March 19, 1990 12:00 PM

by Joan Braden

This book is part memoir, part marriage manual, part guide for the working mother and part Joan Braden’s advertisement for her own sex appeal.

She is the wife of columnist-commentator Tom Braden, whose book about their marriage and eight children was turned into the TV series Eight Is Enough.

Joan alone is a Washington, D.C., fixture. She hates the term socialite, and maybe she should; better to call her a social climber. Braden writes of working in the presidential campaigns of John Kennedy, who “more than any man I’ve ever known cared about what people said,” and Robert Kennedy, who, she writes, was ruthless, but in a good way. She also worked for Nelson Rockefeller, who “wanted more than anything else in life to succeed despite his name; to succeed as himself, because of who he was inside his skin.”

According to Just Enough Rope, Braden was also chummy with Jackie Kennedy and the redoubtable Alice Longworth Roosevelt and counts Henry Kissinger as a close friend. Indeed, Braden seems to know everyone worth knowing in politics and government. Though she refuses to say just how well she has known some folks, there are hints.

Braden, who seems to see herself as catnip to men, writes of taking a shower at the apartment of Nelson Rockefeller’s father, only to have Rocky unexpectedly jump in with her. She recalls Bobby Kennedy pulling her down onto a bed and Hubert Humphrey inviting her to share his hotel suite. She also speaks fondly of her special relationship with former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

Indeed, eight wouldn’t seem to be enough for Braden, who is really unbearably coy about all this. At least three times in the book there is mention of trust between Braden and her husband, though why it exists is unclear, unless it’s because Tom hasn’t yet read his wife’s charmless book.

“Sex is not sinful,” Joan Braden writes. “It is not sensational. It is everyday.” “Yes, I love Tom,” she writes apropos of her encounter with Bobby Kennedy. “Yes, I’ve always loved him. I am married to him. I’ll love him as long as I live. But to say that because you love your husband it’s impossible to love another man is as silly as to say that because you love your son, it’s impossible to love your daughter.”

By book’s end, it is clear: Mr. Braden has given Mrs. Braden way, way too much rope. (Villard, $19.95)

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