Rooting out Organized Crime Did Rfk's Efforts Lead to Brother's Death?

By Singer, Reviewed Dale | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 4, 1996 | Go to article overview

Rooting out Organized Crime Did Rfk's Efforts Lead to Brother's Death?


Singer, Reviewed Dale, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Perfect Villains, Imperfect Heroes

By Ronald Goldfarb

357 pages, Random House, $26

MOST PEOPLE think of Robert F. Kennedy as a liberal senator from New York or a crusading candidate for president, on a heroic and ultimately fatal quest. Ronald Goldfarb's new book, "Perfect Villains, Imperfect Heroes," fills in a lesser-known part of the profile - Kennedy as attorney general, energizing the Justice Department to battle organized crime and official corruption.

Goldfarb, a Washington lawyer, came to the capital as part of a young, enthusiastic and idealistic team. His book - part memoir, part history - details how his colleagues labored to use whatever legal advantage they could find to hunt down and root out criminal elements that were thwarting efforts at clean government.

Woven into the narrative are names that have been part of the legends of modern-day lawlessness - Joe Valachi, Sam Giancana, Santos Trafficante. Kennedy's obsessive pursuit of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, which began before his brother, John F. Kennedy, was elected president, persisted when he became attorney general.

As Goldfarb's title suggests, the zeal of federal authorities sometimes may have been excessive, but methods are one thing and motives are quite another. Goldfarb has no doubts that he and his young colleagues did the nation a valuable service by seeking out and destroying whatever corruption they could find. …

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