By: Jerry Bernstein  | 

Lasky, Kennedy, Who Is Pith, Who Is Man, Who Is Myth? (Vol. 29, Issue 4)

“John Fitzgerald Kennedy became President of the United States, first because of an accident—a tragic accident—and subsequently by design as inexorable as the denouement of a Grecian drama.” With this opening statement Victor Lasky draws a critical portrait of J.F.K.

Now the number one best seller all over America, J.F.K. — The Man and The Myth, exposes John Kennedy as more myth than man. 

He tells how Kennedy Sr. planned to have one of his sons made President no matter which one, no matter how hard it would be to accomplish, for, as far as Joe Kennedy was concerned, it had to be done. Therefore, upon Joe Jr.’s death, Jack was told by his father that he would have to enter politics.

Kennedy Shy

A reluctant, shy, unsociable student at Harvard, Jack never really wanted to enter politics in the first place. Once, at a swimming meet, when some photographers had gathered the team together to be photographed for the school newspaper, young Jack was nowhere to be found. The coach explained that Jack was probably off hiding someplace. Being terribly shy, he probably did not want to have his picture taken. 

This is one of many incidents in the first half of the book in which Lasky gives the family background of the future President.

“What exactly did Kennedy think,” asks Lasky about Jack, “while the young future President was at Harvard forming his ideas about the world? He was preparing to endorse without reservation the most far left . . . program ever devised by a major political party . . . a platform that veteran Socialist Norman Thomas considered so utopian as to be impractical.”

Joseph Kennedy was one of the most outspoken isolationists of his day. He was a conservative businessman who favored the business policies of Adolph Hitler and who thought of himself as the successor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the shadow of a father with reactionary and conservative ideas, John Kennedy developed his ideas as a liberal. 

Can this be true? Lasky asks, or has Jack changed his policies throughout his career to suit the voters, whose votes he needed to be elected?

Modern Wonder

J.F.K. is portrayed as a young man with few achievements, who overnight became President of the US by the “techniques of super press agentry rather than by the espousal of serious ideas.”

Mr. Lasky says that there has been complete disillusionment over the young man in the White House. The “‘myth,” as he calls it, was created by Kennedy's handling of the press, his money, his family, and by his keen maneuverings as a politician. This is the Kennedy who contributed to Nixon's campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas, and the Kennedy who used the religious issue to be elected.

Lasky has produced neither a pure documentation of Kennedy's career nor a volume of entireIy personal views. Instead, his factual material and outspoken opinions are blended so thoroughly that the reader should beware of mistaking one for the other.

Mr. Lasky’s basic theme is that Kennedy has been yielding all along his career to every pressure, and that he has bought his way into politics on his father’s money, caring nothing for principles or for those who stood in the way of his ambitions. 

What should have resulted in JFK — The Man and the Myth is a detailed and objective inquiry into the background of Jack Kennedy and the career that made him President. What has resulted instead is a venomous attack by Mr. Lasky on someone whom he finds odious.