IN LOVE WITH NIGHT by Ronald Steel


The American Romance with Robert Kennedy
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A persuasive study both of the character of Robert Kennedy and of his persistent hold on the national imagination. “At some point,” Steel writes (Walter Lippmann and the American Century, 1980) “without ever quite intending it, American liberals and even many American conservatives fell in love with Robert Kennedy.” He became in memory a kind of alternative to the disruptive present: If Bobby had become president, “he would have quickly ended the Vietnam War, brought black and white Americans together, alleviated poverty and discrimination, and achieved a more just and humane society.” But would he? While covering the major elements in Kennedy’s life and career, Steel identifies the characteristics that made him such a unique figure on the political landscape of the 1960s. He was, Steel notes, a fervent crusader for whom ideas had real, perhaps tragic consequences. In the grim period following 1963, Bobby was haunted by the fear that his crusades against Fidel Castro and the Mafia may have played some part in his brother’s assassination. Steel is especially persuasive in depicting Bobby’s complex relationship with his brother Jack, a relationship composed, on Bobby’s side, of admiration, devotion, and frustration. One reason LBJ remained so committed to the war in Vietnam, argues Steel, was that Bobby, who was unwilling to accept a defeat there, would roundly criticize LBJ if he were to pull out. And he suggests that, although Bobby in his last years displayed an extraordinary charisma as a critic of the status quo, if he had gained the presidency “he would have had to shed his charisma as redeemer and become . . . what every president ultimately is: a power broker.” Without denying any of Kennedy’s gifts, Steel has produced a substantial rereading of his character, of the turbulent sixties, and of the process of political legend-making in this country. A major work on an American political icon.(16 pages b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-80829-3
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1999


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