President Kennedy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

PRESIDENT KENNEDY: PROFILE OF POWER by Richard Reeves is a major addition to the many volumes published about the youngest American ever to be elected president. The public’s fascination with Kennedy began even before his election in 1960. His youth, his charisma, and his family captured the attention of much of the world in the early 1960’s. His death at the hands of an assassin in 1963 only contributed to the Kennedy mystique.

Reeves successfully demythologizes Kennedy. After his death most writers and commentators eulogized Kennedy as the young hero cut down in his prime. More recently journalists and historians have written about a Kennedy who was more interested in sexual conquests than statesmanship, a man of more profile than courage.

In Reeves’s account, Kennedy is neither a saint nor a sinner. Reeves does not ignore the darker side but the focus of the biography is on Kennedy as president. And here Reeves’ work is most revealing. His Kennedy is a politician, worrying about his 1964 reelection. His interest in domestic affairs was minimal: the growing Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King was only of marginal concern. It was the Cold War with the Soviet Union, along with its manifestations in Cuba, Berlin, and particularly Vietnam, which dominated Kennedy’s presidency.

This Kennedy is a pragmatist, not at idealist. What emerges in these pages is a portrait of a man who was eminently human, whose rhetoric inspired many in America and abroad, who avoided a nuclear war at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, who got America more deeply involved in Vietnam, and who carried on an active love life—unfortunately with the knowledge of J. Edgar Hoover. PRESIDENT KENNEDY: PROFILE OF POWER is both significant and readable.

Sources for Further Study

America. CLXIX, November 20, 1993, p.2.

Boston Globe. October 17, 1993, p.16.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 17, 1993, p.2.

The New Republic. CCIX, November 29, 1993, p.32.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, October 24, 1993, p.11.

Newsweek. CXXII, October 18, 1993, p.84.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, August 9, 1993, p.426.

Time. CXLII, October 18, 1993, p.102.

U.S. News and World Report. CXV, November 22, 1993, p.19.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, October 31, 1993, p.5.