Twice-told tales of JFK's alleged womanizing and his domination by lecherous, ruthless father Joseph Kennedy. A former...

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A QUESTION OF CHARACTER: A Life of John F. Kennedy

Twice-told tales of JFK's alleged womanizing and his domination by lecherous, ruthless father Joseph Kennedy. A former admirer of Kennedy, Univ. of Wisconsin history professor Reeves (The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy, 1982; Gentleman Boss, 1975) vents his spleen and disillusionment against the claims of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Theodore Sorensen, and other Camelot chroniclers. In this telling, Joseph Kennedy drilled into Jack and his siblings ""an intense self-centeredness, aggressiveness, and a passionate desire to win at any cost"" that left Jack without the high moral character American Presidents require for greatness. Although crediting JFK with intelligence, wit, charisma, courage, and forthright defense of free-world principles during the Berlin and Cuban Missile crises, Reeves also criticizes the President for macho posturing and disdain for moral principle in his conduct relating to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the assassination plot against Fidel Castro, the steel price-hike, the civil-rights movement, and deepening involvement in Southeast Asia. Above all, he finds, his former hero ""abused his office for personal self-gratification"" through relentless philandering that exposed him to potential blackmail. Yet most of these instances of the seamy reality behind Camelot can be found in previous works by Joan and Clay Blair, Herbert Parmet, and Peter Collier and David Horowitz. Absurdly, Reeves also contradicts his own evidence at limes (e.g., claiming that JFK was ""not his lather's puppet"" after spending the entire book demonstrating how completely the President accepted his father's political viewpoint and financial largesse). For a truly searing discussion of the character issue, see Garry Wills's The Kennedy Imprisonment (1982), not this superficial treatment focused so exclusively on adultery and the inherited sins of founding father Joe.

Pub Date: May 8, 1991

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991