A Companion to John F. Kennedy by Marc J. Selverstone

By Marc J. Selverstone

A spouse to John F. Kennedy provides a complete choice of historiographical essays addressing the lifestyles and management of the nation’s thirty fifth president.

  • Features unique contributions from major Kennedy scholars
  • Reassesses  Kennedy, his management, and the period of the recent Frontier
  • Reconsiders correct Kennedy scholarship and issues to new avenues of research
  • Considers the most important crises confronted by way of Kennedy, besides household concerns together with women’s concerns and civil rights

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He argued that Kennedy’s huge financial expenditures in the West Virginia primary were technically legal. Rejecting Seymour Hersh’s treatment in The Dark Side of WRITING KENNEDY 19 Camelot (1997), Dallek maintained that there was no hint of organized crime money being used to buy Kennedy votes. Dallek gave as much weight to Kennedy’s personal appeal and his emphasis on economic uplift as he did to his lavish expenditures in that impressive primary victory that made his nomination possible. Nor did Dallek believe that corruption played a major role in Kennedy’s victory in November.

In John Kennedy: A Political Profile (1960), political scientist James MacGregor Burns described Kennedy, when he was first elected to Congress, as not yet well informed on issues and lacking a “full and rounded set of principles” (1960: 73). His voting record reflected his blue-collar district in Boston, on wages, working conditions, social security, housing, aid for veterans, and other issues that had little chance of passing, given the Republican majority in the eightieth Congress. As a member of the Education and Labor Committee that was considering the Taft–Hartley Bill, which set restrictions on labor unions, Kennedy signed the Democrats’ minority report against the bill, but also filed his own report, which accepted the need for labor reform.

He accepted the conventional wisdom that Kennedy proved reasonably successful on the economic front, including his handling of the steel crisis, even though no assurances existed that Congress would soon pass his tax cut bill. Kennedy failed to move a recalcitrant Congress on other major legislative objectives such as Medicare, federal aid to education, and civil rights. His reluctance to push civil rights legislation early was a mistake, Dallek insisted, because it “undermined his ability to press the [moral] issue” later on (Dallek 2003: 650).

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