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The Dark Side of Camelot

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,927 ratings  ·  165 reviews
If the Kennedys are America's royal family, then John F. Kennedy was the nation's crown prince. Magnetic, handsome, and charismatic, his perfectly coifed image overshadowed the successes and failures of his presidency, and his assassination cemented his near-mythological status in American culture and politics. Struck down in his prime, he represented the best and the brig ...more
Paperback, 498 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Back Bay Books (first published 1997)
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The basic theory the author of this book Seymour M. Hersh puts forward is that John F. Kennedy was a bad President because he was a bad person.

Mr. Hersh seems to think that in order to be an effective leader, you have to be a person of good character.

As much as I wish this was true, I'm just not that naive. Bill Clinton is not a man of great character but most people seem to agree that he was a pretty good President ( despite that whole Impeachment thing). Jimmy Carter is a good man. He's a mi
Aaron Johnston
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
A lot has been written about the Kennedy administration, and a great number of those books, if not the vast majority, paint Kennedy as a national treasure, a shrewd negotiator, and a champion of Civil Rights, space exploration, and global democracy. He was the people's president. A loving family man adored by photographers, the press, and the public alike.

This is not that book.

This is the truth. John F. Kennedy was a terrible human being. A sexual predator. A drug addict. A crook. A plotter, sc
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lurid, americans, curiosa
"Drinking and partying became constant features of presidential travel."

I press this book on people all the time. No one believes me when I cite the most tawdry Kennedy stories, so I have to point them to Hersh's interviews with Secret Service agents who observed close-up the bacchanal that was the JFK entourage. In addition to those interviews, the stuff on Joseph P. Kennedy is fascinating--what a beast! It took a political master like FDR to checkmate him.
Sep 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference-books
Well, that was life-alteringly depressing.

I have never been a great Kennedy fan, but I've also never been a huge detractor. I was aware of some womanizing "issues" (although I had no idea the extent), and that the Bay of Pigs was a total cluster fudge, but beyond worse d that I really had no opinion. Good things, bad things, seemed like the normal mix of a presidency, just more extreme in some areas.

It was...a little than I thought, and the author destroyed virtually any possibility of a positi
Apr 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
I think I need to put this disclaimer in first. I am a fan of John F. Kennedy. I do have my own strong opinions about his career and his life. However, I do see myself still able to review books without a huge amount of bias. Mainly because I am aware of this potential bias from the outset.

The reason why I did not like this book is because most of the accusations the author spews is unsubstaintiated. He gives many "unnamed sources" which completely dissolves his argument in my view. If you are g
Mike H
Jun 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
Interesting information and details, but Hersh is more than a bit repetitive, telling the same story over and over again. And Hersh is more than a bit repetitive, telling the same story over and over again. And Hersh is more than a bit repetitive, telling the same story over and over again. Yup, that's exactly how it feels to read this book.

And I got very tired of reading the phrase "in an interview for this book....."; Yeah, I get it, you conducted interviews for the book. I figured that out on
Pete daPixie
From the other side of the Atlantic I have kept a fascination on the assassinations of not just JFK, but also his brother and Martin Luther King. I lived through these times and over the decades I have accumulated rather a large personal collection of books on these killings. To widen my studies I also include prominent biographies and many other Kennedy tomes. I have visited the States to attend conferences on JFK's killing and I contribute articles on this topic to a U.K. research journal.

As H
Jul 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Hersh's thesis is that JFK's moral weaknesses limited his ability to fulfill his duties as President; and that, moreover, the image of JFK as the devout Catholic and focused President, who was fully committed to the well being of his family and country, is more myth than fact. His thesis is proven through interviews and documentation, which indicate extensive adultery and corruption.

The book serves as both a challenge and a caution. It's a challenge to those who would allow a politician's charis
Oct 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I was intrigued by Kennedy's presidency after reading Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy", but found myself completely disturbed by the accounts reported in this book. If only a quater of these accounts are accuate, it's disturbing - not just the womanizing, but the path to election and the cover-up of mistakes. I guess I never really looked into the claims and rumors I had previously heard and like most Americans of my generation just accepted the accounts of the Kennedy dream presidency. We've f ...more
It is OK, but I personally found it a bit droll.

A lot of the material seems to be exclusive, as the author continuously reminds us. The subject is very interesting and the events that are discussed, are amazing too... I just didn't feel the writing flow. Several times I found myself nodding off.

It is not a bad book, but it lacks rhythm and all I got out of it was a list of bullet points. I suppose there is plenty of material out there to compare against and to try and get more detail. Though, th
Jan 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Alan by: A friend who hasn' read it.
Seymour Hersh obviously didn't win Pulitzer prizes on the merits of this book which reads more like a gossip rag than a serious study of the Camelot years. While I admit to being one of those who wants to believe in the myth I have heard much of this before and much more that I for one don't want to hear at all. Salacious, mean spirited and somewhat poorly documented much reads like hearsay and hearsay from people who in a court of law wouldn't be given much credence. I've had enough...
Peter Corrigan
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you woke up from a 40-year nap and still believed much good about the Kennedys, this heavily researched account by a NYT guy should end that silly notion. When you compare JFK and his vaunted family with the one all the leftists and media loves to despise today there is really no comparison (at least what we know today)! Poor Donald seems a saint compared to these guys. Stolen elections, actual real mob-connections, misogyny (#metoo, haha), assassinator-in-chief (Trujillo of the DR, Diem of S ...more
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I just finished reading The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour M. Hersh. Hersh is a digger, and I've read plenty of his magazine articles over the years. This was my first time reading one of his books - boy, did he find out plenty about John F. Kennedy and his life hidden from the public eye. Yeah, we all know about the sex, but not to the degree Hersh describes. And we know Kennedy got the U.S. into Vietnam, but not the level of involvement Hersh charges him in keeping us there longer than we sho ...more
Jeff Breiwick
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Should be required reading for anyone who grew up during the sixties.
James Carter
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I laugh whenever somebody says, "I've always admired John F. Kennedy." He is the kind of a person I would want to punch in the face because it's clear that he was prejudiced by JFK's looks and/or the quality of his speeches of which he never wrote.

Now, forget that JFK was a Democrat. It doesn't matter if he could have theoretically been a Republican. It makes no difference really. Politicians are politicians. They are corrupt, dirty, and, most of all, criminal.

Seymour M. Hersh's The Dark Side
As a huge fan of JFK's, knowing full well he was a flawed man in more ways than one, I struggled with this book and feel a little ambivalent towards it and its author. Overall I wasn't particularly surprised at all the wheeling and dealing that went on within the Oval office and between the brothers as well as between JFK and many others. Nor did I necessarily have "rose coloured" glasses about the main players and the era they operated in. What really annoyed me was the fact that a lot of what ...more
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The usual set of provocative revelations from Seymour Hersh. My own copy was extensively annotated by a previous reader who disagreed with most of the author's views, which made the text more dialogue than monologue, but, marginalia aside, the material on JFK's obsession with Castro and Cuba was particularly interesting.
C. Scott
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love Seymour Hersh. Anyone who is familiar with his work will recognize his unmistakable Joe Friday style right away. Just the facts.

The wry evocation of Camelot in the title is particularly amusing. The story Hersh tells is one of a million lit matches threatening to immolate the Kennedy Administration at any given time. The Kennedy brothers, especially Bobby, apparently spent that famous 1000 days blowing out those matches as quickly as they could. Lurid tales of mob influence, secret assass
Greg Strandberg
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
And to think - I used to have a good opinion of JFK.

Evil is a good word that comes to mind when I think of him now. Of course, maybe if he'd ever had the courage to stand up to his domineering father, things would have turned out differently. Perhaps he wouldn't have needed "a strange piece of ass" a day to sate his insatiable sexual appetite.

Perhaps he wouldn't have needed to bribe West Virginia officials with $10,000 each to win the primary there in 1960.

Perhaps he wouldn't have ferried money
Jul 23, 2011 added it
Shelves: reviewed
Hersh's take on JFK is oddly bifurcated (then again, JFK's personality was too) as he tends to alternate chapters about Kennedy's sexual rapacity and other peccadilloes with chapters about policy issues. (Of course, these often intersect, as in the infamous "contract for General Dynamics to build a plane that didn't fly, instead of Boeing to build one that would have worked, in exchange for GD officials not blackmailing JFK over his affair with Judith Campbell Exner" deal.) One wonders how JFK f ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I want to start by saying that I did like this book. I thought it had a lot of great information and a lot of great gossip, which I love. I definitely learned things about the Kennedys and his presidency that I did not know before, and the things I did know I felt like Hersh shined a new light on them. Hersh did his research and you can tell in this book. The things that I didn't like are mostly things that I as a reader just don't enjoy. Names. So many many names. Its hard to keep track of whos ...more
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was handsome, witty, and charismatic. His short (1000 days) presidency ended violently and tragically, giving rise to unbounded speculation about what might have been. The cold warrior's administration was marked by the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the construction of the Berlin Wall, a limited nuclear test ban treaty, the nascent space program, a growing involvement in Viet Nam, and high and inspiring rhetoric. In the aftermath of his assass ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
If you want to learn to detest, but probably remain fascinated by, the Kennedy family, read this book and that by Collier and Horowitz, The Kennedys. The former is a take from the liberal side, the latter from the far right, but both have substantial points of agreement, particularly about the personal lives of Joseph Sr. and John F. Kennedy. (Their portrayals of Robert F. Kennedy, however, sharply diverge.)

By extension, both books also suggest quite a lot about how power and wealth corrupt thro
Joan Carrigan
May 13, 2008 rated it liked it
A sad but true story of the philandering president Kennedy and his sex history. How amazing that he had a bout of chlamydia while the Cuban Missle Crisis was going on. No wonder Americans aren't allowed in Cuba!
Sep 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Privilege, excess and entitlement are the overshadowing themes of this book. While deftly written, it details the lives of the prior generations of Kennedy men much more than I imagined or wanted to know.
Brendan Steinhauser
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read about the dark side of JFK, RFK and the yes men around them. The case against them is pretty shocking and repulsive, if you believe the charges that the author makes in this book. Definitely worth a read for all students of American history.
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is awesome. I am so disappointed in Jack Kennedy, he was nothing but a "pretty face", a crook thru and thru and that goes for his brother as well.
This book should be required reading for all high school students.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Kennedy clan was even trashier than I'd imagined; reading about them gave me a needed break from Election 2016.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
I read this book at least a decade ago and apparently never reviewed it. Having just read "Reporter," and seeing this at my current library, I gave it a quick re-read.

This is a mishmash with many highlights and many lowlights. Let's start with the lowlights.

Hersh is at his weakest on the “stolen election” chapter in this book.

First, there were allegations the GOP stole (and regularly stole, not just this election) votes in downstate Illinois. Second, Jack’s margin was just about exactly that of
F.C. Schaefer
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Seymour Hersh's THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT came out almost 20 years ago now and was quite a sensation with its tabloid tales of lying, manipulating, and infidelity by John F. Kennedy during his rise to power and in the White House. I remember the book being a bestseller around the time of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and it was cited with glee by many on the right wing as documented proof that all Democrats were immoral and sexually degenerate. When I recently picked up Hersh's book, I wondered ho ...more
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Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. He has also won two National Magazine Awards and is a "five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award."

He first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the

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