JOHN F. KENNEDY:nCHARACTER ANDnCAMELOT by Thomas C. ReevesnJFohn F. Kennedy first gained national attention at the agenI of 23. His book Why England Slept, published in 1940,necame a best-seller and earned the new Harvard graduatenplaudits as a man of learning and thoughtfulness. Kennedynwas heard from again in the summer of 1944 when the NewnYork Times carried a front-page story describing his dramaticnrescue of 10 men following the destruction of PT-109 by anJapanese destroyer in the South Pacific. Kennedy’s friendnJohn Hersey soon published a story about the incident innThe New Yorker which was republished in condensed formnin the Reader’s Digest. Jack Kennedy was instantly annational hero.nIn June 1946, Loo^ magazine published a lengthy eulogynof Kennedy in which the young congressional candidatenwas said to have brains, charm, and courage. After winningnthe primary in the solidly Democratic Eleventh District ofnMassachusetts, JFK was applauded by Time magazine fornhis determination, selflessness, and integrity. Other publicationsnechoed the theme: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was anman of extraordinary character and intelligence.nKennedy’s three terms in the House added little to hisnreputation. He was not a legislative leader, and his namenrarely appeared in major newspapers and magazines. Onnthe whole, Jack’s voting record reflected the views of hisnmultimillionaire father, former Ambassador to England,nJoseph P. Kennedy. A staunch anticommunist, the youngncongressman was thoroughly committed to private enterprisenand suspicious of Big Government. On the othernhand, he favored welfare proposals beneficial to his manynblue collar constituents and befriended legislation liberalizingnimmigrahon laws, promoting civil rights, and defendingnorganized labor.nSoon after Kennedy entered the Senate in 1952 it wasnwidely apparent that he had aspirations for even highernoffice. His marriage to the beautifirl and aristocratic JacquelinenBouvier in September 1953 received lavish attention innthe press and clearly enhanced the senator’s politicalnopportunihes. Kennedy also seemed to be more mature,nmore active, and somewhat more liberal. He publishednnumerous articles in major magazines, lectured widely,nand gained national notoriety for his efforts on behalf of thenSt. Lawrence Seaway. He advocated boosts in defensenspending and expressed apprehensions about Indochina. Henalso drew the wrath of many liberals for cosponsoring thenCommunist Control Act of 1954 and for failing to vote fromnhis hospital bed later that year on the Senate censure of JoenMcCarthy, a personal and family friend.nIn early 1956 Kennedy published Profiles in Courage, anhighly acclaimed study of “grace under pressure” in Ameri-nThomas C. Reeves is author of The Life and Times of JoenMcCarthy and professor of history at the University ofnWisconsin—Parkside.n•H^’.n/ ‘< –K.-VV,ncan politics. The book, awarded the Pulitzer Prize,nbrimmed over with moral exhortahon; historical figuresnwere praised for their high ideals, absolute principles,nbravery, and sound thinking. It was clear that the authornidentified himself with these virtues. It was obvious too thatnthe book was designed, at least in part, to bolster Kennedy’snpolitical fortunes. “Today the challenge of political couragenlooms larger than ever before. . . . We shall need compromisesnin the days ahead, to be sure. But these will be, ornshould be, compromises of issues, not of principles.”nLater that year Kennedy made a serious bid for thenDemocratic Vice Presidential nomination. His youth, hisnlack of solid legislative achievement, his father’s shadynreputation, and his Roman Catholicism proved too muchnof a handicap and resulted in a second ballot defeat. Fewndoubted, however, that JFK would try again, perhaps nextntime for the White House.nThe quest for the Presidency began almost immediately.nKennedy wooed East Coast liberals, spoke out boldly onnforeign affairs, attracted Southerners with a vote againstncivil rights, and boosted his legislative record by serving onnthe McClellan Committee as it probed labor unions. Henwas soon to give speeches in every state of the Union,nincluding Alaska and Hawaii, and in Puerto Rico and thenVirgin Islands. Photographs and stories about Jack andnJackie appeared in scores of newspapers and magazines. Antypical feature article in the Saturday Evening Post declared,n”Mr. Kennedy is the clean-cut, smiling Americannboy, trustworthy, loyal, brave, clean and reverent, boldlynfacing up to the challenges of the Atomic Age.”nAfter his smashing reelection victory in 1958, Kennedynmade overtures to the leading liberal intellectuals whonsupported Adlai Stevenson for the Presidency. He created an”brains trust” that included, among others, Arthur SchlesingernJr., John Kenneth Galbraith, Paul Samuelson, andnWalt Rostow. He spoke out for civil liberties, civil rights,nthe elderly, and liberal welfare legislation. He publishedntwo books along with scores of articles and book reviews onnnnMAY 1986/15n