PositiveThe GuardianThis is light hagiography, but well researched and open about its bias: a breezy bio, heavy on Irish Catholic identity. Matthews acknowledges Kennedy’s role in FBI and CIA fiascos and his part on Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist team, but only in a cursory way. In Matthews’ telling, Kennedy slowly turned against McCarthy, who was his father’s friend; his choices on Cuba are cast in terms of honest error and regret ... Matthews does not try to pierce Kennedy’s private grief. Instead he describes his change from a hard-nosed, moralistic enforcer to an ambivalent, more thoughtful leader. If ambition drove Kennedy, Matthews is willing to overlook it. By the end of the book, Matthews sets RFK up as a model for today’s Democrats, and suggests they pursue the coalition of minority voters, young people and white workers that he hoped to build.
MixedThe GuardianO’Donnell, a former Senate staffer and writer on The West Wing, has written a breathless account of 1968 that, like that TV show, recalls endless backroom soap operas ... Though a few moments are written with suspense, like Robert Kennedy’s assassination, O’Donnell rarely strays into the pulp of books by other cable pundits ...style ranges from conversational to dry to staccato bursts...appeal to fans of other political play-by-plays, like Game Change, and readers with progressive politics, though O’Donnell tempers his admiration for McCarthy and RFK with a charting of their flaws ... O’Donnell runs into most trouble when his pop history slips into cable hyperbole.