Robert Kennedy

James W. Hilty, Author Temple University Press $81.5 (642p) ISBN 978-1-56639-566-3
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.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 673 pages - 978-1-4399-0519-7
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