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In Love with Night: The American Romance with Robert Kennedyby Ronald Steel
Synopses & Reviews
More than three decades have passed since Robert Kennedy was assassinated seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency. During that time a powerful legend has grown around him. It decrees that he would have quickly ended the Vietnam War, violence in the cities, and racial and social injustice across the land. Millions of Americans continue to believe that legend. For them the yearning for Kennedy is an unhealed wound.
But would he have done what so many wanted from him? Is the Robert Kennedy legend just that — a legend based more on hope and longing than on reality? This is the question that continues to haunt American politics.
Drawing on his striking interpretation of Kennedy's character, award-winning historian Ronald Steel examines the life against the legend. It is that legend — one that Kennedy consciously helped create — that has made him the vessel of the nation's frustrated dreams. Those dreams have created the enduring myth of "what might have been."
Why was a man who began his career as a dark enforcer of his family's ambition ultimately mourned as a secular saint who could have transformed America? How did he build a mythology that made him the heir apparent to his brother's unfulfilled presidency? Were there, in fact, two Bobbys: an early and a late one, a good and a bad one?
With empathy, yet with skepticism, Steel holds up to scrutiny the three central elements of the Kennedy legend: the faith in a golden kingdom of Camelot that could be restored, the belief that he would have achieved the goals that liberals sought, and the hope that he would have united blacks and whites in common endeavor.
What we mourn, Steel concludes, is not so much what Kennedy would have done, or "what might have been," but our own hopes for political deliverance. That is the power, and also the problem, of the Bobby Myth. Yet "myths can inspire, or they can imprison," Steel writes. "The Bobby Myth," he shows in this penetrating study of personality and politics, "is our creation, not his."
About the Author
Ronald Steel is the author of the award-winning Walter Lippmann and the American Century as well as books on American foreign policy. He is a contributor to The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times. A professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, he lives in Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
1 An American Dream
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