Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End of American Aristocracy

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9780312206598: Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End of American Aristocracy
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Suggests that while Robert Kennedy was shaped by values of the aristocratic class, his liberal and anti-government views enabled him to have mass appeal and an enduring legacy

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Review:

Part biography, part cultural retrospective, Michael Beran's work is a somewhat controversial reassessment of Robert Kennedy's public and private life. Thirty years after Kennedy was murdered, he is still remembered, along with other great liberal contemporaries such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, as a tragic crusader for liberalism. To liberals, Bobby Kennedy was their last champion of social reform and civil rights; when he died, their pursuit of these aims took a mortal blow. So when Beran intimates that on the day Kennedy was killed, it wasn't a Rooseveltian idealist who died, but rather a man who was essentially a conservative practitioner of liberal politics, it is bound to create controversy amongst his staunchest supporters.

To them, Kennedy was "a rare example of a liberal icon," which is why political liberals might be antagonized by Beran's argument. It is to Beran's credit that he persuasively and passionately backs up his points, carefully illustrating popular misconceptions about Kennedy. He explores the so-called liberal policies instigated by Kennedy, and concludes that these were really little more than timely suggestions and tentative actions, rather than bold policy moves. He chronicles Kennedy's drive toward conservative statesmanship, epitomized by his understanding of public service. Kennedy seemed to understand that success in the modern political arena meant blending liberal policies with a conservative support system, a vision of politics that can be seen in modern-day politicians such as Bill Clinton.

In tracing this evolution of thought, Beran illustrates Kennedy's maturation from arrogant aristocrat to responsible, benevolent crusader whose compassionate actions were driven more by his own misfortunes than by liberal morals. At a time when other books are revising public opinion of the Kennedy compound, focusing on the darker side of their affairs, this is a respectful and thoughtful work that subtly reminds us just how much was lost the day Robert Kennedy was shot down in his prime. --Jeremy Storey

From the Publisher:

"[Beran] is such a lively writer, and such a risk-taking thinker, that the sparks he promiscuously strikes from his literary flint are, cumulatively, illuminating.... Beran's slender meditation on Kennedy's truncated life has an unusually high ration of provocations per page. Some readers will angrily throw it across the room. But they will retrieve it, and continue reading, avidly." --George F. Will, The New York Times Book Review

"A remarkable achievement...It offers new insights into the character of Robert Kennedy, perhaps the most enigmatic public figure of our time." --William Manchester

"Beran has written an enigmatic little book about an enigmatic American giant.... A luminous look at Kennedy and at the country he wanted to lead." --The Boston Globe

"A fresh, stylish, captivating examination." --The Chicago Tribune

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9780312186258: The Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End of American Aristocracy

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ISBN 10:  0312186258 ISBN 13:  9780312186258
Publisher: St Martins Pr, 1998
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