Newsweek assistant managing editor Thomas (The Very Best Men, 1995, etc.) enlivens his engrossing RFK biography with fresh interviews and the use of previously restricted sources.
Unlike his princely elder brothers, Robert Kennedy was not blessed with ease or grace, nor could he bask, as they did, in the ambitious attentions of their powerful father. RFK did, however, possess courage and determination in prodigious degrees, and Thomas stresses that it was through the exercise of these qualities that RFK won for himself a place of honor, first in his family, and finally in American politics. Thomas paints a moving portrait of RFK as a boy, the runt of his family and a poor student, fighting determinedly to win the admiration of his father and of his elder brothers, all of whom he regarded with reverence. Through these struggles RFK gained a feeling of fellowship with outsiders and underdogs, which would be most famously displayed during his tragic campaign for the presidential nomination. His ferocity and determination were also put at the service of elder brother John, whose political campaigns he managed and whom he would serve as Attorney General and most trusted adviser. John had once dismissed his brooding little brother as “Black Robert,” but he eventually came to appreciate his loyalty and his dogged determination to win. After John’s assassination, RFK devoted years to mourning him. Although Thomas conveys the powerful sense of hope RFK’s campaign awakened, he does not speculate on what RFK might have accomplished if he’d avoided the assassin’s bullet. Instead, he ends his account with a description of RFK’s eloquently simple grave—which is fitting, since it is from the unfulfilled promise of a candidate who combined determined courage with a gentle concern for underdogs that the fascination with RFK mainly springs.
A compelling re-telling of one of the saddest and most intriguing life stories in American politics.