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The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy Hardcover – October 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On the 50th anniversary of J.F.K.'s assassination, Sabato, professor of political science at the University of Virginia and frequent cable news pundit, offers a clear-eyed evaluation of the Kennedy political legacy. He knowledgeably addresses the early Kennedy career, highlighting the hard-fought Nixon-Kennedy presidential race and the much-discussed debates. Throughout, Sabato notes the differences between politics circa 1960 and now, noting that Kennedy's Catholicism was controversial and his well-received 1960 speech promising the separation of church and state made contemporary Catholic politician Rick Santorum want to vomit. Sabato also attempts to clear the murky waters surrounding the Kennedy assassination and readers will be interested in his discussion of the vexing question of whether Oswald operated alone, and if not, who else was involved. Sabato is extremely critical of the Warren Commission Report, pointedly judging it a failure, and his synthesis of existing knowledge about the assassination promises to include new revelations presumably supportive of his skepticism. He also discusses concrete successes and failures: the Berlin crisis, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The final third of Sabato's book traces the influence of Kennedy on his presidential successors to round out a timely, well-documented, and measured view of our 35th president. (Nov.)

Review

In The Kennedy Half-Century, Larry Sabato not only sheds new light on the assassination, but, and more importantly, masterfully explains the enduring legacy of Kennedy and his 1000 days in office. (John Grisham)

Larry Sabato has compiled a mountain of research that is sure to be the go-to reference on the assassination for years to come. He seems to have examined any and everything connected to Kennedy's death and brought new insight and understanding to that awful weekend when America lost its innocence. (Bob Schieffer, CBS News)

The Kennedy Half Century is a Master Class in discovering and evaluating John F. Kennedy as a man,a President and a game-changing figure in American life. The cultural change Kennedy brought to the nation is the real and original contribution Larry J. Sabato brings to the never-ending debates about the 35th President. (Richard Reeves, author of Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House)

If you think you know everything about the Kennedy assassination, you haven't read Larry Sabato's book. I urge you to do so! (Julian Bond)

The Kennedy Half-Century is full of new insights and revelations about a President whose tragic death left so many wondering, "What if?" This is a fascinating examination of the policies he put in place and how they influenced the nine Presidents who followed him into the oval office. (Katie Couric)

Ambitious… Sabato is the most prominent political scientist of our age…. a valuable contribution to the literature of the assassination. (James Rosen, National Review)

In The Kennedy Half Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, Sabato shows how Kennedy was transformed from a charismatic, if flawed, man into a mythological figure on the scale of Abraham Lincoln. Sabato goes far beyond Kennedy's presidency to explore how his legacy has affected every president since, particularly Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. Most important, Sabato relies on "cutting-edge audio technology" to debunk a key finding of a House committee in 1979 that an open microphone on a Dallas police officer's motorcycle picked up the sound of a fourth shot -- suggesting the involvement of a second shooter. (The Columbus Dispatch)

A timely, well-documented, and measured view of our 35th president. (Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620402807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620402801
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Brown on October 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I like the way Sabato has structured the book. Chapter 1 provides a blow-by-blow account of Nov. 22, 1963; it reads like a Raymond Chandler novel--quick, punchy, and tough-as-nails. The next few chapters cover Kennedy's political career with some exciting new twists (e.g., we learn that JFK was scared to death and visibly shaking when he gave his famous speech before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960.) Chapters 7-12 return to the assassination and dissect the various conspiracy theories that have sprung up like poisonous mushrooms over the past half century. Sabato admits that he doesn't know precisely what happened in Dallas on 11/22--a refreshing change of pace from the "Mafia, LBJ, communists, anti-Castro Cubans, CIA, FBI, aliens from outerspace did it" books that have been fobbed off on a gullible public for the past 50 years. Instead, Sabato shows us what DEFINITELY DID NOT happen on 11/22 and what MIGHT HAVE happened, which I see as an invaluable public service. The final 8 chapters cover JFK's legacy and its impact on his 9 successors. LBJ invoked Kennedy's name to get his "Great Society" program passed; Nixon was scared to death of a challenge from Teddy and blamed JFK for the mess in Vietnam and Watergate; Gerald Ford was president when 3 separate government committees reinvestigated the Kennedy assassination; Carter cheesed off the Kennedy clan and lost the '80 election in part because of a challenge from Teddy; Reagan wooed the so-called "Reagan Democrats" by frequently invoking JFK's name and legacy; Lloyd Bentsen schooled Dan Quayle during the 1988 VP debates with the brilliant one-liner "You're no Jack Kennedy"; Clinton shook JFK's hand in the Rose Garden in 1963 and portrayed himself as the new JFK in 1993; W. Bush got the "No Child Left Behind" Act passed by cozying up to Teddy; the Kennedy clan's endorsement of Obama helped him best Hillary during the 2008 primaries. I've read some of Sabato's other books, and this one is the best by far.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By M. Brown on October 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What a read! It is evident that Mr. Sabato has put five years of brilliant research into this book in order to offer the perspective of how Kennedy's legacy has flowed through presidential administrations from President Johnson to President Obama. Once an individual starts to read the book, they soon will find out that they cannot put it down until they have finished. I guarantee that the baby boomers will want to re-read various sections of particular interest since they were alive in the 60's and have never forgotten what happened on November 22, 1963.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Vin Bell on October 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Though this book is rather long, it is a fast read and extremely engaging. Sabato filled his book with facts, not conjecture. The Kennedy Half Century is a must-read for anyone looking for an unbiased look at JFK's presidency, assassination and legacy. Sabato provides a definitive account of why Kennedy's life, death and legacy are so hotly debated today, 50 years after his death. The author provides an in-depth look at the assassination and the conspiracies that surround it. He is no conspiracy nut but does leave the door open for the possibility that Oswald was working on behalf of a small plot. Having read dozens of books on the assassination, this one is probably the most satisfying. Yet, Sabato does not only look at the assassination. He also paints a picture of JFK's true legacy: John Kennedy was a moderate conservative, who stood up to the communist powers abroad while avoiding a major war, and who skillfully rode the waves of popular opinion when it came to domestic politics. However, his most lasting quality was the charm he exuded that made most Americans feel attached to him. His violent death, coming at a time of great upheaval for the country with regards to civil rights and Vietnam, propelled him into mythology for many Americans who saw the problems of the mid- to late- 1960s and believed JFK would have avoided them, though in reality, he would have most likely faced the same challenges had he lived. What Kennedy knew with regards to Abraham Lincoln could certainly apply to JFK as well: It is better for a president's legacy when that president leaves the stage early, so that he does not have to deal with the inevitable controversies of many years' leadership, being ushered out of office to a chorus of criticisms about his shortcomings. Kennedy did not face the fate of most presidents, which is a major reason why his legacy endures.
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43 of 54 people found the following review helpful By estrk218 on October 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put it down. The rich historical narrative at the beginning sets the stage perfectly for understanding the JFK legacy that flows from the tragic funeral through to this day. President Carter's candid remarks are definitely among the highlights in a book filled with so many supporting, relevant anecdotes and "I-was-there" perspectives. From Johnson through Obama, Sabato shows how each Presidential administration features JFK's in so many, often surprising, ways. Who knew Reagan was such a Kennedy! Definitely a great read and re-read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Geary Foertsch on May 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Dr. Sabato says (pg. 253-254) that "The never-ending controversy about who shot JFK, and why, is central to the thesis of this book." His major news about the case is his debunking of the dictabelt recording of a open motorcycle microphone believed by the '70s House Select Committee on Assassinations to be proof of a fourth (front) shooter because of four (gun shot) "impulses" on the recording (pg 243-245).

Furthermore, Dr. Sabato adds further support that all shots came from the rear and explained JFK's head/body move to the left rear as the "jet propulsion effect" cited in the '70s by a Dr. Alfred Oliver (pg 212-213). The theory posits that a head shot from the rear, in leaving the front would propel the head back to the shooter instead of forward.

Conclusion. No fourth shot; all shots from the rear.

But, in a quick online search, I found a later analysis completely contradicting this thinking. Here's what mechanical engineer, Tony Szamboti writes in his 10 page report on April 17,2012:
"The shear forces generated by the bullet penetrating through the much higher shear strength of the President’s skull would have precluded the appearance of a jet effect induced motion in the assassination. This was actually demonstrated in testing
at the U.S. Army's Edgewood Arsenal. Ten human skulls, filled with the same tissue replicating material as that used by the Army Wound Ballistics Research program, were shot with 6.5 millimeter ammunition. All ten skulls went forward, in the direction of the bullet, with none moving backward towards the shooter."

If true, this makes a shot(s) from the front possible and even probable..

It seems strange that Dr.
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