Richard Reeves
President Kennedy: Profile of Power

President Kennedy: Profile of Power

Pub. Date: November 1, 1994 (800 pages)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0671892894
ISBN-13: 978-0671892890

Three decades after his death, here is the startling story of John F. Kennedy's three years in the White House. Based on previously unavailable White House files, letters and records, and hundreds of new interviews, Richard Reeves has written the first objective account of Kennedy's presidency. President Kennedy is a dramatic day-by-day, often minute-by-minute, Oval Office narrative of what it was, and is, like to be President. This is the view from the center of power during the years when the United States faced nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union and something close to racial war at home. This is brilliant, relevant history, vividly told.

Kennedy lived along a line where charm became power. He proved that the only qualification for the most powerful job in the world was wanting it. He would not wait his turn, sure that he could always prevail one-on-one - until, in pain and heavily medicated, he was humiliated in Vienna in 1961 at a summit with Nikita Khrushchev. He came home in despair, thinking he would be the last U.S. President, asking for the number of expected American deaths in the war that seemed inevitable - 70 million, he was told.

He began a massive military build-up and a secret search for peace. On the day in 1963 when that peace seemed possible, he gave the greatest speech of his life on ending the Cold War - on the same day that four black girls were blown to bits at a church in Birmingham and a Buddhist monk burned himself to death in Saigon to protest a government created by the United States. Within weeks, Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed on a nuclear test ban treaty, hundreds of thousands of blacks led by Martin Luther King, Jr., marched on Washington, and Kennedy ordered the overthrow of the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam - beginning a cycle of assassinations that ended with his own death and those of King and his brother Robert Kennedy.

These were the days when the world held its breath. The Bay of Pigs. The Freedom Rides. The Vienna Summit. The building of the Berlin Wall. Kennedy's confrontation with U.S. Steel. The deadly riots and demonstrations as blacks tried to enroll in the state universities of Mississippi and Alabama. The Cuban missile crisis. The tax cut. The sending of U.S. troops into Vietnam. His relations with Eisenhower, Premier Khrushchev, Charles de Gaulle, Harold Macmillian, Fidel Castro, Ngo Dinh Diem, Martin Luther King, Jr., J. Edgar Hoover, Marilyn Monroe and a hundred other women, and his own men, particularly Robert Kennedy and Robert McNamara.

John Kennedy lived life as a race against boredom and death, thinking he would die young, needing large doses of drugs with side effects that included depression, paranoia, and compulsive sexual desire. Kennedy brought out the best in the American people and recast the U.S. economy, presiding over the century's greatest prosperity.

On the morning after the new President's first night in the White House, his old friend journalist Charles Bartlett asked him if he had slept in Abraham Lincoln's bed and Kennedy answered that he had: "I jumped in and just hung on!" He was still hanging on three years later.

The Reagan Files (

Jason Saltoun-Ebin has been researching Ronald Reagan since 2001, when Richard Reeves hired him as a research assistant to help with the research for his presidential biography of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reeves' book, "President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination," was published in 2005.

During the course of their research, Mr. Reeves and Mr. Saltoun-Ebin filed numerous Mandatory Review (MR) requests for classified documents and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for unprocessed documents held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Though Mr. Reeves was able to make use of some newly released documents in "President Reagan," most of the FOIA requests and MR requests were never answered.

After graduating the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2007, Mr. Saltoun-Ebin returned to the Reagan Library to follow-up with his research from 2001-2005. In 2008 he discovered that many of President Reagan's NSC/NSPG meeting minutes had recently been declassified. Mr. Saltoun-Ebin, believing that history is too important to be kept a secret inside the Reagan Library, created The Reagan Files to encourage the further study of the Reagan presidency.

On April 13th, 2009, President Obama ordered the release of nearly 150,000 pages of documents that President George W. Bush had kept secret though declassified by the classifying agency. Some of those documents are already published on The Reagan Files, others will be added to The Reagan Files collection in the near future. Many correspond to the MR and FOIA requests that Mr. Reeves and Mr. Saltoun-Ebin filed between 2001 and 2005.

Mr. Saltoun-Ebin is a graduate of U.C.L.A. (2001, B.A., European Studies). During his time at U.C.L.A. he wrote for The UCLA Daily Bruin. Prior to law school, he worked for a short time at The Wisconsin State Journal. He also contributed to The New York Time's coverage of the Supreme Court nomination of Chief Justice Roberts.


"Richard Reeves's thoughtful, fair and carefully documented work goes to the heart of the Kennedy presidency. It is a skillful blend of history (decisions made, crises managed and unmanaged) and character study (how Kennedy made those decisions and managed those crises)." Rory Quirk, Atlanta Journal and Constitution

"Reeves doesn't ignore the man: J.F.K. the charming, witty, afflicted, brave, indulged and highly entertaining character is as alive in this book as he's ever been. Indeed, Reeves give us a portrait that comes as close to the real man as we are likely to have for a long time." Robert Dallek, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Issue oriented though it is, {this book} reveals the man as well as the Chief Executive. Reeves finds J.F.K. a talented and intelligent politician, filled with ambition but essentially without a moral center, ideals or strong emotions. He shows Kennedy dealing with civil rights not as a moral issue but as a political problem to be defused. His only visible ideology was a basic anticommunism. . . . Reeves doesn't try to soft-pedal the distasteful, but his account of the Kennedy presidency is resolutely matter of fact and not an indictment. . ." Bruce W. Nelan, Time

"(Richard Reeves') conceit is to confine himself to the substance of the Kennedy presidency; style, myth, magic, wit and wisdom are, for once, secondary concerns. Reeves says that he wished to see the presidency through its occupant's eyes, a difficult act, especially with an occupant as elusive as John Kennedy, even in a White House as well-documented as that one was. But the conceit often pays off, in ways intended and not." Joe Klein, The New Republic

"John Kennedy poses two colossal problems for biographers. His presidency covered the last part of a brief but genuine American golden age, so it may still be too early for historians to read it with eyes unmisted by regret. Second, Kennedy scholars have by now proved that his private life was less than admirable. ... Richard Reeves, a veteran reporter and author, has solved both problems by ignoring them. He has written a magnificent book that sticks to a narrative of Kennedy's short presidency; it has almost nothing on Kennedy's early life or his assassination." Michael Elliott, Newsweek

"Reeves, the veteran journalist who has written books on Presidents Ford and Reagan, here offers an excellent study of Kennedy as crisis manager. He presents Kennedy as neither an amoral playboy nor the ruler of Camelot but a poorly prepared president with mediocre congressional experience. Each chapter presents a different day in the administration--a unique format that effectively reveals how Kennedy responded to simultaneous harrowing issues. The Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crises, Vietnam, and the diplomacy of arms reduction illustrate how Kennedy was constrained by the unshakable Cold War fear of monolithic communism. This approachable investigation of Kennedy's use of power ... provides a thorough, even-handed review of the Kennedy years." Library Journal

Richard Reeves stopped writing his syndicated column at the end of 2014 after 35 years in more than 160 newspapers and websites.

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