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Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  295 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
In anticipation of the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination comes this riveting, authoritative portrait of this president and his inner circle of advisers-their rivalries, their personality clashes, their political battles-from one of our most distinguished presidential historians

In his critically acclaimed biography An Unfinished Life, Robert Dallek rev
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Harper
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Feb 19, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
After winning the extremely close election of 1960, JFK was faced with the challenge of all new presidents - transitioning from campaigning to governing - the first task, naming a cabinet and forming a team of advisors. Camelot's Court premise/goal is to provide the reader a detailed view into the workings of the Kennedy White House - the personalities, discussions, differences of opinions and ultimately the decisions made, (or not made), and thus policy. If there was any doubt in your mind, thi ...more
Jun 22, 2016 Dana rated it liked it
It got bogged down for me a lot- all the different foreign policy issues that Kennedy faced got to be a bit much after a while. But what I appreciated was the insight into the life of a president, especially one as storied as JFK. For someone who has not learned much about Kennedy and has a more positive opinion on him, it was interesting to see a different side of him and his family (corrupt, power hungry, and womanizing- although the last one I already knew about). After reading this book, I c ...more
Dec 15, 2013 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
The basic premise of this book - looking at the Kennedy presidency through his interactions with his chief policy advisers - is certainly an interesting one, but having finished it I'm not convinced that it really contributed anything new to the already overwhelming number of books on Kennedy's thousand days in the White House. Dallek is author of one of, in my opinion, the best biographies of Kennedy available - John F Kennedy: An Unfinished Life - and with such a title already in his portfolio ...more
Jack Pearce
Feb 26, 2014 Jack Pearce rated it really liked it
I was sitting in 9th grade civics class one day in 1964 when one of the English teachers came running into our classroom crying and shouting “the president has been shot, the president has been shot.” About a half hour later, the entire school was called into the auditorium and told that John F Kennedy was dead- assassinated. In addition, since this was during the height of the cold war, we were told not to panic because there was no evidence of the Russians being involved. We were not under att ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As if the reader is in the room with the advisers...

Dallek prioritizes diplomacy over domestic affairs, perhaps because that is his specialty and because the latter is so dramatic. The takeaway is that a leader must listen to advisors and then make up his or her mind independently, and that even the best and the brightest are usually going to argue with one another, leaving the president no more certain than before. Kennedy's native instincts saved the world from nuclear holocaust but led to an
Ebster Davis
Mar 08, 2014 Ebster Davis rated it really liked it
This book is an examination of the Kennedy administration from a political and interpersonal perspective.

It is written like a really big research paper, all the dialogue and facts have a source, and I can't imagine the amount of effort it took to do that kind of research.

It's impressive. However unless you are really into history and appreciate academic-style writing, you might not like this book.

(I do enjoy the style, so I didn't mind this.)

In addition, a lot of the book is concerned with wh
Susan Paxton
Dec 02, 2013 Susan Paxton rated it really liked it
An excellent supplement to Dallek's earlier JFK biography An Unfinished Life, this new title details the interactions of JFK with his carefully chosen group of advisors, led by his brother Robert and including luminaries such as Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy. Detailed analyses of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the ongoing reaction of JFK's administration to Vietnam feature, but possibly the most interesting revelation is how JFK came, fairly quickly, to distrust the vast majority of the advic ...more
Robert Sparrenberger
I'm not sure why this book was written other than to pad the author's wallet. Robert Dallek mentions in this book that he wrote a Kennedy bio 10 years ago which I read and found very complete. Also, if one is looking for a comprehensive look at Kennedy's staff, David Halberstam's "The Best and Brightest" is the most complete look at the background's of Kennedy's cabinet. I would recommend those two books for a complete look at Kennedy and the Vietnam War. This book really does not fill any needs ...more
Chip Lichtenwalner
Apr 09, 2014 Chip Lichtenwalner rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Gives what I felt is a good overview of the JFK's presidency in the context of those around him. I haven't read much on Kennedy's era, so most of it was fresh material to me. Kennedy's presidency came at a time when their was great turmoil at home and abroad. Communism was still seen as an ever present threat and the civil rights movement was fighting for equality. I wonder if part of Kennedy's appeal over the years is not only his tragically shortened time there, but also his focus more on fore ...more
Jason George
Mar 23, 2016 Jason George rated it liked it
Dallek's book offers a good balance between the mythical JFK that emerged in the early writings following his death and the revisionism of more recent years that emphasized his hawkishness on foreign policy and relative indifference on issues such as civil rights. Much of the information about JFK's advisors is familiar, although Dallek has clearly benefited from the new archival evidence that has emerged since the publication of David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest, which first broke g ...more
May 16, 2014 Tom rated it it was amazing
Now fifty years since JFK's tragic passing, Dallek may be the first of the "fair and objective" historians to turn back the clock to those seemingly more innocent days. While clearly an admirer of the late president, Dallek wields his pen fairly, noting both the flaws and strengths of this enigmatic man. Most of all, Dallek illuminates the men around Kennedy and their roles in the New Frontier. A very useful piece of scholarship which one and all will enjoy!
Kass Hall
Jan 01, 2015 Kass Hall rated it really liked it
I purchased this book at the Six Floor Museum in Dallas last September. I read "An Unfinished Life" by the same author a decade ago and was interested to read about the people around Kennedy, rather than the President himself. However this was as much about Kennedy as any of his advisors and this is best described as a Kennedy biography of sorts.

What struck me about this volume was:

1. The determination of the military chiefs to go to war with anyone they could - the Soviets, the Cubans, Vietnam
Robert Jones
I'm not really sure I liked what Dallek was trying to do in Camelot's Court. The book faithfully follows the JFK presidency, topic by topic, but it does so through the lens of the brilliant team that surrounded the 35th president of the United States. "The West Wing set in 1960" sounds like a cool premise, but it just ended up muddying the waters too much. The many interesting aspects of Kennedy's presidency were smothered in an avalanche of frankly boring information on boring people. Bobby Ken ...more
Matt Heavner
Aug 05, 2014 Matt Heavner rated it liked it
Perhaps I'm overdosing on these books, but I didn't find this one as good as Isaacson's Kissinger Bio. Similar narratives (although Kissinger is definitely a broader look at a single individual's life, rather than a focus on "All the President's Men"). Similar to Kissinger, I found my simplistic ("cultural") knowledge wasn't doing justice to the complexities.. The space program got small mention, and the domestic issues (racial equality) got a little bit more (mostly followed by "Kennedy didn't ...more
Mike Gabor
Nov 01, 2013 Mike Gabor rated it liked it
Shelves: jfk
Dallek's account of the advisors surrounding President Kennedy. The book was well written but I think it would appeal more to a person who isn't too well read about the Kennedy administration. There really wasn't much in here that I hadn't already read about.
Jim Hammer
Jan 12, 2014 Jim Hammer rated it really liked it
When Kennedy was elected in 1960' he promoted the idea of "flexible response" in dealing with the situations he would be faced with. In selecting his advisers he obtained just that. This book shows how difficult a time Kennedy had governing the United States not solely based on the problems the country faced but also the difficulty he had managing the strong, opinionated circle of advisers he had appointed. Dallek thoroughly, exhaustively researches the Kennedy administration and its quest to de ...more
Aug 08, 2014 Cathy rated it liked it
Well, I finally finished this book. When JFK was assassinated, I was 6 years old in first grade. When I returned to school after lunch, my first grade teacher told my class the horrible news and turned on a radio in our classroom to stay on top of the information. When I came home, my mom was sitting on the couch, folding my baby brother's diapers, in front of the TV set, crying her eyes out. I was absolutely certain at that time that with our president dead, the Russians and/or communists were ...more
Sep 18, 2014 Kevin rated it liked it
A detailed and respectful biographical treatment of Kennedy’s 1000 day term. Thorough and incisive. For those who might not know the persons behind the legend, like me, it was telling as Dallek shares this nuanced and not overly worshipful narrative of the victories and defeats of these two brothers.

Dallek’s previous work, “An Unfinished Life,” a leading bio of Kennedy in 2004 was moving and detailed. This follow up uses recently released material and digs trenchant, unflinching paths through on
Mar 13, 2015 Amanda rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I've read quite a bit about the Kennedy years and, for that reason, perhaps nothing was too surprising in this one. I thought it would be more about the men around Kennedy and their motivations, etc. Instead, it still positioned Kennedy as the sun and these men simply revolving around the source of power. It left me with the impression that Kennedy bumbled around for the next two years of his Administration until the Cuban Missile Crisis and made me want to read the Best and the Brightest, but c ...more
Kathy kennedy
Sep 22, 2014 Kathy kennedy rated it liked it
An analysis of JFK's working relationship with his many advisors, goes to show that the many views of these brilliant people complicated as well as complimented his administration. I was in high school when he was assassinated and was particularly interested in his presidency. I learned some new things about his administration and recall many that I already knew. I think an organizational chart as to who was who would have been a big help, especially keeping the minor players straight. Author is ...more
Peter Geyer
Feb 21, 2016 Peter Geyer rated it really liked it
If you're in my age group (and I don't mean "Generation") then the Presidency of John F Kennedy is a watershed of some kind – the appearance of an engaging, comparatively youthful political personality from another country on black-and-white television), the Cuban Missile Crisis, the beginnings of nuclear disarmament and Diem, Vietnam and what followed. There's also his assassination and what followed in the form of conspiracy theories and the like, which I followed for a while (a mate of mine s ...more
Sarah Beth
Aug 23, 2013 Sarah Beth rated it liked it
I received an Advance Reader Copy from HarperCollins.

Camelot's Court is a detailed, behind the scenes look at Kennedy's time in the White House. It largely details the activity and actions of Kennedy and his close group of advisers during his presidency. The big issues of the day are the main topics of each of the chapters: the Bay of Pigs, the Civil Rights Movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War.

Dallek's book is very well written - thorough, detailed, and easy to follow. Howev
Feb 12, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
Robert Dallek’s forthcoming study of John F. Kennedy’s inner circle, his “Ministry of Talent,” is a strong and comprehensive behind the scenes view of the personalities, issues, and debates of JFK’s brief Presidential administration in the early 1960′s.

Dallek, with respect for Kennedy as President during a turbulent time in American history and politics, takes us behind the scenes of what came to be known as Camelot and allows us to sit with the President in the often turbulent meetings which se
Nov 04, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
Robert Dallek's Unfinished Life (2003) biography is one of the best and balanced treatments of the president's life. Even Ted Kennedy learned something about JFK by reading the biography. So, why another look at this presidency? Well, first, because I am pretty sure Harper Collins was looking to cash in on the 50th Anniversary of the assassination this November. Dallek says that he was at a loss to figure out why, after telling the compelling story he did, that Kennedy recently had an 85 percent ...more
Ted Lehmann
Oct 31, 2013 Ted Lehmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Dallek has followed his successful 2003 biography An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963 with the recently released Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House (Harper, October 2013, 525 pages, $32.50), a dynamic and interesting behind the scenes account of the policy and politics in the Kennedy administration during a period of extremely high international and social stress. Like Lincoln (see Doris Kearns Goodwin's fascinating study Team of Rivals), Kennedy preferred to sur ...more
Washington Post
It is tempting to say of Robert Dallek’s latest book that there’s nothing really new here. The basic story line in “Camelot’s Court” will seem familiar to even casual readers of the vast Kennedy oeuvre, and the major themes struck by Dallek, chiefly that JFK was served badly by his advisers, were sounded by David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest” more than 40 years ago.

Nonetheless, Dallek, whose “An Unfinished Life” (2003) first exposed the severity of JFK’s medical condition, is an assi
Mar 07, 2015 Tore rated it really liked it
Good, focuses on the presidency and in particular the Cuba crisis and relation with the Soviets, and the beginning entanglement in Vietnam. Far from complete biography, but very interesting behind the scenes look at what was discussed during these dangerous days. It's almost incredible how very close we came to a nuclear war, and how bad avice the primary advisors, particularly the Joint Chiefs of Staff, loonies all of them, gave Kennedy.
Jul 15, 2015 Billhotto rated it really liked it
Why does anyone want to be President? Kennedy knew Vietnam involvement was mistake, but couldn't avoid plunging in. Advisors for most part were bigger problem than help--either they told him what he wanted to hear or pushed their own agenda. Need to appear tough overwhelmed common sense. Congress was fractious, military was irresponsible, press was second guessing, domestic issues, especially civil rights were overdue, other foreign policy issues were pressing. "Lessons " from WW II inhibited cl ...more
Robert Hoffman
Nov 10, 2013 Robert Hoffman rated it liked it
Three factors draw the reader to Dr Dallek's Camelot's Court: The success of DK Goodwin's Team of Rivals, which recounts the interaction of Lincoln and his advisors; Dr Dallek's prior work on JFK, An Unfinished Life, one of the better single volumes on JFK; and of course, the 50th anniversary of his death. There is plenty to quibble on the writing, the editing (Watergate was in '72, not '68), and the lack of revelations, but what makes the book worthwhile is its focus on the challenges of presid ...more
Nov 03, 2014 Scott rated it it was amazing
I have read multiple books on President Kennedy’s administration but found this one to be one of the best. It provided a deep dive into the topics of Vietnam, Cuba, Soviet Union and the US Civil Rights movement. But what I found most interesting was the in-depth study of the men who surrounded the president. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in American history.
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Robert Dallek is the author of 'Nixon and Kissinger', a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and 'An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963', among other books. His writing has appeared in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Vanity Fair. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society of American Historians, for which he served as preside ...more
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