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by Joe McGinniss

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-67945-7
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Can one sympathize with a rich, powerful, boozing, aging roue of a US senator? Maybe--if the senator is the Ted Kennedy presented in McGinniss's harsh but oddly compassionate biography. It's a lot more difficult, actually, to sympathize with the rich, powerful, aging bestseller of a writer--who, if even half the accusations are true, not only created scenes for this book out of whole cloth but plagiarized William Manchester's The Death of a President (1967). Save for a coda that summarizes Kennedy's slide toward irrelevance in recent presidential elections, McGinniss takes the senator only up to Chappaquiddick, which he considers not only the mangling of one man's political aspirations but also the final price paid for Joe Kennedy's dynastic hopes: "The nation...demanded that Teddy live not only his own life but, also, simultaneously, the unlived portion of the lives of his three older brothers." Except for one typically unsourced assertion that Ted phoned a onetime girlfriend in the hours after the accident, McGinniss hasn't uncovered much about Chappaquiddick not revealed in Leo Damore's Senatorial Privilege (1988)--but that's hardly surprising given the recent revelations about the author's apparent penchant for creative research. In any case, the thrust of McGinniss's narrative, whatever its provenance, is that, from the start, Ted was too emotionally maimed for the burden laid upon him: His parents shuttled him to ten schools by age 13 but visited him in none; Joe saw Ted's expulsion from Harvard as a threat to Jack's political hopes; Jack and Bobby were aghast that Joe had pushed Ted into his first Senate race so early in his career; the two assassinations launched Ted toward the boozy self-destruction that led to Chappaquiddick. It's all told with verve: but veracity? Caveat emptor.