What I noticed in my latest reading of Fawn Brodie’s Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character was that Fawn Brodie did not criticize John F. Kennedy. At least she hasn’t in what I have read of her book thus far.
I’ve become somewhat accustomed to seeing snark about Kennedy in some of the books about Nixon that I have read. After talking about Kennedy’s advice to Nixon on the importance of writing a book, Stephen Ambrose said that Kennedy did not really write Profiles in Courage, and that his father pressured the Pulitzer Committee to give JFK the Pulitzer. I read in one book about Nixon (though I forget which one) that JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, may not have been just lucky when he managed to thrive during the Great Depression. Don Fulsom is rather positive about JFK, noting that the mob hated him, and yet he acknowledges that JFK had mob connections at some point. Anthony Summers goes more deeply into JFK’s mob connections, even talking about how some bruisers were at polling stations pressuring people to vote for Kennedy. Summers also tells a humorous story about when a Kennedy associate in 1960 was doing investigative work on the wild weekend parties that Nixon attended at Bebe Rebozo’s home, but he decided not to pursue that line when he learned that Kennedy, too, was at the parties! And Nixon, and also biographers about Nixon, have claimed that there were ghost votes for Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential election.
I’m reading Brodie’s book, and I don’t see much of that. She acknowledges that JFK was a womanizer, but I suppose that this was such common knowledge by the time that she wrote the book that she decided not to omit it. But she appears to take for granted that Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage. She says that Joseph Kennedy luckily dodged the negative consequences of the Great Depression. While Nixon charged that candidate Kennedy was briefed about the U.S. Government’s plots against Fidel Castro, and that Kennedy was really low when Kennedy was publicly accusing the Eisenhower Administration of doing nothing against Castro, Brodie seems to think that Kennedy had not been told about the U.S. Government’s plots. Overall, she portrays Kennedy as a witty person who came across as more authentic than Nixon did. As far as negatives go, she says that Nixon was healthier than Kennedy because of Kennedy’s bad back, and that Nixon was a better orator, even though Kennedy improved by the time he got to the first debate. But I don’t see the snark about Kennedy that I saw in many of the other books about Nixon that I read.
Why didn’t Brodie share much dirt on Kennedy? Anthony Summers wrote an anti-Nixon book, and he didn’t shy away from that! Brodie talks about how Kennedy drove women wild. Could she have had a crush on the late President Kennedy? I don’t know.
I don’t why, but I have the feeling it is not particularly pleasant to get to know better the historical Nixon. Am I correct?
It really depends on what you read, I think. He comes across as a fairly decent person in Jonathan Aitken’s biography. But, if the things that Anthony Summers says he did are true, do those kind deeds really amount to much, or outweigh the bad things he did?