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Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit Hardcover – October 31, 2017
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“Chris Matthews evocatively brings the man and his moment back to life. It is a story that needs to be told again as a heroic counterpoint to the Trump era’s fundamental disrespect for the idea that politics can be a noble profession.”
–John Avlon, The Daily Beast
“Considerable insight from beginning to end”
–The New Republic
“A brisk, admiring portrait that burnishes the Kennedy image.”
“Cogently illustrates leadership qualities Kennedy possessed that are sorely lacking in today’s divisive culture.”
“If you love reading about politics, if you ever loved the Kennedys or were fascinated by them, if you love biographical history or if you just like a good yarn about a brooding soul who turns into an uplifting, magnetic force—Chris Matthews’ “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit” Should be your next read. It’s well-researched, dramatically told. It brings those times—Camelot and after—back to life.”
–Lesley Stahl, Correspondent for 60 Minutes
"Matthews is skilled at weaving tension and conflict throughout the book. One doesn’t just read the words, but experiences the tension and emotions....The depth of Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit provides insight into this man’s spirit and what drove him to greatness. Matthews does an excellent job of pulling Bobby out from behind any family shadows to give us an in-depth portrait of what could have been."
–New York Journal of Books
"Readers witness the evolution of Kennedy’s soul. Through tragedy after tragedy we find the man humanized."
–Associated Press (AP)
About the Author
Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC’s Hardball. He is the author of Jack Kennedy—Elusive Hero; Tip and the Gipper—When Politics Worked; Kennedy and Nixon; Hardball; and now Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.
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Every author has a perspective and Matthews is no exception. Nonetheless he gives a refreshingly complete and balanced narrative that in many ways reflects the Kennedy’s themselves. They had a perspective, too, but were remarkably pragmatic, clever, and determined in putting their often idealized perspective into practice.
Bobby in particular, Matthews tells us, was an idealist naturally aligned with the disadvantaged, yet with a competitive, sometimes ruthless, drive born of both his own burden as the third son of an aspiring Irish Catholic family and the relentless drive passed down by his domineering and competitive father.
While I am younger than Matthews, it is hard to convey to those who were not alive at the time the sheer scale and influence of the Kennedy clan during the late 50s and most of the 60s. While Jack, in particular, is revered in retrospect, the family, as Matthews chronicles, was not universally embraced across the nation or the political spectrum.
They, however, worked with what they had and pushed the nation forward in areas like civil rights and checking the growing influence of the Soviets without pushing the country to the breaking point. They had an uncanny ability to understand what the country wanted to do but couldn’t bring itself, for a myriad of reasons, to accomplish. They received, processed, and amplified all that was best about America and Americans. And then they got it done. From civil rights to putting a man on the moon, they thought big and accomplished a good deal of what they set out to do.
While you read the book Matthews reminds us just how broad and complicated is the political agenda of our country. Once you appreciate the dimensions of the challenge it is no surprise that our government barely works in the best of circumstances. The Kennedy’s, however, proved that it can work, and it is that optimism for which we are most indebted to their memory. The process of governance is loud and messy and mistakes are inevitable, but the battle can be won with grit and determination and the guiding hands of noble ideals and pragmatism (i.e., compromise!)
Which, in the end, is what makes this book both sad and inspiring. It is, indeed, sad to realize how little progress we’ve made in areas like civil rights and the promotion of world peace. The Kennedy’s certainly broke down barriers for Irish Catholics, but many barriers remain intact and many more have been erected since that time. The whole contemporary debate about immigration is a good example. The debate, such as it is (not much of a Socratic debate, actually), being so remarkably anachronistic but nonetheless contemporary. How far we’ve come and yet how little we’ve accomplished.
I don’t watch much television, so I have to admit I have never viewed Hardball. I wouldn’t know Chris Matthews if he showed up at my door. I have to thank him, however, for this delightful tour and stimulating reflection. He certainly made me think and that is the greatest gift any author can give us through his or her prose.
Yes, I remember exactly where I was the day President Kennedy was shot. I was sitting in Mrs. Sanderson’s fourth grade class and when the principal came into our class and privately told Mrs. Sanderson of the news, she immediately broke down sobbing. Indeed, that nation sobbed in the most literal sense.
The Kennedy’s, however, cannot be understood as a single man. They were a clan in every facet of the concept and Bobby Kennedy played an important and very influential role. Lacking the natural charisma of Jack, he was both the idealist and the guy who made things happen, his strong will to take on injustice, particularly when his brother or his heritage was called into question by it, was both his greatest strength and greatest political weakness. I honestly don’t remember where I was the day he was shot, but with Matthew’s help, I certainly feel I have a much better gauge of the man.
More than anything else, I think the Kennedy’s proved that politicians can have it all. You can stand by your principles and still get things done. Success and progress, Matthews, through the example of the Kennedy’s, reminds us, are not achieved through stagnation or backing up. Our current politicians would be well served to take this entertaining and informative stroll through a time in political history that was so much different, yet so remarkably the same.
biography that is written by an author with the ability to interpret the past with empathy, not sympathy....what our country lost
and what we gained, although not always in a positive light, but in an honest one. I smiled, pondered, remembered and wept.
Thank you, Mr. Matthews, for giving us such a beautiful gift. As you researched this over many years, did you also weep?
If you loved Bobby Kennedy as I did, this book is a must. Chris Matthews is a great author, and shares his regard for the Kennedys in wonderful style. I thought I knew all about this family and Bobby, but learned some new and interesting facts. A great read! And lots of never before seen photos!!
My immediate thought upon hearing the news was an awful sense that there was something drastically wrong in the United States when a man who stood for the rights of the poor - black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American - could be murdered on national television by someone who claimed he did not agree with Senator Kennedy's policies.
Many years have passed since that awful day and I have to say that we, as a nation, have not made any great strides toward becoming a better, safer, more inclusive country; one that tolerates different viewpoints, different faiths, different races. If anything, we have become more intolerant.
"Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit" was, therefore, a book I read with a certain degree of unease. I felt compelled to know more about the man who showed such promise for America and yet I admit I did not want to be reminded of that terrible day when he was gunned down in the prime of life.
Author Chris Matthews chose, however, not to dwell on Kennedy's murder but, instead, on the life of the man he had become. Written in an easily accessible style, Matthews weaves his personal feelings about the late Senator into a straightforward narrative about the life Bobby Kennedy lived
before that awful night in Los Angeles when he was struck down by a coward's bullets. This book is written in a personal, almost journalistic style. It is not a weighty tome destined to gather dust on a library shelf somewhere but is, instead, a fast-paced look at the man who spent all but the last few months of his life in the shadow of two dead brothers and an overbearing father: A man who might have been great in his own right, whether as President or as a long-serving Senator.
This is a book that tells us, therefore, not only who Bobby Kennedy was and what he stood for; it is also a book that makes us wonder what might have been had he but lived.
"Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit" is an engaging, fast-paced narrative about a man and his times and it is a book I highly recommend.
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