though, cousin Joe has a point. No doubt John has finally discovered a reader-pleasing formula that most editors have known for years: Write about the Kennedy men whenever they misbehave, and run shirtless shots of JFK Jr.

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