John Fitzgerald Kennedy redefined how Americans came to see the nation's chief executive. He was forty-three when he was inaugurated in 1961—the youngest man ever elected to the office—and he personified what he called the “New Frontier” as the United States entered the 1960s.
But, as Alan Brinkley shows in this incisive and lively assessment, the reality of Kennedy’s achievements was much more complex than the legend suggests. His brief presidency encountered significant failures—among them the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which cast its shadow on nearly every national security decision that followed. But Kennedy also had successes, among them his adept handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and his belated but powerful stand against segregation.
Kennedy seemed to live on a knife’s edge, moving from one crisis to another—Cuba, Laos, Berlin, Vietnam, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. His controversial public life mirrored his hidden private life. And he took risks that would seem reckless and even foolhardy when they emerged from secrecy years later.
Offering an unvarnished yet lucid and balanced account, Brinkley gives us a full picture of the man, his times, and his enduring legacy.
Hardcover Book : 224 pages
Publisher: Times Books ( May 08, 2012 )
Item #: 13-583184
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.56inches
Product Weight: 10.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
What a pleasant surprise! The author introduced the book (and himself) by stating how enamored he was by Kennedy. I wasn’t expecting much due to the authors admitted bias, however what I read was highly readable and balanced. Kennedy does not come across as a great president or a failure, but more as an average president. The curtain is pulled back nicely and a good look inside is presented. Well done, one of the better books in this series.
Brinkley's bio of JFK does an adequate job in describing Joe Kennedy Sr's extensive involvement in JFK's college, literary, congressional and presidential campaigns. Brinkley's theme of JFK's "fluid" presidential style is also well-done. This style led to perceptions of weaknesses in his handling of the Bay of Pigs, his first meeting with Khrushchev, and his initial tepid timidity on the civil rights issue. Brinkley discusses how historians have taken a harder look at JFK's scanty legislative record and the myriad of "what if?" questions that may never be definitively answered: origins of the Vietnam War, his role in the civil rights movement, his precarious health, and of course his assassination. The author's admiration for his subject comes through (overuse of the word "elegant") but that quibble doesn't necessarily hinder the flow of the narrative. Not quite a hagiography but not a hatchet job. A solid, left-of-center, accessible introduction to JFK. An excellent bibliography for those with a deeper interest is included.
Reviewer: Ed S