Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House By Robert Dallek. Harper Pubs. $32.50 – October 8, 2013
Robert Dallek continues his authority on the Kennedy administration with “Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House.” The narrative begins with the election of a young, politically inexperienced John Kennedy who surrounds himself with men he believes will offer him the guidance he needs to be a successful president, the so-called “best and the brightest.” His learning curve was vertical. Within the first six months of his administration he was faced with the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall, and a growing problem in Vietnam. Perhaps no other modern president has been faced with such daunting problems so early after his election. There was little time for anything but decisive action, and mistakes were made.
Dalleks’s narrative shows the young Kennedy learning to seek his own counsel in the two years he had before his assassination. He began to rely more on his brother, Robert, than any other advisor, and together, the two of them grew exponentially. It’s only to be suggested how successful a president he would have been if given the opportunity before his untimely death.
Dallek gives insight into each of the top advisors of President Kennedy. Their strengths and weaknesses are exposed with equal insight. It’s a fast-paced narrative. Dallek is an accomplished writer as well as researcher. The 430 some pages move swifly from idea to idea. It will be some time before America loses its fascination with John Kennedy and what might have been. With books like “Camelot’s Court” continuing to be published, it’s our good fortune that it won’t be anytime soon. -Steve Corrigan