An innocuous, short biography by the author of The Torch is Passed: The Kennedy Brothers and American Liberalism, 1984; Herbert Hoover, 1979; etc. If any thread holds this work together, it is Burner's attempt to paint some of the ways in which the Kennedy legend differed from reality. Despite JFK's appeal to the masses, for instance, he sprang from Boston wealth, was educated at Harvard. Burner finds Kennedy to be a model of modern presidential style, thanks to a helping hand from fate and history (""unlike succeeding presidents he was not disgraced in his second term or rejected by the voters""). But the author is also fair in his assessment of the contradictions inherent in all the Kennedy brothers. Among other things, he points out the ""composite and contradictory twentieth-century American liberalism that the Kennedy politics managed to embrace over time,"" allowing them to appear as the new light of reason while flailing about wildly in a militant international posture that makes Reagan look like a dove. In all, Burner sees the Kennedy experience as illustrative of the American one: ""The Kennedy family invented itself, quite determinedly in the case of John Kennedy, who was both the creature of his own will, asserted against continual illness. And in inventing itself, the Kennedy family has been the quintessence of a nation that, for good or bad, is a perpetual work of invention."" Nothing new here, but useful for those not interested in digging too deeply into the ripe fields of Schlesinger, Parmet, Fairlie, or Wills.