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In Love With Night: The American Romance With Robert Kennedy Paperback – January 11, 2001
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More than 30 years after his death, Robert Kennedy continues to occupy an exalted place in the American psyche as a symbol of unfulfilled promise and shattered expectations. Had he lived, the legend goes, he would have become president and solved the major problems of the age, including the war in Vietnam, racial tension, and social injustice. According to Ronald Steel, he "represented not a rational political alternative, but something more powerful and attractive: an escape from politics." To many, he was the last, best hope for meaningful change. The question at the heart of In Love with Night is why this "strange and enduring phenomenon" remains seductive to so many Americans and what Kennedy's lionization says about the culture that made him a martyr.
"At some point," writes Steel, "without ever quite intending it, American liberals, and even many conservatives, fell in love with Robert Kennedy." The author then shows this romance to be closer to a misguided attempt by the American people to create "a heroic figure to fill our needs" in the wake of the death of John F. Kennedy. Seeing himself as the rightful heir to his brother's legacy, Robert successfully filled the role of political savior by assuming "the identity of the survivor." Imbued with lofty expectations by an adoring segment of the populace, his image came to outweigh by far his modest achievements as a public figure. During his run for the Democratic nomination in 1968, he gathered strong support among minority groups and the underprivileged, while carefully appearing to be all things to all people. Without denying his genuine appeal, Steel debunks Kennedy's image as a champion of the underdog, painting him as a craven opportunist who solicited the support of the more disenfranchised groups not out of altruism but political necessity and self-interest.
Calling his book a "study of character and circumstance" rather than a biography, Steel is primarily interested in the wide gap between the man and the myth, and, on the whole, his deconstruction is not a flattering one. Kennedy admirers will bristle at the book's core message, but Steel makes valid, well-argued, and often compelling points, particularly on the nature and value of cultural myths. In the end, this is all mere conjecture, for it will never be known whether Kennedy would have even been elected, much less what kind of president he would have been. For as Steel writes in one of his kinder moments, "The best of Robert Kennedy was not in what he did, but in what he has inspired in others." And that, perhaps, is the only legacy that matters. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
That so many people pinned such fervent hope on Robert Kennedy is at least as interesting as Kennedy himself. But Steel (Walter Lippmann and the American Century) doesn't really explore the longing that Kennedy provoked. Instead, he offers a sporadically insightful biographical essay that argues that Kennedy's assassination has prevented people from taking a hard, candid look at the man. Much of the book is dedicated to retrieving the real Kennedy from the myth of a liberal knight in shining armor. The result is a portrait that is somewhat admiring but mostly critical. Steel shows Kennedy to have been ruthless and dogmatic, uncharitable and saturnine in his moods. He reminds readers that Kennedy worked enthusiastically for Joseph McCarthy and that, despite his later criticism of Lyndon Johnson, he had been one of JFK's most hawkish advisers on Vietnam. Most interestingly, Steel argues that Kennedy's domestic proposals were much closer to those of Richard Nixon than to those of the other Democratic presidential contenders in 1968. His appraisal of how Kennedy came late but authentically to the cause of civil rights and to the plight of minorities is the most subtle part of the book. Above all, he shows Kennedy to have been more committed to the legend of his family than to his party or his country. Though Steel's picture is persuasive, he goes about his task repetitively and with too much Monday-morning psychologizing. There is too much simplistic summation of how Kennedy's Catholicism gave him an inflexible moral worldview, too much emphasis on how Kennedy relentlessly toughened himself physically and mentally (Steel makes Kennedy sound almost as pathologically disciplined as G. Gordon Liddy). For all that, the book is absorbing because of the intensity of Kennedy himself--and for the intensity of the feelings that many Americans still have for what they thought he represented.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It also explores the Good Bobby/Bad Bobby myth. There's a popular belief that Bobby was "ruthless" when he worked for Joe McCarthy and when he ran Jack's campaigns. Then, his grief transformed him and he suddenly became compassionate. Steel makes the argument that both sides of his personality were there all along.
The book also examines the phenomenon that was Bobby's final campaign. The way Kennedy's personal grief fused with the traumatized nation's was sincere and powerful, but not entirely his doing. To quote the book's last line, "The Bobby Myth is our creation, not his."
memory and legacy of Bobby Kennedy. It is far too negative, picking away at his image with every chapter. It is too harsh in its analysis of RFK, insinuating that all of his deeds and actions had selfish, ulterior motives behind them, and even goes so far as to refer to his followers during his presidential campaign as "animals," something I found to be totally inexcusable. My question is what was the point in writing this book in the first place? No, Bobby Kennedy was not a perfect man, but he was a good man. After reading this book, you might find yourself feeling displeased, or downright angry. Save yourself the hassle- go read a better book about RFK.
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memory and legacy of Bobby Kennedy, who was a great man like his...Read more