JFK Revisited the Old Face of Liberalism; 'Free-Traders' Push Drug Bill

Article excerpt

Byline: Loredana Vuoto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When Lee Harvey Oswald decided to take fate into his own hands and assassinate President John F. Kennedy, little did he know that he would be starting America's fascination with what could have been. In "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy," historian Robert Dallek attempts to fill in the gaps by painting a more noble portrait of the man and president than his record shows.

Many biographers have tried to take stock of Kennedy's brief time in office and his short-lived life. However, Mr. Dallek's biography includes some fresh and startling new information. Although Kennedy's flagrant womanizing is well-documented, a brief affair with a 19-year-old White House intern has never before been reported. More surprising still, Mr. Dallek reveals how Kennedy's chronic and precarious illnesses constantly plagued him throughout his life and presidency. Yet, Mr. Dallek concludes that Kennedy's poor health and dependence upon numerous medications did not affect his performance as president.

In the first half of the book, Mr. Dallek covers Kennedy's childhood and adolescence and his rise to manhood, giving the reader a glimpse of the family life that formed the brash, bold young man determined to make his mark in the world. In the second half of the book, Mr. Dallek delves into Kennedy's time in public office and all the challenges he faced as president, from Cuba to Vietnam, and from civil rights to an obstructionist Congress.

Mr. Dallek shows that Kennedy was a pragmatic New Deal-Fair Deal liberal, a champion of Keynesian economics, a muscular anti-communist, and he had concern for civil rights. Although initially reluctant to throw the full weight of the presidency behind the cause of blacks in the segregated South, Kennedy eventually decided to push for historic civil rights legislation in Congress.

Mr. Dallek does not hide the fact that he is sympathetic to many of Kennedy's policies. Yet, if the book has one major flaw, it is that it minimizes Kennedy's affair with the intern, Mimi Beardsley, a shocking revelation that has received considerable media attention. Mr. Dallek fails to surmise what would have happened had Kennedy's affair been discovered during the more conservative era of the time and whether it would have ended his political career before those tragic shots rang out in Dallas in 1963.

Mr. …