From Publishers Weekly
During the last years of his life from his Senate election in 1964 to his murder in 1968 Robert F. Kennedy underwent a profound transformation, according to Palermo in this sympathetic but not uncritical study. Known primarily during his brother's presidency as a ruthless political operative with few obvious populist sentiments, Kennedy emerged during this later time as the passionate, compassionate and effective leader of a diverse coalition of grassroots organizations encompassing antiwar protestors, working-class whites, African Americans and others. The arc of Kennedy's odyssey forms Palermo's story. Drawing on a wide array of correspondence and documents, many previously unseen, Palermo portrays Kennedy as a person with an enormous ability to learn and to empathize. Cautious at first in his opposition to the Vietnam War, through conversation and correspondence with both scholars and common soldiers Kennedy soon turned solidly against the conflict and against a sitting president, Lyndon Johnson. (The story of the relationship between the two men, as well as that of Kennedy's interactions with Eugene McCarthy, whom he opposed in the 1968 Democratic presidential primaries, is well told here.) Similarly, Kennedy became ever sharper in his critiques of racism and economic inequality, ever more aligned with those he saw as disenfranchised. Yet he was able to maintain ties with mainstream politicians such as Mayor Daley of Chicago. Tragically, this fragile politics of inclusion could not survive Kennedy's death. Palermo, who teaches at Cornell and has written for Peace & Change and other journals, paints a vivid portrait of the problems and promise of the 1960s and the way Kennedy shaped and was shaped by that era. Photos.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
Robert Kennedy used his position as senator from New York (1965-68) to lead a coalition of grass-roots voters members of the peace and Civil Rights movements, African Americans, members of the working class in a fight for the liberal soul of the Democratic party while making a credible challenge for the 1968 presidency, notes Palermo (Cornell Univ.). He struggled with President Johnson, who attacked his patriotism because he was an early advocate of a negotiated peace settlement in Vietnam, and with Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's hawkish surrogate, who continued the fight over Vietnam during their battle for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. "Peace candidate" Eugene McCarthy is portrayed as an indifferent senator with a poor record on civil rights who lost many votes and credibility when Kennedy replaced the Vietnam issue as his focus. Evan Thomas's Robert Kennedy: His Life (LJ 8/00) and Jeff Shesol's Mutual Contempt (LJ 9/15/97) offer more lively accounts of Kennedy's feuds, but Palermo provides a thorough investigation of RFK as political leader that is a worthy continuation of the years covered in James Hilty's Robert Kennedy: Brother Protector (LJ 4/15/98). Strongly recommended for academic collections and recommended for larger public libraries. Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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