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Bobby Kennedy
Cover of Bobby Kennedy
Bobby Kennedy
The Making of a Liberal Icon
by Larry Tye
Borrow Borrow
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • From the author of Satchel comes an in-depth, vibrant, and measured biography about the most complex and controversial member of the Kennedy family.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST
    History remembers Robert F. Kennedy as a racial healer, a tribune for the poor, and the last progressive knight of a bygone era of American politics. But Kennedy's enshrinement in the liberal pantheon was actually the final stage of a journey that had its beginnings in the conservative 1950s. In Bobby Kennedy, Larry Tye peels away layers of myth and misconception to paint a complete portrait of this singularly fascinating figure.
    To capture the full arc of his subject's life, Tye draws on unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and fifty-eight boxes of papers that had been under lock and key for the past forty years. He conducted hundreds of interviews with RFK intimates—including Bobby's widow, Ethel, his sister Jean, and his aide John Siegenthaler—many of whom have never spoken to another biographer. Tye's determination to sift through the tangle of often contradictory opinions means that Bobby Kennedy will stand as the definitive one-volume biography of a man much beloved, but just as often misunderstood.
    Bobby Kennedy's transformation from cold warrior to fiery liberal is a profoundly moving personal story that also offers a lens onto two of the most chaotic and confounding decades of twentieth-century American history. The first half of RFK's career underlines what the country was like in the era of Eisenhower, while his last years as a champion of the underclass reflect the seismic shifts wrought by the 1960s. Nurtured on the rightist orthodoxies of his dynasty-building father, Bobby Kennedy began his public life as counsel to the red-baiting senator Joseph McCarthy. He ended it with a noble campaign to unite working-class whites with poor blacks and Latinos in an electoral coalition that seemed poised to redraw the face of presidential politics. Along the way, he turned up at the center of every event that mattered, from the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis to race riots and Vietnam.
    Bare-knuckle operative, cynical White House insider, romantic visionary—Bobby Kennedy was all of these things at one time or another, and each of these aspects of his personality emerges in the pages of this powerful and perceptive new biography.
    Praise for Bobby Kennedy
    "We are in Larry Tye's debt for bringing back to life the young presidential candidate who . . . for a brief moment, almost half a century ago, instilled hope for the future in angry, fearful Americans."—David Nasaw, The New York Times Book Review
    "Sweeping . . . [Tye] captures RFK's rise and fall with straightforward prose bolstered by impressive research. Along with hundreds of interviews with Kennedy intimates, including his widow, Ethel, Tye sifted through unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and boxes of Kennedy papers that had been locked away for some forty years."USA Today
    "Tye ("Superman") shows how RFK was not always the progressive hero but a work in progress—after all, Kennedy worked for Joseph McCarthy for a spell. Tye's pages on the assassination are heart-wrenching."New York Post
    "This biography will appeal not only to those wanting a portrait of a dynamic idealist, but also to those seeking to understand the emotions of the times in which he lived."—Henry A. Kissinger
  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • From the author of Satchel comes an in-depth, vibrant, and measured biography about the most complex and controversial member of the Kennedy family.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST
    History remembers Robert F. Kennedy as a racial healer, a tribune for the poor, and the last progressive knight of a bygone era of American politics. But Kennedy's enshrinement in the liberal pantheon was actually the final stage of a journey that had its beginnings in the conservative 1950s. In Bobby Kennedy, Larry Tye peels away layers of myth and misconception to paint a complete portrait of this singularly fascinating figure.
    To capture the full arc of his subject's life, Tye draws on unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and fifty-eight boxes of papers that had been under lock and key for the past forty years. He conducted hundreds of interviews with RFK intimates—including Bobby's widow, Ethel, his sister Jean, and his aide John Siegenthaler—many of whom have never spoken to another biographer. Tye's determination to sift through the tangle of often contradictory opinions means that Bobby Kennedy will stand as the definitive one-volume biography of a man much beloved, but just as often misunderstood.
    Bobby Kennedy's transformation from cold warrior to fiery liberal is a profoundly moving personal story that also offers a lens onto two of the most chaotic and confounding decades of twentieth-century American history. The first half of RFK's career underlines what the country was like in the era of Eisenhower, while his last years as a champion of the underclass reflect the seismic shifts wrought by the 1960s. Nurtured on the rightist orthodoxies of his dynasty-building father, Bobby Kennedy began his public life as counsel to the red-baiting senator Joseph McCarthy. He ended it with a noble campaign to unite working-class whites with poor blacks and Latinos in an electoral coalition that seemed poised to redraw the face of presidential politics. Along the way, he turned up at the center of every event that mattered, from the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis to race riots and Vietnam.
    Bare-knuckle operative, cynical White House insider, romantic visionary—Bobby Kennedy was all of these things at one time or another, and each of these aspects of his personality emerges in the pages of this powerful and perceptive new biography.
    Praise for Bobby Kennedy
    "We are in Larry Tye's debt for bringing back to life the young presidential candidate who . . . for a brief moment, almost half a century ago, instilled hope for the future in angry, fearful Americans."—David Nasaw, The New York Times Book Review
    "Sweeping . . . [Tye] captures RFK's rise and fall with straightforward prose bolstered by impressive research. Along with hundreds of interviews with Kennedy intimates, including his widow, Ethel, Tye sifted through unpublished memoirs, unreleased government files, and boxes of Kennedy papers that had been locked away for some forty years."USA Today
    "Tye ("Superman") shows how RFK was not always the progressive hero but a work in progress—after all, Kennedy worked for Joseph McCarthy for a spell. Tye's pages on the assassination are heart-wrenching."New York Post
    "This biography will appeal not only to those wanting a portrait of a dynamic idealist, but also to those seeking to understand the emotions of the times in which he lived."—Henry A. Kissinger
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    • From the cover Chapter 1

      Cold Warrior

      Disciples came in flocks that sun-­baked May afternoon in 1957, packing the pews at St. Mary's and spilling onto the streets outside the Irish parish in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Joseph Raymond McCarthy had been baptized and now, just forty-­eight years later, he was being eulogized. It was the last of three memorials to the fallen senator and the first in the state that had elected him in landslides. Twenty-­five thousand admirers from Green Bay, Neenah, and his native Grand Chute had paid their respects at his open casket. Others were keeping vigil outside the church alongside honor guards of military police and Boy Scouts. Flying in to join them were nineteen senators, seven congressmen, and other luminaries, most of whom had supported Joe McCarthy in his relentless assault on Communism. The dignitaries were whisked in a motorcade from the airport in Green Bay to the funeral in Appleton.

      But one man faltered on the runway. Robert Francis Kennedy had worked as an aide to McCarthy for seven months before political and personal calculations made him step aside. Now he sat anxiously by himself on the military jet, reluctant to be seen with the conservative lawmakers and conflicted even about being in Wisconsin. His own brother, Jack, had sternly warned him to stay away. When the crowd was gone, Kennedy slipped down the exit ramp unnoticed. Nobody was waiting because no one knew he was coming. He rode into town not with the pack of senators and congressmen but in the front seat of a Cadillac convertible driven by the reporter Edwin Bayley, who was covering McCarthy's funeral for the Milwaukee Journal. At the church, Bobby sat in the choir loft, distracted and alone, and at the graveside he stood apart from the rest of the officials from Washington. When the service was over, Kennedy asked Bayley and other journalists not to write about his being there. The reporters, already in the Kennedy thrall, did as he asked.

      The relationship between Robert Kennedy and Joseph McCarthy is one of the most implausible in U.S. political history. In the lexicon of American politics, the Kennedy name is shorthand for left-­leaning Democratic politics, and it is a tenet of Kennedy scholarship that the first and archetypal family liberal was Bobby. The historical cliché, nourished by his family and friends, posits that Kennedy's going to work for McCarthy was a footnote or an aberration when it was neither. The truth is that the early Bobby Kennedy embraced the overheated anticommunism of the 1950s and openly disdained liberals. His job with the Republican senator from Wisconsin not only launched Bobby's career but injected into his life passion and direction that had been glaringly absent. McCarthy's zeal, extreme though it was, fired Kennedy's ambition for years to come. He quit McCarthy not because he rejected McCarthyism, but because his advancement was stymied by conflict with fellow staffers. While he did work for the senator for just seven and a half months in 1953, their ties went back a number of years, and they lasted until Bobby made his last visit to McCarthy shortly before the senator died.

      His link to McCarthy became a crucible Kennedy couldn't escape, serving for some as a testament to his loyalty and patriotism, for others as a measure of his youthful misdirection and overreaching. Both were right. Bobby was so enamored of the senator that he failed to see the fanaticism that, by the time he signed on, had already made McCarthy's name a synonym for witch hunt and crowned "Low-­Blow Joe" the most divisive man in America. Nor did he ever fully sever those bonds or entirely break the bad habits he...
    About the Author-
    • Larry Tye was an award-winning journalist at The Boston Globe and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He now runs a Boston-based training program for medical journalists. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Satchel, as well as Superman, The Father of Spin, Home Lands, and Rising from the Rails, and co-author, with Kitty Dukakis, of Shock. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.
    Reviews-
    • AudioFile Magazine Marc Cashman provides an affable, approachable narration for this biography of Bobby Kennedy. Listeners will find Cashman's comforting voice a welcome respite, not only during the well-known tragedy that befalls Kennedy, but also as his complicated political and personal path unfolds. As the title suggests, Kennedy's public rise to champion progressive causes is compelling. Kennedy's upbringing, his famous link to his brother John in public service, his battles with Jimmy Hoffa and President Lyndon Johnson, and his own run for the presidency are documented here with refreshing clarity. S.C. � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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      Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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      All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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