Robert Kennedy: Brother Protectorby James Hilty
For most of his life, Robert Kennedy stood in the shadow cast by his older brother, John; only after President Kennedy's assassination did the public gain a complete sense of Robert ("Bobby," we called him) as a committed advocate for social justice and a savvy politician in his own right. In this comprehensive biography, James W. Hilty offers a detailed and nuanced… See more details below
For most of his life, Robert Kennedy stood in the shadow cast by his older brother, John; only after President Kennedy's assassination did the public gain a complete sense of Robert ("Bobby," we called him) as a committed advocate for social justice and a savvy politician in his own right. In this comprehensive biography, James W. Hilty offers a detailed and nuanced account of how Robert was transformed from a seemingly unpromising youngster, unlikely to match the accomplishments of his older brothers, to the forceful man who ran "the family business," orchestrating the Kennedy quest for political power. The centerpiece of this book is the remarkable political partnership that formed between Robert and John. As the manager of John's political campaigns, Robert proved himself "hard as nails" (in his father's admiring words), relentless in securing his brother's victory and unforgiving in overseeing his brother's presidency. Hilty marshals a great deal of evidence to show that while they did not always see eye to eye - Lyndon Johnson's selection as John's running mate being a notable disagreementthey discussed virtually every issue, gauging the likely political effects of every position. Robert was so close to the President that insiders called him "number one and a half"; their consultations were so intimate that they spoke in a kind of code, barely intelligible to those around them. In Hilty's evocative but unsentimental recounting of the political crises of the Kennedy Administration, Robert and John prove to have been more calculating and astute leaders than today's pundits allow. Theirs was a partnership that was unprecedented and, thanks to an act signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, is never to be equaled.
That we speak at all of a Kennedy legacy is because of Robert Kennedy, writes historian Hilty (Temple Univ.), who has also written a study of John F. Kennedy. That we connect the Kennedy name to issues of social justice and equity, he continues, is also the result of RFK's work after John's murder. It is fair that we think of the younger Kennedy as a good man, Hilty suggests; but, he reminds us, the Kennedy brothers were above all else politicians who often got credit for more than they achieved. It is as a politician that RFK most engages Hilty, who dissects his role as a political bulldog, crusading attorney, and, above all else, fierce champion and protector of his older brother throughout his political career. In that role, RFK may have committed a few improprietiesincluding allegedly accepting campaign contributions from the Mafia, delivered by Frank Sinatra. The brothers were, the author continues (disputing the claims of tell-all memoirist Judith Campbell), far too savvy to get too close personally to such transactions; in any event, John Kennedy even joked about such things, telling an audience that he had received a telegram from his father instructing him not to buy one more vote than necessary with the words, "I'll be damned if I'll pay for a landslide." Elsewhere Hilty writes that as attorney general RFK was nonchalant about illegal wiretaps and smear campaigns, favorite tactics of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. But for all his contradictions, ethical shortcomings, and personal demons, which Hilty explores with care and sympathy, Robert Kennedy found his true calling at the end of his life, using his spiritual intensity and sense of invincibility to effect meaningful social change.
This well-written book is timely, coming just as the 30th anniversary of RFK's assassination approaches, and just as the current crop of Kennedy scions is making news for all the wrong reasons.
- Temple University Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.27(h) x 1.82(d)
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