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David Kennedy: Race, immigration and democracy in America

22 February 2001
Making Americans: Immigration, Race and the Origins of the Diverse Democracy 
by Desmond King.
Harvard, 388 pp., £29.95, June 2000, 0 674 00088 9
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... A mutter of disquiet undulated through the clan-proud, old-stock Daughters of the American Revolution when Franklin Roosevelt once impishly greeted them as ‘my fellow immigrants’. Roosevelt later elaborated: ‘All of our people all over the country – except the pure-blooded Indians – are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, including even those who came over here on the Mayflower.’ Strictly ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights

21 June 2018
The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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... to the global ‘explosion of inequality’. It was in the 1970s that the human rights movement came together, with its particular infrastructure, bureaucracy and fundraising programmes, into what DavidKennedy in The Rights of Spring (2009), his acidulous memoir of human rights activism in Uruguay in 1984, called the ‘smooth and knowing routines of professional advocacy’. Kennedy, recalling ...

No Crying in This House

Jackson Lears: The Kennedy​ Myth

7 November 2013
The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy 
by David​ Nasaw.
Allen Lane, 896 pp., £12.35, September 2013, 978 0 14 312407 8
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Rose KennedyThe Life and Times of a Political Matriarch 
by Barbara Perry.
Norton, 404 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 393 06895 5
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... The story begins with a rollicking Irish Catholic clan, athletic, photogenic and as rambunctious as any crowd of kids in a Frank Capra film. They are presided over by Joseph Kennedy, a fabulously successful self-made father with connections in Hollywood, Wall Street, Washington and London, and by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, a devout but fashionable Catholic mum, as at home on the ...

There’s Daddy

Michael Wood

13 February 1992
Flying in to Love 
by D.M. Thomas.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 7475 1129 2
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JFK 
directed by Oliver Stone.
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... The Warren Commission reported that it found no ‘credible’ or ‘meaningful’ evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate President John Kennedy, and the words are of course a sore temptation to suspicious eyes. Do they mean, as they seem to mean, no real evidence at all? Or no evidence to speak of; no evidence you could act on; plenty of ...

Who Will Lose?

David​ Edgar

23 September 2008
Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future 
by Newton Minow and Craig LaMay.
Chicago, 219 pp., £11.50, April 2008, 978 0 226 53041 3
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... and reissued). But Minow, as former head of the Federal Communications Commission and a founder member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, can claim particular authority. (‘President John F. Kennedy told me more than once’ is the book’s opening phrase.) His and LaMay’s study is overwhelmingly concerned with the complex and often tortured history of the debates as an institution. There is ...
30 March 1989
On my way to the Club 
by Ludovic Kennedy.
Collins, 429 pp., £15, January 1989, 0 00 217617 3
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... The title of this book comes from a television critic’s shrewd observation: ‘Whenever I see Mr Ludovic Kennedy in a television studio, he gives me the impression that he has been good enough to drop by to see if he can lend a hand while on the way to the club.’ A comparable judgment, also quoted in the book ...

Everyone, Then No One

David​ Nasaw: Where have all the bowler hats gone?

23 February 2006
Hatless Jack: The President, the Fedora and the Death of the Hat 
by Neil Steinberg.
Granta, 342 pp., £12, August 2005, 1 86207 782 7
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... shaggy-dog history, Hatless Jack. The book floats amiably back and forth, but spends most time on JFK. Steinberg’s thesis is simply stated. Once upon a time, everyone wore hats; then no one did; Kennedy was not to blame. Almost from the moment Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency, he was lobbied by Alex Rose, a Democratic Party powerhouse and president of the United Hatters, Cap and ...

Vigah

Elizabeth Drew: JFK

20 November 2003
John F. KennedyAn Unfinished Life 1917-63 
by Robert Dallek.
Allen Lane, 838 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 7139 9737 0
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... The majority of books about John F. Kennedy have been written either by toadying family retainers or by people bent on destroying the Camelot myth. The historian Robert Dallek is neither; he decided to enter the field, as he explains in his ...

Deathward

Adam Begley

24 November 1988
Libra 
by Don DeLillo.
Viking, 456 pp., £11.95, November 1988, 0 670 82317 1
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... John Kennedy was killed 25 years ago, on 22 November 1963. The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known familiarly as the Warren Commission, issued its report a little less than a year later. In the report, members of the commission allowed that certain questions remained unanswered, but their ...
7 October 1982
The Kennedy​ Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power 
by Garry Wills.
Atlantic/Little, Brown, 310 pp., $14.95, February 1982, 0 316 94385 1
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... the power commensurate with the function he has to perform’. Only in this way could what he termed ‘the American adventure’ hope to continue. When, twenty years later, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the first American President born in this century, stood and took the oath of office it seemed to many of his fellow countrymen that the stewardship of daring had finally found its vindicator. The ...
23 July 1987
An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward 
by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy.
Cape, 268 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 224 02347 0
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Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward 
by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 297 79122 2
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... been too much blood. Fleet Street had behaved pretty disgracefully, and wanted no more of it. Only reporters who had attended the trial, and members of the judiciary, knew the extent of it. Ludovic Kennedy’s book The Trial of Stephen Ward came out the following year and expressed their indignation. But there was a lot that Kennedy and others didn’t know. Phillip Knightley, who wrote an excellent ...

What if he’d made it earlier?

David​ Runciman: LBJ

5 July 2012
The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV: The Passage of Power 
by Robert Caro.
Bodley Head, 712 pp., £30, June 2012, 978 1 84792 217 5
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... its compelling but also unfathomable flavour. Caro begins this part of the story with the presidential race of 1960, when Johnson was easily seen off for the top spot on the Democratic ticket by Kennedy and had to settle for second billing. But the story really starts at the 1956 Democratic Convention, when Johnson made his first bid for the nomination. At that point he had firmly established ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Politicians and the Press

26 January 2006
... perhaps less mysterious than their reasons for running or not running certain stories. For instance – though this applies more to the editors of newspapers – the recent revelations about Charles Kennedy’s alcoholism. No one was especially surprised when the Liberal Democrat leader confessed on 5 January: journalists had known – and had been dropping hints – about his drinking problem for a ...

Mistrial

Michael Davie

6 June 1985
The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Case and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann 
by Ludovic Kennedy.
Collins, 438 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 00 217060 4
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... They were in court less because of Hauptmann than because of Lindbergh, the biggest celebrity of them all. It is a sign of the passing of time that on the dustjacket of this book the name of Ludovic Kennedy is five times bigger than Lindbergh’s. Half a century ago, nobody’s name was bigger than Lindy’s. Lindbergh was born in Little Falls, Minnesota, the son of a Congressman; his parents parted ...

Those Genes!

Charles Wheeler

17 July 1997
Personal History 
by Katharine Graham.
Weidenfeld, 642 pp., £25, May 1997, 9780297819646
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... Post from his father-in-law, Eugene Meyer, and his shy, self-effacing wife, Katharine, who took over the company when her husband shot himself in 1963. It was Philip Graham who induced John Kennedy to choose Lyndon Johnson as his running-mate in 1960. This was wise and far-reaching advice, for without Johnson on the ticket Kennedy would not have been elected. Consequently, without Graham’s ...

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