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About the Author

Thomas C. Reeves has written and edited a dozen books

Includes the name: Thomas C. Reeves

Também inclui: Thomas Reeves (1)

Obras de Thomas C. Reeves


Conhecimento Comum



enjoyed it- had to feel for a man who became president so unexpectedly and with the country so much against him-
cspiwak | outras 2 resenhas | Mar 6, 2024 |
When Thomas Reeves’s biography of John F. Kennedy was originally published in 1991, it was treated harshly by many reviewers. Typical of their judgments was the one issued by Stephen Ambrose (himself no stranger to the writing of presidential biographies) in the Times Literary Supplement, which dismissed it as a one-sided account in which Reeves was “content to take all of the many Kennedy-bashing stories, put them together in a summary form, and assert without providing evidence that ‘character’ is what makes a great politician and [was] exactly the quality Kennedy lacked.”

In some respects this reception was to be expected, as at that time memories of the president still glowed from the gilded aura of the “Camelot” mythos and many of its creators were still around to defend it. In their rush to condemn Reeves’s treatment of Kennedy, however, many of these reviewers missed his underlying goal of his book, which is to argue for the importance of character in leadership. This the author does from his opening chapter, in which he outlines the importance accorded to character in determining leadership by Western political philosophers. These ideas informed the critique of King George III made in the Declaration of Independence, and, in the process, became a value that Americans sought from their presidents, with George Washington establishing the standard by which they were judged.

For Reeves, character is defined foremost by the quality of integrity, followed by “compassion, generosity, prudence, courage, loyalty, responsibility, temperance, humility and perseverance.” And in recounting Kennedy’s life he finds his subject lacking in nearly every category. To make his points Reeves presents the details and recounts the anecdotes that he finds most revealing about Kennedy’s character. Reeves traces its many deficiencies to his father, Joseph Kennedy, whom the author regards as an unsentimental and autocratic letch desperate for acceptance by the American elite. His presence looms throughout the book, with his frequent appearances in the text underscoring his son’s inability to escape his influence, even after the elder Kennedy was immobilized by a stroke in 1961.

As a result of this influence, Reeves’s Kennedy grows up into an inveterate womanizer overshadowed by both his father and his elder brother, Joe Junior. Their family’s wealth and connections meant for him a life of privilege and opportunity, often without consequences. Reeves gives Kennedy little credit for his achievements, viewing him as an indifferent student of few accomplishments. Though he won fame during the Second World War for his role as a PT boat commander, Reeves downplays the degree to which it reflected positively upon his character, preferring instead to play up the irresponsibility of his actions. With Joe Junior’s death during an attempt to knock out V-1 sites in northern France, the burden of their father’s political ambitions fell squarely on John’s shoulders, who was now expected to undertake the march to the presidency.

In recounting Kennedy’s pre-presidential political career, Reeves favors a gossipy accounting of Kennedy’s womanizing over recounting his activities as a congressman and senator. To the extent he discusses Kennedy’s politics, he portrays his subject as a staunch centrist trying hard not to be associated too firmly with either the conservative or liberal wings of his party. Reeves faults him in particular for his lack of political courage in the Senate’s censure of Joseph McCarthy, accusing Kennedy – who was in the hospital because of his chronic back problems – of “intentionally” avoiding the vote. Such actions come across as especially hypocritical in light of Kennedy’s subsequent celebration of political bravery with his 1956 book Profiles in Courage – a work that Reeves credits primarily to Ted Sorensen, Kennedy’s legislative aide.

Reeves spends the final 200 pages of his book recounting Kennedy’s tenure as president. He examines Kennedy’s time in office through the prism of a half-dozen key events – the Bay of Pigs, the 1961 Berlin crisis, the escalation in Vietnam, the battles over civil rights, and the Cuban Missile Crisis – which he describes before ending with a concluding judgment on how Kennedy’s response to them reflected upon his character. Reeves is especially condemnatory about Kennedy’s philandering, which he portrays as almost obsessive and argues jeopardized both his presidency and even the nation at various points. Nevertheless, Reeves grudgingly gives him credit for his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and allows for the possibility that the experience of being president may have been fostering character growth, though he makes clear his pessimism about the unrealized prospects of his prematurely terminated presidency.

The book ends with a chapter in which Reeves makes a final plea to “find and elect people of high moral character” to the presidency, arguing that good character “is an essential framework for the complex mixture of qualities that make an outstanding President and a model leader for a democratic people.” He adds:

"Character and conduct are clearly linked, and the personal weaknesses of a chief executive can often turn out to be public liabilities. It is wise to encourage the careful scrutiny of presidential aspirants that has become the practice in recent years. It is neither priggish nor unrealistic to seek to determine, to the best of our ability, which presidential aspirants live by values we hope they will uphold in public, values such as honesty, responsibility, fairness, loyalty, and respect for others."

It was especially striking to read this considering his frequent praise on social media today for Donald Trump, whom on his last day in office Reeves declared to be “the greatest president in our lifetime.” It was posts like that one which led me to read his book in the first place, as I was curious to see how his public adulation for Trump squared with his judgment of John F. Kennedy. And 400 pages later, I find myself even more amazed that someone who wrote an entire book using Kennedy’s moral failings to make an emphatic case for the importance of character in American leadership would then idolize a presidential successor who in every respect makes JFK look like a model of character values by comparison. Given how such support flies in the face of Reeves’s own calls to prioritize character over someone who “has a glib tongue, a bottomless wallet, and a conscience that asks little and demands even less,” it raises the question of what caused him to reject so blatantly his own instructions. Perhaps the answer is that Reeves himself no longer believes in his own thesis, in which case those seeking to read about the life of John F. Kennedy would be well advised to pick up a more credible book instead.
… (mais)
MacDad | outras 7 resenhas | Jan 31, 2022 |
This is a biography of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He was influential on my decision to answer my call to this vocation. The only reason I do not give this book a full five star though well written is that it is missing the important information that allowed Cardinal Spellman to send him into exile. The letters were all saved by Sheen to be released on his death. The Cardinal received them and claims to have sent them to the Vatican where they have disappeared. These I feel are a very important part of His Excellency’s history and should be revealed.

Among Fulton J. Sheen's thousands of converts were celebrities such as Clare Booth Luce and Henry Ford II, and former communists Louis Budenz and Elizabeth Bentley. Reeves discusses these conversions and Sheen's close friendship with J. Edgar Hoover, and details for the first time the struggle between Sheen and his chief rival, Francis Cardinal Spellman, a battle of ecclesiastical titans that led all the way to the Pope and to Sheen's final humiliation and exile.
… (mais)
hermit | Jul 15, 2018 |
A very interesting biography that asks the question was John F. Kennedy the same man as the one presented to us? It looks at his Father and his influence, his upbringing and his war service, his personal and his political life and finally his Presidential career. Overall I thought the Author was tough but fair, he pointed out the flaws within the stories told about his life, but everything was based on facts. What I thought was interesting is that his life and career up until he became President seemed a very bad preparation for the Presidency. But he did seem to grow in the role. Not always in ways I agree with politically and he certainly behaved very irresponsibly in his private life. Something that only had consequences after his death. If your interested in a critical but still respectful biography on John F. Kennedy then I would recommend this book.… (mais)
bookmarkaussie | outras 7 resenhas | Sep 11, 2015 |



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