Three decades after his death, here is the startling story of John F. Kennedy's three years in the White House. Based on previously unavailable White House files, letters and records, and hundreds of new interviews, Richard Reeves has written the first objective account of Kennedy's presidency. President Kennedy is a dramatic day-by-day, often minute-by-minute, Oval Office narrative of what it was, and is, like to be President. This is the view from the center of power during the years when the United States ...
Three decades after his death, here is the startling story of John F. Kennedy's three years in the White House. Based on previously unavailable White House files, letters and records, and hundreds of new interviews, Richard Reeves has written the first objective account of Kennedy's presidency. President Kennedy is a dramatic day-by-day, often minute-by-minute, Oval Office narrative of what it was, and is, like to be President. This is the view from the center of power during the years when the United States faced nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union and something close to racial war at home. This is brilliant, relevant history, vividly told. Kennedy lived along a line where charm became power. He proved that the only qualification for the most powerful job in the world was wanting it. He would not wait his turn, sure that he could always prevail one-on-one - until, in pain and heavily medicated, he was humiliated in Vienna in 1961 at a summit with Nikita Khrushchev. He came home in despair, thinking he would be the last U.S. President, asking for the number of expected American deaths in the war that seemed inevitable - 70 million, he was told. He began a massive military build-up and a secret search for peace. On the day in 1963 when that peace seemed possible, he gave the greatest speech of his life on ending the Cold War - on the same day that four black girls were blown to bits at a church in Birmingham and a Buddhist monk burned himself to death in Saigon to protest a government created by the United States. Within weeks, Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed on a nuclear test ban treaty, hundreds of thousands of blacks led by Martin Luther King, Jr., marched on Washington, and Kennedy ordered the overthrow of the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam - beginning a cycle of assassinations that ended with his own death and those of King and his brother Robert Kennedy. These were the days when the world held its breath. The Bay of Pigs. The Freedom Rides.
New Yorker writer Reeves offers his remarkably detailed account of JFK's life and the turbulent events of his presidency. Nov.
Reeves, the veteran journalist who has written books on Presidents Ford and Reagan, here offers an excellent study of Kennedy as crisis manager. He presents Kennedy as neither an amoral playboy nor the ruler of Camelot but a poorly prepared president with mediocre congressional experience. Each chapter presents a different day in the administration--a unique format that effectively reveals how Kennedy responded to simultaneous harrowing issues. The Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crises, Vietnam, and the diplomacy of arms reduction illustrate how Kennedy was constrained by the unshakable Cold War fear of monolithic communism. This approachable investigation of Kennedy's use of power, read in tandem with Nigel Hamilton's JFK: Reckless Youth ( LJ 10/15/92), provides a thorough, even-handed review of the Kennedy years. Highly recommended for most public libraries and all subject collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/93. -- Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp . Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
The revisionists are pounding the doors of Camelot with this study following hard on that of Nigel Hamilton ("JFK: Reckless Youth" ). Historians like Sorensen and Schlesinger are doubtless discomfited seeing the torch passing to a new generation whose work is tempered by skepticism of the JFK myths and disciplined by the hard and bitter truth of documents released in the past few years. As Reeves tells the story, the wonder is that Kennedy's presidency lasted as long as it did. His serial assignations, if exposed, would have ruined him. His life lasted day to day on medication combating Addison's disease. The further wonder is the hold retained on imaginations popular and historical by his governing actions. Except for decisions of a impulsive, show-biz character--going to the moon, for example--he invariably chose the temporizing, not the bold course. Hence Diem in Vietnam, Castro in Cuba. Such is Reeves' minutely detailed picture--nearly minute by minute--of the 1,000 days, complete with voluminous footnotes that, in some ways, are the essence of this robust bit of revisionism. Scrupulously based on what Kennedy actually said and did in office, Reeves' chronicle will take a long time--and a long stretch of the same facts--for defenders to refute.
Behind the scenes in the Kennedy Administration—in well- documented, unusually revealing depth. Reeves (The Reagan Detour, 1985, etc.) draws on scores of recently released documents (including transcripts of Oval Office audiotapes) and interviews with surviving New Frontiersmen to create a day-to-day, sometimes even minute-by-minute, chronicle of JFK's decision-making. While finding the President to be "intelligent, detached, [and] candid if not always honest," Reeves also shows him as disorganized, impatient, and addicted to the notion that it was "brains," not ideology or idealism, that counted. Not only are certain neglected aspects of the Kennedy presidency explored in great depth here (e.g., how this bored, restless White House economics student came around to Keynesianism)—but so are topics delved into countless times before. The cumulative impression is of a natural politician who reacted to events rather than mastering them. JFK confronted Khrushchev without igniting a nuclear war, and he concluded the landmark limited test-ban treaty, but he stumbled at the Bay of Pigs, was tugged reluctantly from his view that civil rights involved political rather than moral issues, and became increasingly mired in Vietnam. Kennedy's philandering is acknowledged, but without hyperbolic attention, and his use of drugs to counteract Addison's disease is discussed in relation to the effect on his performance (notably at his disastrous Vienna summit with Khrushchev). Reeves's narrative could use more commentary on how Kennedy either enhanced or diminished his office, as well as a fuller explanation of how his forceful father affected his thinking. But the author excels at examining howthe President dealt with the burdens of office—seething at generals' stupidity, picking the brains of all he met, chuckling at the ironies of the political game. Neither Camelot elegy nor scathing revisionism—but the kind of cool, dispassionate narrative that JFK himself might have appreciated. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen) (First serial to American Heritage)