Publisher description for Promises kept : John F. Kennedy's new frontier / Irving Bernstein.


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Since the death of John F. Kennedy, the early hagiography has given way to a sharply critical, revisionist portrait that depicts a mediocre president whose domestic program was a dismal failure. Kennedy was a man of words, not of deeds, one critic wrote, and his achievements "were less
significant than James K. Polk." But in Promises Kept, eminent historian Irving Bernstein argues that "the revisionists are dead wrong." By 1963, Kennedy had become a very effective leader and, if he had not been assassinated, there is no doubt that his whole program would have been enacted by 1965.
In this brilliant reassessment of the Kennedy years based on primary sources, Bernstein vividly recreates many of the major political and social confrontations of the early '60s, especially the burgeoning struggle for civil rights. He describes the 1961 Freedom Ride bus trip that headed
south to defy Jim Crow (James Farmer and six other blacks were horribly beaten when the bus arrived in Birmingham) and the violent riot on the campus of Ole Miss where a young James Meredith, with the backing of Kennedy's Justice Department, the National Guard, and the U.S. Army, became the first
black ever to register at that bastion of the Deep South. Bernstein also examines Kennedy's determined fight to push through education aid bills, raise the minimum wage, establish Medicare and revitalize the American economy and create full employment. Kennedy survived the early stumbles of
inexperience, Bernstein concludes, to become a master of legislative politics. By November of 1963, he had forged a working relationship with a hostile Congress and made the breakthroughs that would lead to the tax cut, the Civil Rights Act, federal aid for education, and Medicare in 1964 and 1965.
A provocative new account of Kennedy's domestic achievements, Promises Kept is the first of a two-volume study of the social and economic reform programs of the 1960s. When complete, it will be a signal contribution to our understanding of recent American history.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
United States -- Politics and government -- 1961-1963.
United States -- Politics and government -- 1963-1969.
United States -- Economic policy -- 1961-1971.
United States -- Social policy.
Kennedy, John F. -- (John Fitzgerald), -- 1917-1963.
Johnson, Lyndon B. -- (Lyndon Baines), -- 1908-1973.