The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Book Reviews

discusses Kennedy's background and upbringing, discovering that qualities of
good character are indeed absent in his family heritage. The lack of respect for
truth, the absence of morals, and the flaunting of the law, combined with an ex-
treme competitive nature, began with his grandfathers, but were perfected in
Joe Kennedy, Sr. The father then transmitted all these traits to his sons, adding a
penchant for shameless womanizing. The result is a politician without any quali-
ties of character, whose every move is dominated by an overbearing father. Ac-
cording to Reeves, the calculating Joe, Sr., manages Jack's image, lying about his
academic achievement, exaggerating his heroism, and buying his elections. In
turn, Jack responds to these machinations with an irresponsible disregard for
the character requirements of public office. As a congressman, he is a dilettante
largely unconcerned with the issues, preferring instead to chase seemingly every
young woman he meets. As a senator, he has no guiding principle or philoso-
phy, apparently equally compatible with Joe McCarthy and Adlai Stevenson. As
president, he reveals an incredible disrespect for the high office as he cavorts in
the White House with various women, including the girlfriend of Sam Giancana,
Chicago's organized crime godfather.
Unfortunately, Reeves fails to prove his fundamental assertion. He states his
basic thesis clearly: effective political leadership requires good character. But he
fails to define either. Furthermore, his argument for this connection is little
more than a collection of aphoristic comments by famous writers and philoso-
phers through the ages, which reads more like sententious advice to young peo-
ple than true analysis of the alleged correlation. He readily admits that character
does not guarantee success, citing Jimmy Carter as an example. (Certainly Her-
bert Hoover comes to mind as well.) Reeves ignores, however, those successful
leaders, presidents included, who have shared some of Kennedy's flaws.
The reader will find little primary research here. More importantly, Reeves uses
the secondary sources without balance and rather uncritically. He readily believes
and reports all critics of Kennedy, but depicts any and all supporters as self-serv-
ing. Reeves finds little to admire in Kennedy's actions during World War II. Why
did the son of such an influential father seek out a risky assignment as captain of a
PT boat? Reeves sees only competitiveness. Essentially, all he can see in the sink-
ing of PT 10o9 is Jack's irresponsibility. Although his book makes fascinating read-
ing, even for those of us who no longer accept the Camelot myth it is little more
than a collection of critical, often uncorroborated revisionist rhetoric and gossip.
San Jacinto College RICHARD BAILEY
Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 90o8-z960. By Robert Dallek
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Pp. xiv+721. Preface, acknowl-
edgments, photographs, sources, notes, index. $30.00.)
To compare Robert Dallek's biography of Lyndon Johnson to Robert Caro's
The Years of Lyndon Johnson (1982, 199o) is perhaps unfair. Historical works
should stand or fall on their own merits. Yet such a comparison is unavoidable,
given the conflicting interpretations of the two authors, the overlapping publish-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed August 28, 2014.