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Posted May 27, 2012
What I liked about the book the most was the fact that it didn't
What I liked about the book the most was the fact that it didn't idealize John Kennedy like so many books have done in the past. I liked that it was very matter of fact about several items such as how young and immature he was when he became president and how this played a big role in his fear of committment (as well indecisiveness) to many things such as civil rights, Cuba, Vietnam, etc.
The very first book I ever read when I was 8 years old was about JFK. As a child I read about what a great man he was because of all the things he did in life...he was a war hero; he overcame being a sickly child; he married a beautiful young woman and had 2 beautiful young children. The entire book was portrait of what many people WANT to remember about JFK. While I wouldn't have expected a book for children to discuss bigger and deeper issues, tthe book was clearly an attempt to make JFK someone every child should look up to and believe in.
Unfortunately, JFK never lived up to the ideas that his father, Joe Kennedy Sr, wanted the whole world to believe about him and his family. To hear people from the 60's tell it, there was no greater president. The whole Camelot idea rolled into What Dreams May Come tale becomes more ridiculous as time passes on. The only reason it worked was because the press didn't go digging into his background. If they had, JFK might have been destroyed in a major smear campaign of which would have been his own undoing (numerous affairs, connections to certain people, etc).
While his assassination (like Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley) was a tragedy of errors, the sad fact is that in death he doesn't become a greater president. Out of respect, we don't want to speak ill of the dead and this is well understood but what is also well understood is that it has now been almost 50 years since his murder so to write the truth about his short-comings and lack of ability is now fair game.
To read this book is to draw the conclusion that winning the presidency was nothing more than winning a competition and afterwards having no interest in pursuing the matter any further. This conclusion isn't much of a stretch considering his numerous affairs were mere conquests.
I write this opinion as a life-long democrat who believes that Johnson rather than Kennedy deserves the credit for the "changes" that took place in the 60's. Johnson was a much more experienced politician whose background was closer to the people whom he served. Despite the fact that this books stated that Kennedy started the ball rolling, it also mentioned how fearful he was to actually stir the pot because he was too concerned about winning the 1964 election.
Finally, take away the assassination and allow Kennedy two-terms as president, I doubt the word "great" ever applies to his presidency. He might very well have been ended up like that of Reagan...a good communicator but not really a good president.
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