Jack Kennedy - The Making of a President

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am

Jack Kennedy - The Making of a President

by Barbara Leaming

Orion, HK$153

Rather frail as a boy, John F. Kennedy read a lot and, when he was hospitalised at 15, he read The World Crisis, 1911-1918, Winston Churchill's history of the first world war. Churchill was a 'monumental influence' on Kennedy, according to Barbara Leaming in Jack Kennedy - The Making of a President (originally published as Jack Kennedy - The Education of a Statesman). Kennedy forged some close ties during a two-year visit to Britain when his father, Joseph Kennedy, was the isolationist US ambassador to London before the outbreak of the second world war. Leaming builds on those years, and the influence of Churchill's writings and ideas, to fashion an intellectual biography about the charismatic president. It's a good idea, but Leaming overplays the Churchill card to the point of tedium. And though much is made of the influence wielded by his friend, the British ambassador to Washington David Ormsby-Gore, on Kennedy's deliberations during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the evidence is thin. Still, her account of his rather private life and the diplomatic manoeuvrings with the Soviet Union over Cuba and nuclear weapons is a good read, and the London link provides insight.