Customer Review

69 of 80 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is This JPK Lite -- or Bold?, December 10, 2012
This review is from: The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (Hardcover)
I was reluctant to read "Patriarch" because it is 800 pages, and I wanted to know only 200 pages about J. P. Kennedy. But I got hooked, and there you have it.

Nasaw spends a lot of time presenting Kennedy in his early and mid years up to when he had to resign as ambassador to the UK on October 22, 1940. His last 29 years were covered in only 120 pages, and most of that centered on the political careers of his three sons. But those years were at least as important to modern Americans as his career up to 1940.

-- The Mob

There were some major issues during that period that Nasaw chose not to cover. One is the ongoing love/hate relationship between the Kennedy clan and J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover's name comes up only a half dozen times, and each of those is about a minor event. There's no doubt that Hoover's obsession with surveilling the Kennedys and his accumulation of secret files on the Kennedys were major considerations to the Kennedy family, and the facts that have come to light have important implications about the Kennedy boys and the father. But Nasaw discusses none of this.

A major example of this is Nasaw's neglect of Sam Giancana, a Mafia godfather in Chicago. The FBI and others maintain that Joseph Kennedy met with Giancana in Chicago and New York during the 1960 campaign to arrange a deal to deliver Chicago to the Kennedy ticket. Chicago did in fact vote for Kennedy, which seems like a miracle in light of how the Kennedy brothers had relentlessly attacked mob leaders in the McClellan Committee hearings. Nasaw's total analysis of all the allegations about this issue is:

-- "Statistical analysis of the actual vote demonstrates, on the contrary, that labor union members in Chicago, suburban wards, and those districts and states that were supposedly Mob-influenced did not vote `unusually heavily Democratic in the 1960 presidential election'."

That's it. That's ALL Nasaw says. I have no idea about Kennedy's actions or about the Mob's actions, but this is not a credible investigation of the issue.

-- The "Official" Biography

Nasaw gave a terrific presentation on C-SPAN's Book TV, which I found riveting. He said that once he had agreed with Edward Kennedy to do the Joseph Kennedy biography, it took another year and a half before they had a legal agreement negotiated. That sounds like a lot of contentious details and a lot of compromising. On page xxiii of the Introduction of "Patriarch," Nasaw writes:

-- "When Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and Senator Edward Kennedy, on behalf of their family, asked me to write a biography of their father, I agreed to do so, but only if I was granted full cooperation, unfettered access to Joseph P. Kennedy's papers in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, including those closed to researchers, and unrestricted permission to cite any document I came across. The family accepted my conditions. No attempts were made to withhold information or to censor this book in any way."

"Full cooperation" would refer to the Kennedy clan. The JPK papers in the JFK Library would also not likely turn up anything too damaging. And if the Giancana link represents the depth of Nasaw's scrutiny of external sources, he wouldn't probably turn up much to censor.

Since I'm not any kind of Kennedy expert, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Nasaw. I just thought these were interesting observations.

And I really did enjoy the book--all 800 pages.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 1, 2013 11:49:46 AM PST
Hugh O'Neill says:
What this reveiwer need to understand is that Hoover was a close friend of the Mafia. He even denied that there even was a Mafia whilst Bobby Kennedy was attacking them. So whom do we believe when it comes to such links? Hoover or Kennedy?

Posted on Oct 24, 2013 11:08:18 AM PDT
Olivia C. says:
David Nasaw said in his many presentations that he (and other historians) went through Joe Kennedy's entire two volume FBI file and there was nothing about any bootlegging or any business dealings with the Mob. He also said regarding the Chicago election that historians have examined that election and that in the Mob-controlled precicints, JFK did not do as well as some of the other Democratic Party candidates running for other offices in Illinois.
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