Call Number
Material Type
Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 973.922 DAL Adult NonFiction Book
Elmira - Steele Memorial Library 1 973.922 DAL Adult NonFiction Book
West Elmira Library 1 973.922 DAL Adult NonFiction Book

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Fifty years after John F. Kennedy's assassination, presidential historian Robert Dallek, whom The New York Times calls "Kennedy's leading biographer," delivers a riveting new portrait of this president and his inner circle of advisors--their rivalries, personality clashes, and political battles. In Camelot's Court, Dallek analyzes the brain trust whose contributions to the successes and failures of Kennedy's administration--including the Bay of Pigs, civil rights, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam--were indelible.

Kennedy purposefully put together a dynamic team of advisors noted for their brilliance and acumen, including Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, and trusted aides Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger. Yet the very traits these men shared also created sharp divisions. Far from being unified, this was an uneasy band of rivals whose ambitions and clashing beliefs ignited fiery internal debates.

Robert Dallek illuminates a president deeply determined to surround himself with the best and the brightest, who often found himself disappointed with their recommendations. The result, Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House, is a striking portrait of a leader whose wise resistance to pressure and adherence to principle offers a cautionary tale for our own time.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Non-experts are likely to have a hard time assessing what significant new facts are revealed in this meticulous but well-trod account of J.F.K.'s tenure in the White House. Dallek (An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963) walks the reader through the basics: Joseph Kennedy Sr.'s ambitions; his congressional years; and his years in the White House dealing with the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Cuba. Kennedy's relationship with his advisers, dubbed "the best and the brightest" (Robert McNamara, Ted Sorenson, McGeorge Bundy, et al.), has also been thoroughly described elsewhere. The conclusions Dallek reaches are less than profound or original: "The affection for [J.F.K.] generated by his persona and the tragedy of his assassination have encouraged positive assessments of his leadership." And despite the book's length, there are important omissions: Dallek's discussion of Kennedy's sexual appetites in the first chapter relies heavily on the 2012 tell-all memoir of intern Mimi Alford, but readers are given no basis against which to assess the reliability of her account. Dallek may well have strong reasons for relying on her, but, inexplicably, he doesn't tell us what they are. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Dallek (An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963) adds new insights beyond those in his excellent 2003 biography of JFK. Here is a compelling view of the president's often frustrating interactions with cabinet members and high-placed government officials. Kennedy encouraged this "ministry of talent" to speak their minds, but their advice was often ignored as JFK gained the confidence to rely on his own instincts, learning that the best-intentioned advisers could present bad options. Dallek discusses Kennedy's major challenges: U.S.-Soviet relations, nuclear disarmament, Castro's Cuba, Vietnam, and to a lesser extent, civil rights. His chief adviser and confidant was Robert F. Kennedy, who is depicted in detail, as are many others whom JFK either relied upon or mistrusted (e.g., figures from the CIA or military). As expected, Dallek focuses on the brinksmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He weighs whether Vietnam was an important or peripheral Cold War front. Dallek concludes that Kennedy realized that since he could not control events in nearby Cuba, he would certainly not be able to do so in faraway Vietnam; he would likely have found a way out of Vietnam had he served a second term. VERDICT Readers who keep up with the body of work on JFK will appreciate Dallek's page-turning style. Historians will value his excellent scholarship as he, in effect, revisits David Halberstam's classic, The Best and the Brightest.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

John F. Kennedy's best biographer sheds fresh light on the leading national security challenges of his presidency. Focusing on Cold War imperatives and dilemmas, Dallek (retired, Boston Univ.) dissects Kennedy's interactions with his inner circle of military and civilian experts. In an echo of David Halberstam, Dallek describes how the "best and the brightest" surrounding Kennedy saw through a glass darkly. Few advisers gave the president consistently worthwhile counsel, while the Joint Chiefs of Staff on virtually every issue proved wrongheaded, complicating Kennedy's policy toward Cuba, pursuit of a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union, and engagement in Vietnam. Kennedy bungled the Bay of Pigs invasion in good measure by deferring to those with greater experience than he had as a novice leader. He would become more assertive over time, though in forging Vietnam policy he remained trapped by fears of domestic political fallout if he pursued the course that evidence and his instincts told him he should follow. Impressively researched and lucidly argued, Camelot's Court reminds readers that there are no experts in shaping public policy, just fallible individuals sifting often conflicting evidence and choosing among less than ideal options. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. M. J. Birkner Gettysburg College

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