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3.0 out of 5 stars A good book, interesting read, but contributes little new to the JFK field..., 15 Dec 2013
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C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House (Hardcover)
The basic premise of this book - looking at the Kennedy presidency through his interactions with his chief policy advisers - is certainly an interesting one, but having finished it I'm not convinced that it really contributed anything new to the already overwhelming number of books on Kennedy's thousand days in the White House. Dallek is author of one of, in my opinion, the best biographies of Kennedy available - John F Kennedy: An Unfinished Life - and with such a title already in his portfolio I'm not sure this one was necessary.

Another criticism (and really, it seems as though I didn't enjoy this book with all this carping, and I did!) is that it focuses almost exclusively on foreign policy issues. This is understandable, as foreign policy has always been one of the few areas where Presidents can flex their muscle, so to speak, where, short of war, they are relatively independent of Congress. And Kennedy faced some particularly pressing foreign policy issues in his short presidency - Cuba, Vietnam, the Soviet Union. But a book ostensibly looking at Kennedy's White House whilst devoting just a few throw-away lines to the Civil Rights Movement is really doing history a disservice.

That said, this is a good book. Dallek is a very good writer, clearly thoroughly familiar with the era and the personalities, and he draws heavily on much recently-released material on the Kennedy years - tape recordings, interviews, memoirs - to give a real in-depth insight into the psychology of many of the decisions made. It is fascinating that Kennedy, whilst surrounded by so many brilliant minds, decisively and determinedly charted his own path; and it is entirely to his credit that he knew when to listen to their opinions and when to disregard them. It is frightening to think what may have happened to the United States and the world at large had Kennedy listened to some of his military advisers over Cuba or Vietnam.
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Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House
Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House by Robert Dallek (Hardcover - 28 Oct 2013)
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