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President Kennedy [Paperback]

Richard Reeves
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 1994
Three decades after his death, here is the startling story of John F. Kennedy's three years in the White House. Based on previously unavailable White House files, letters and records, and hundreds of new interviews, Richard Reeves has written the first objective account of Kennedy's presidency. President Kennedy is a dramatic day-by-day, often minute-by-minute, Oval Office narrative of what it was, and is, like to be President. This is the view from the center of power during the years when the United States faced nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union and something close to racial war at home. This is brilliant, relevant history, vividly told. Kennedy lived along a line where charm became power. He proved that the only qualification for the most powerful job in the world was wanting it. He would not wait his turn, sure that he could always prevail one-on-one - until, in pain and heavily medicated, he was humiliated in Vienna in 1961 at a summit with Nikita Khrushchev. He came home in despair, thinking he would be the last U.S. President, asking for the number of expected American deaths in the war that seemed inevitable - 70 million, he was told. He began a massive military build-up and a secret search for peace. On the day in 1963 when that peace seemed possible, he gave the greatest speech of his life on ending the Cold War - on the same day that four black girls were blown to bits at a church in Birmingham and a Buddhist monk burned himself to death in Saigon to protest a government created by the United States. Within weeks, Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed on a nuclear test ban treaty, hundreds of thousands of blacks led by Martin Luther King, Jr., marched on Washington, andKennedy ordered the overthrow of the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam - beginning a cycle of assassinations that ended with his own death and those of King and his brother Robert Kennedy. These were the days when the world held its breath. The Bay of Pigs. The Freedom Rides.

Product details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (1 Oct 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671892894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671892890
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 15.6 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,065,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Derek Shearer"Los Angeles Times Book ReviewPresident Kennedy"...is the best study that I've read of what it's like to be President.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In the weeks between his election and inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, John F. Kennedy spent as much time as he could relaxing in the sun at his father's house in Palm Beach, Florida. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By A Customer
Richard Reeves' book is a welcome addition to the "Camelot Years" genre. Written from the President's perspective, i.e. "a day in the life" type format, this excellent read neither fawns, nor muckrakes, but rather gives a balanced account of a Presidency that, until this point, has not been examined in an objective light. Reeves' first person perspective shows a president who had more profile than courage. Inspite of his many gifts, JFK was diffident, at best, as President. Reeves book reveals a JFK that was driven, almost maniacally, to get to the White House, but once he got there was pretty much out of his league. The portrait of a neophyte statesman is obvious when Kennedy makes his first trip to Europe, receives a lukewarm reception from DeGaulle, and is taken to the woodshed by Nikita Khrushev who, upon seeing the youthful president exclaimed "he's younger than my own son." Reeves account beautifully illustrates how the rich playboy-president miscalculates Khrushev; one gets the impression that Kennedy felt that his Soviet counterpart could be rolled like a Boston pol. Kennedy came away from his first overseas trip as president much chastened. Richard Reeves' book is excellent; well written, well researched, and balanced. I highly recommend it. (I've read it twice!!)
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By A Customer
Richard Reeves has crafted an exceedingly insightful, well-written, you-are-there look at the Presidency of John F. Kennedy. As someone born the year Kennedy was assasinated, and having been inculcated over the years with the Kennedy Myth, Reeves took me almost day-by-day, minute-by-minute through the events starting from Kennedy's election through the day 33 years ago when he was killed in Dallas.

Reeves' looks at the Berlin Wall and Cuban Missile Crises take advantage of recent disclosures from US, Soviet and other sources to show how close we came to World War III in both of those situations.

The book's description of the start of the US commitment in Vietnam under JFK allowed me to gain a better understanding of how Kennedy's prior failure to stand up to the Soviet Union and Krushchev in Laos and Cuba "forced" JFK to stand firmly behind the unsupportable South Vietnamese government.

Other topics addressed by the book include JFK's tepid support of civil rights and his rampant promiscuity.

I had to rate this book a 9 (I've yet to read a 10), but this book has to be one of the best out of the almost unlimited supply of JFK biographies.
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President Kennedy did not have the easiest presidency imaginable: big issues abroad including Cuba, Vietnam, Berlin, the nuclear arms race and test ban treaties with Russia and the highly contradictory issue of integration at home were all begging for his attention and often at the same time. This biography gives a good insight into the way decisions were taken and that there is a lot of on-the-job learning involved. It is in a sense shocking to read that the way a superpower is run is not that much different from the way an average manager runs his group of a few people.

I found it slightly disappointing that this biography deals exclusively with the presidency of Kennedy, not his formative years as a student, a soldier and a senator. But all in all a revealing insight into the presidency of a man who, after his assassination, become a posthumous hero.
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