PRAGMATIC ILLUSIONS: The Presidential Politics of John F. Kennedy by Bruce Miroff

PRAGMATIC ILLUSIONS: The Presidential Politics of John F. Kennedy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A compact restatement of a now-familiar critique: the vaunted Kennedy pragmatism based itself not on ""objectivity"" but on power-worship and cold-war dogma. By way of lively accounts of JFK's domestic and foreign policy, Miroff examines his.outlook and the resulting ""impediment"" to progress and mass political action. Kennedy seized upon international crisis as a substitute for serious change at home, refused to urge a positive appreciation of the civil rights movement on white Americans, and treated the Third World with ""elitism."" Miroff also argues that toward the end Kennedy was not serious about dÉtente or inclined toward deescalation in Vietnam; speech extracts and the ferocity of hits advisors are cited as evidence, al. though the book has shown JFK restraining those advisors over Berlin and Cuba. Domestically, Miroff locates JFK's major accomplishment in the economic sphere: achievement of ""the most extended expansion in American history"" through government intervention. Despite the book's left-liberal flavor, attention is not called to the role of defense spending in this expansion. However, Miroff has generally accomplished his aim of reminding the pragmatic boosters of presidential power that not only Johnson and Nixon but Kennedy ""got results"" of a dubious character. A more ramified treatment of the same foreign-policy theme is found in Richard Walton's Cold War and Counterrevolution (1972).

Pub Date: May 10th, 1976
Publisher: McKay