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JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency…

JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency

by John T. Shaw

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I recieved JFK in the Senate as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

As the title suggests, Shaw chronicles the 7 year Senate career of John F. Kennedy with a particular focus on his foreign policy work and his leadership of a committee chosen to select history's five greatest Senators.

It's a quick read, barely 200 pages, but covers an and relatively obscure part of Kennedy's career, especially compared to his less than three year presidency and assassination. I was exposed to a new side of Kennedy's personality; rather than the charming playboy, Kennedy is depicted as a pleasant but distant loner. Given the power of Kennedy/Camelot lore that dominates in the media, especially on the 50th anniversary of his death, I enjoyed dreading about other, deeper facets of his personality.

There is relatively little information on his personal life. Shaw quickly skims through his childhood and his marriage to Jackie and their family receive only a couple of passing mentions; the focus is strictly on his legislative career in the dozen or so years before was elected president. In my opinion, the book goes slightly off-path in the epilogue, which attempts to summarize his presidency and assassination, the careers of his younger brothers Robert and Teddy, as well as a slightly clumsy parallel to Barack Obama, the next U.S. Senator to accede directly to the presidency. It just seemed a bit needlessly shoehorned in, as likely anyone reading the book will be aware of these circumstances. Still, this shouldn't deter history and Kennedy buffs from taking a look at this account of JFK's lesser-known early political career.

Recommended. ( )
  ceg045 | Feb 19, 2014 |
The three-term Congressman who entered the Senate in January 1953 wasn't thought to be a future President at any time, let alone by the end of the decade. As John T. Shaw chronicles in JFK in the Senate, John Kennedy saw the U.S. Senate as a stepping stone to achieve the presidency. And in his nearly eight years in the upper chamber, Kennedy learned lessons that helped him to be a better politician and help secure him the nomination and later election.

Shaw’s study of Kennedy in the Senate starts with a basic outline of his life with a focus more on his first Congressional and Senate campaigns respectively than anything else, including his three-terms in the House. Shaw’s then looks at Kennedy time in the Senate in three aspects: domestic, foreign, and finally his role documenting the institution’s history. Shaw concludes by showing how Kennedy used the Senate to launch is campaign for 1960.

The focus on Kennedy in relation to the Senate is revealing especially as Shaw brings to the reader’s attention things not previously emphasized. The first was Kennedy’s legislative work on the labor issue as well as he learned to balance regional and national economic issues, issues that seemed glossed over or neglected in larger studies of Kennedy’s life. The second was Kennedy’s perspectives on foreign policy while in both the House and Senate including his critiques of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations’ foreign policy. Shaw reveals how Kennedy’s views and critiques turned out to be astute in the hindsight of history. Finally Shaw shows through Kennedy’s work on Profiles in Courage and the committee to designate the five greatest Senators that he seemed to show his political priorities for higher office by separating his career from those past and present who were thoroughly Senators.

In barely over 200 pages, Shaw gives a well-rounded look at John Kennedy’s career as a U.S. Senator before he became only the second person ever to be elected President directly from that body. Shaw shows that Kennedy deliberately didn't strive to be the best Senator he could like his colleagues, his aspirations went higher. And that is why this book is recommended for anyone interested in Kennedy.

Disclaimer: Received a copy of this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program. ( )
  mattries37315 | Dec 14, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0230341837, Hardcover)

Before John F. Kennedy became a legendary young president he was the junior senator from Massachusetts. The Senate was where JFK's presidential ambitions were born and first realized. In the first book to deal exclusively with JFK's Senate years, author John T. Shaw looks at how the young Senator was able to catapult himself on the national stage. Tip O’Neill once quipped that Kennedy received more publicity for less accomplishment than anyone in Congress. But O’Neill didn’t understand that Kennedy saw a different path to congressional influence and ultimately the presidency. Unlike Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic leader in the Senate, JFK never aspired to be "The Master of the Senate" who made deals and kept the institution under his control. Instead, he envisioned himself as a "Historian-Scholar-Statesman" in the mold of his hero Winston Churchill which he realized with the 1957 publication of Profiles of Courage that earned JFK a Pulitzer Prize and public limelight. Smart, dashing, irreverent and literary, the press could not get enough of him. Yet, largely overlooked has been Kennedy's tenure on a special Senate committee to identify the five greatest senators in American history—JFK’s work on this special panel coalesced his relationships in Congress, and helped catapult him toward the presidency. Based on primary documents from JFK’s Senate years as well as memoirs, oral histories, and interviews with his top aides, JFK in the Senate provides new insight into an underappreciated aspect of his political career.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:34 -0400)

Drawing on newly opened archives as well as memoirs, oral histories and interviews with his top aides, a congressional historian and political insider looks at JFK's Senate years during which his presidential ambitions were born and first realized.

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