A QUESTION OF CHARACTER by Thomas C. Reeves

A QUESTION OF CHARACTER

A Life of John F. Kennedy

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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 requires 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, and 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 Permet, and Peter Collier and David Horowitz. Absurdly, Reeves also contradicts his own evidence at times (e.g., claiming that JFK was ``not his father'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 8th, 1991
ISBN: 0-02-925965-7
Page count: 500pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1991




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