The Kennedy Half-Century
The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy
An original and illuminating narrative revealing John F. Kennedy's lasting influence on America, by the acclaimed political analyst Larry J. Sabato.
John F. Kennedy died almost half a century ago-yet because of his extraordinary promise and untimely death, his star still resonates strongly. On the anniversary of his assassination, celebrated political scientist and analyst Larry J. Sabato-himself a teenager in the early 1960s and inspired by JFK and his presidency-explores the fascinating and powerful influence he has had over five decades on the media, the general public, and especially on each of his nine presidential successors.
A recent Gallup poll gave JFK the highest job approval rating of any of those successors, and millions remain captivated by his one thousand days in the White House. For all of them, and for those who feel he would not be judged so highly if he hadn't died tragically in office, The Kennedy Half-Century will be particularly revealing. Sabato reexamines JFK's assassination using heretofore unseen information to which he has had unique access, then documents the extraordinary effect the assassination has had on Americans of every modern generation through the most extensive survey ever undertaken on the public's view of a historical figure. The full and fascinating results, gathered by the accomplished pollsters Peter Hart and Geoff Garin, paint a compelling portrait of the country a half-century after the epochal killing. Just as significantly, Sabato shows how JFK's presidency has strongly influenced the policies and decisions-often in surprising ways-of every president since.
Among the hundreds of books devoted to JFK, The Kennedy Half-Century stands apart for its rich insight and original perspective. Anyone who reads it will appreciate in new ways the profound impact JFK's short presidency has had on our national psyche.
On the 50th anniversary of J.F.K.'s assassination, Sabato, professor of political science at the University of Virginia and frequent cable news pundit, offers a clear-eyed evaluation of the Kennedy political legacy. He knowledgeably addresses the early Kennedy career, highlighting the hard-fought Nixon-Kennedy presidential race and the much-discussed debates. Throughout, Sabato notes the differences between politics circa 1960 and now, noting that Kennedy's Catholicism was controversial and his well-received 1960 speech promising the separation of church and state made contemporary Catholic politician Rick Santorum "want to vomit." Sabato also attempts to clear the murky waters surrounding the Kennedy assassination and readers will be interested in his discussion of the vexing question of whether Oswald operated alone, and if not, who else was involved. Sabato is extremely critical of the Warren Commission Report, pointedly judging it a failure, and his synthesis of existing knowledge about the assassination promises to include "new revelations" presumably supportive of his skepticism. He also discusses concrete successes and failures: the Berlin crisis, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The final third of Sabato's book traces the influence of Kennedy on his presidential successors to round out a timely, well-documented, and measured view of our 35th president.