cover image President Kennedy: Profile of Power

President Kennedy: Profile of Power

Richard Reeves. Simon & Schuster, $30 (800pp) ISBN 978-0-671-64879-4

According to Reeves, Kennedy had little ideology. ``And he had less emotion. What he had was attitude . . . .'' Based on hundreds of interviews and close study of presidential papers and telephone transcripts, New Yorker writer Reeves ( Reagan Detour ) traces JFK's thoughts and actions through his nearly three years as president. No previous profile has included as many details on how he dealt with the Bay of Pigs, the conflict with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev over Berlin, the Cuban missile crisis, Southeast Asia and other foreign policy issues. On the domestic front, Reeves offers fresh material about JFK's equivocating initial response to the civil rights movement and the bold decision to integrate Southern universities that followed. Nor does Reeves ignore the inner life of the White House, bringing into sharper focus JFK's physical disabilities, the preliminary plans for the 1964 campaign and the role Attorney General Robert Kennedy played as ``a sort of surrogate President'' at crucial moments. Precise and penetrating in its analysis, Reeves's microscopic examination of Kennedy during his presidency makes for compelling reading right down to such trivialities as his little economies (he was ``cheap in the way rich people often are''), and even his throwaway lines as, after seeing one popularity poll, JFK quipped, ``Jesus, it's like Ike. The worse you do, the better they like you.'' Photos. First serial to American Heritage; BOMC and History Book Club alternates; author tour. Photos. (Oct.)