For most of his life, Robert Kennedy stood in the shadow cast by his older brother, John; only after President Kennedy's assassination did the public gain a complete sense of Robert ("Bobby, " we called him) as a committed advocate for social justice and a savvy politician in his own right. In this comprehensive biography, James W. Hilty offers a ...
For most of his life, Robert Kennedy stood in the shadow cast by his older brother, John; only after President Kennedy's assassination did the public gain a complete sense of Robert ("Bobby, " we called him) as a committed advocate for social justice and a savvy politician in his own right. In this comprehensive biography, James W. Hilty offers a detailed and nuanced account of how Robert was transformed from a seemingly unpromising youngster, unlikely to match the accomplishments of his older brothers, to the forceful man who ran "the family business, " orchestrating the Kennedy quest for political power. The centerpiece of this book is the remarkable political partnership that formed between Robert and John. As the manager of John's political campaigns, Robert proved himself "hard as nails" (in his father's admiring words), relentless in securing his brother's victory and unforgiving in overseeing his brother's presidency. Hilty marshals a great deal of evidence to show that while they did not always see eye to eye - Lyndon Johnson's selection as John's running mate being a notable disagreementthey discussed virtually every issue, gauging the likely political effects of every position. Robert was so close to the President that insiders called him "number one and a half"; their consultations were so intimate that they spoke in a kind of code, barely intelligible to those around them. In Hilty's evocative but unsentimental recounting of the political crises of the Kennedy Administration, Robert and John prove to have been more calculating and astute leaders than today's pundits allow. Theirs was a partnership that was unprecedented and, thanks to an act signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, is never to be equaled.
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-10-27 To those who know him only as the slain brother of a slain president, Robert Kennedy is remembered as an upstanding crusader for justice. But for most of his life, Joe and Rose Kennedy's seventh child was considered rude, shrewd, judgmental, and a bully?qualities that history professor Hilty (John F. Kennedy: An Idealist Without Illusion) shows served him well in his role as a point man before, during and after Camelot. Whether fighting with the steelworkers over price increases, working for civil rights or prosecuting federal cases, Robert pledged his allegiance first and foremost not to his country but to his big brother. Raised in an environment that put family above all, Hilty asserts, the third Kennedy son had no choice. Given the importance placed on this thesis, it would have been useful had Hilty reined in his (often disproportionate) analysis of Robert's obsession with unions, organized crime, J. Edgar Hoover and Martin Luther King Jr. in order to more clearly define the fraternal relationship. For example, when talking about the debacle at Ole Miss, Hilty writes that the president "did not then or ever show displeasure with Robert in the presence of others." Barely 50 pages later, he writes that "[n]ow and then, largely for effect, [JFK] would derogate or minimize [Robert's] contributions before others, sympathize with those who found it difficult or impossible to work with Robert, or even apologize for his aggressiveness." This kind of fuzziness aside, Hilty offers an interesting take on a much-written-about chapter in U.S. history. (Nov.)
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