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The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s exhilarating and tragic 1968 campaign for president—a revelatory history that is especially resonant now After John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy—formerly Jack’s no-holds-barred political warrior—almost lost hope. He was haunted by his brother’s murder, and by the nation’ The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s exhilarating and tragic 1968 campaign for president—a revelatory history that is especially resonant now After John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy—formerly Jack’s no-holds-barred political warrior—almost lost hope. He was haunted by his brother’s murder, and by the nation’s seeming inabilities to solve its problems of race, poverty, and the war in Vietnam. Bobby sensed the country’s pain, and when he announced that he was running for president, the country united behind his hopes. Over the action-packed eighty-two days of his campaign, Americans were inspired by Kennedy’s promise to lead them toward a better time. And after an assassin’s bullet stopped this last great stirring public figure of the 1960s, crowds lined up along the country’s railroad tracks to say goodbye to Bobby. With new research, interviews, and an intimate sense of Kennedy, Thurston Clarke provides an absorbing historical narrative that goes right to the heart of America’s deepest despairs—and most fiercely held dreams—and tells us more than we had understood before about this complicated man and the heightened personal, racial, political, and national dramas of his times.


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The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s exhilarating and tragic 1968 campaign for president—a revelatory history that is especially resonant now After John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy—formerly Jack’s no-holds-barred political warrior—almost lost hope. He was haunted by his brother’s murder, and by the nation’ The definitive account of Robert Kennedy’s exhilarating and tragic 1968 campaign for president—a revelatory history that is especially resonant now After John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy—formerly Jack’s no-holds-barred political warrior—almost lost hope. He was haunted by his brother’s murder, and by the nation’s seeming inabilities to solve its problems of race, poverty, and the war in Vietnam. Bobby sensed the country’s pain, and when he announced that he was running for president, the country united behind his hopes. Over the action-packed eighty-two days of his campaign, Americans were inspired by Kennedy’s promise to lead them toward a better time. And after an assassin’s bullet stopped this last great stirring public figure of the 1960s, crowds lined up along the country’s railroad tracks to say goodbye to Bobby. With new research, interviews, and an intimate sense of Kennedy, Thurston Clarke provides an absorbing historical narrative that goes right to the heart of America’s deepest despairs—and most fiercely held dreams—and tells us more than we had understood before about this complicated man and the heightened personal, racial, political, and national dramas of his times.

30 review for The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke is an excellent book. It is an inspiring book, a heart warming and tragic book, and a book that filled my heart with hope and sorrow. I wish we had a Bobby Kennedy right now that could reach out and pull people together like he could. Someone that could call for peace and coming together rather than shattering the populace. Someone that is honest and caring, that wants the poor and middle class to have more The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke is an excellent book. It is an inspiring book, a heart warming and tragic book, and a book that filled my heart with hope and sorrow. I wish we had a Bobby Kennedy right now that could reach out and pull people together like he could. Someone that could call for peace and coming together rather than shattering the populace. Someone that is honest and caring, that wants the poor and middle class to have more, do better, to achieve higher, and for us all to care for each other. Dreams, he had them. We don't have dreams now...we have a nightmare come true.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vivian Valvano

    Bobby Kennedy was one of my idols and heroes. I bought this book as soon as it was published, but just got up the courage to read it recently. It strengthens and cements my beliefs that my beloved country would be a very different, and better, place had Bobby become President. Moreover, it elucidates for me, as much as a book possibly can, that he was a tremendously gifted and sincere human being with more empathy and more desire for justice than anyone else that I have known of in the world of Bobby Kennedy was one of my idols and heroes. I bought this book as soon as it was published, but just got up the courage to read it recently. It strengthens and cements my beliefs that my beloved country would be a very different, and better, place had Bobby become President. Moreover, it elucidates for me, as much as a book possibly can, that he was a tremendously gifted and sincere human being with more empathy and more desire for justice than anyone else that I have known of in the world of politics and government. When I was young and JFK was President, I never thought I could respect another government figure as much as I respected and loved him. I always loved Bobby, but his work after his brother's assassination, his concern for civil rights and for the poor and for the children of the country, his work during his 1968 campaign caused him to grow exponentially in my view. Reading this book was a very poignant experience for me. I read it with many tears and many memories and many thoughts of what might have been.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Reading this was like watching the Titanic leave Southampton in April of 1912. You know exactly what's going to transpire yet you just cannot pull your gaze away. So it was for Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the spring of 1968 when he enters the race for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. This is five years after the nadir of the "New Frontier" and four years after Lyndon Johnson embroiled us in the eternal quagmire of what was Vietnam. January, 1968 produced one of Reading this was like watching the Titanic leave Southampton in April of 1912. You know exactly what's going to transpire yet you just cannot pull your gaze away. So it was for Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the spring of 1968 when he enters the race for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. This is five years after the nadir of the "New Frontier" and four years after Lyndon Johnson embroiled us in the eternal quagmire of what was Vietnam. January, 1968 produced one of the most damning and consequential military failure in all history: the Tet Offensive. This was exactly what caused the legendary American newsman Walter Cronkite to proclaim that (on a visit.to Vietnam) he didn't believe the war itself could ever be won and that the American side found itself in a type of stalemate with their Vietnamese counterparts. It was hearing Cronkite's dubious proclamation that caused LBJ to state emphatically that "if I've lost Cronkite then I've lost middle America." This is where Robert Kennedy, waiting in the wings, springs into action pouncing on the (as he sees it - heinously bad) programs and policies of the Johnson administration. Of course as we all should already know, RFK and LBJ had a deep longtime mutual contempt for each other. So, just the fact that RFK was out there bashing his programs and policies nonetheless was enough to cause LBJ's latent enmity towards RFK to blossom into a full-fledged paranoia. The result of this paranoia (as RFK is criss-crossing America spewing his vitriol towards the Vietnam war and the Johnson administration) is cause enough for Lyndon Johnson to concede and state to the nation that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination to serve as president for another term. Well, this as we all obviously know by now, was nothing short of political dynamite that blew the race for the Democratic nomination wide open. RFK, through a combination of sheer luck, fortitude and definite political campaign savvy and gravitas found his wings. He ratcheted up important first place primary wins in Kansas, Indiana, Nebraska and North Dakota before falling short and coming in second in Oregon (this was the first time in their storied family history that a Kennedy didn't take first place in either a primary or an election) before continuing on to his quixotic, triumphant albeit fatal apotheosis in the state of California. Along the way, Kennedy gives what I consider to be (next to FDR's 1941 Declaration of War and his own brother's 1961 Inaugural Address) one of the seminal speeches in all American History: his unscripted comments on the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. To me, this speech and the entire story behind it was the highlight of this book. In conclusion, it's hard to read this (as good as it is) knowing what we know now about the death of Robert F. Kennedy. We know how the book ends even before we pick it up and start it ourselves. In short, whenever I think of Robert Kennedy and what he would have done for this nation as President of the United States I think of how different this country would be today and just how much better off we as a nation would be right now. Frankly, I think he would have been a better president than his brother was. But, for eighty-two days in the spring of 1968, Robert Kennedy, like his brother John gave this country one, brief shining moment of hope and glory whose like will never be seen again. ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2008.

  4. 5 out of 5

    KOMET

    This year marks 50 YEARS since Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) embarked upon what was, at its outset, a seemingly quixotic quest for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and ultimately, the Presidency itself. From the time Kennedy declared himself a candidate on March 16, 1968 in the Senate Caucus Room (where 8 years earlier, his older brother, Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts, had declared his candidacy for the Presidency in 1960 - leading to a successf This year marks 50 YEARS since Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) embarked upon what was, at its outset, a seemingly quixotic quest for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and ultimately, the Presidency itself. From the time Kennedy declared himself a candidate on March 16, 1968 in the Senate Caucus Room (where 8 years earlier, his older brother, Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts, had declared his candidacy for the Presidency in 1960 - leading to a successful presidential campaign which Robert Kennedy himself had managed), he was resented as an opportunist because he had waited until Senator Eugene McCarthy's (D-MN) surprising second place finish to LBJ in the New Hampshire primary a short time earlier to throw his hat in the ring. For the first two weeks of the campaign, Kennedy's main focus was highlighting the retreat of the Johnson Administration from some of its Great Society programs and the disastrous Vietnam policy - with his urging that the war be ended, leaving the South Vietnamese themselves to secure their sovereignty. Then LBJ announced at month's end that he wouldn't run for an additional term as President. That compelled Kennedy to change the impetus of his campaign, laying renewed emphasis on dealing with issues of poverty, civil rights, Native American and Chicano rights. Clarke does an excellent job of showing how the campaign unfolded with Kennedy boldly campaigning in both the Indiana and Nebraska primaries in the aftermath of Dr. King's assassination. Both states had strong Republican bases, which JFK had failed to carry in 1960. Though at heart a shy and sensitive person, Kennedy made it a point throughout his campaign of being direct, honest and among the people whom he wanted to vote for him. Many times, he would be mobbed by his supporters who came to see Kennedy as a politician who would do what he said he would do to address their needs and concerns. He was the one politician in that campaign who came to bridge the gap between Black and white, rich and poor, young and old. The climax of the campaign for Robert Kennedy would be the California primary of June 4, 1968. Before focusing his efforts on California, Robert Kennedy had journeyed to Columbus, OH, to speak with members of the uncommitted Ohio delegation. Kenny O’Donnell [who had been Kennedy's roommate at Harvard and later worked as a close aide to President Kennedy] helped to organize this meeting, stressing to Kennedy NOT to be late. Well, Kennedy ended up mixing with supporters on the streets of Columbus and ended up 3 hours late. It didn’t look good when Kennedy belatedly arrived in that hotel. “He walked into a room filled with angry, sullen, and inebriated delegates, and saved himself by delivering what O’Donnell called ‘the best damn speech I have ever heard in my life.’ “ “O’Donnell was ecstatic, saying later, ‘He knew just what they wanted to hear and acted as if he loved being there…. He just handled himself beautifully. He was his brother. It was fantastic. The women just went ga-ga over him. They were unanimous – all the old pros were taken aback by how much they liked him. This was not the Bob Kennedy they had read about. This was not the ruthless arrogant young fellow. All they kept saying was, ‘He’s just like Jack! He’s just like Jack!’ I knew he could go all the way, then. Once he had California in his pocket, he would have Daley and all the pros were going to love him. I was never worried about the general election.” Then tragedy ensued. I have long admired both President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy for their service and devotion to humanity and their promotion of public service as an agency for improving peoples' lives. To Thurston Clarke I am grateful for giving me a tangible sense of what the 1968 campaign was like, as well as access to the accounts of various personalities who played key and unsung roles in that campaign. For though I was alive in 1968, I was much too young to have any memories of that year's historical events. For anyone reading this review who finds him/herself wanting to know more about Robert Kennedy, I recommend the following 2 books ~ i) ROBERT KENNEDY: His Life by Evan Thomas ii) BOBBY KENNEDY: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    "What other reason do we have really for [our] existence as human beings unless we've made some other contribution to somebody else to improve their own lives?" There is a moment for me, at the end of any book I read about Robert Kennedy where he finishes his speech at the Ambassador Hotel and heads toward the kitchen. In this moment, a feeling of dread washes over me and I scream to myself, “Don’t listen to the man telling you to take the shortcut through the kitchen Bobby! Go through the crow "What other reason do we have really for [our] existence as human beings unless we've made some other contribution to somebody else to improve their own lives?" There is a moment for me, at the end of any book I read about Robert Kennedy where he finishes his speech at the Ambassador Hotel and heads toward the kitchen. In this moment, a feeling of dread washes over me and I scream to myself, “Don’t listen to the man telling you to take the shortcut through the kitchen Bobby! Go through the crowd like you always have!” But despite my protests, despite my pleas, he always does. And each time he does the world changes and becomes a little darker than it might’ve been otherwise. Thurston Clarke’s “The Last Campaign” takes the reader on the 82 day journey from March to June 1968 where Robert Kennedy ran for President. It is perhaps fair to say the world has seen nothing like those three moths before or since. Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King, LBJ declining to run for a second term, America’s streets on fire, and then there was Bobby. This awkward man with the halting speech who liked to quote poetry was talking about reconciliation and justice at a time when America was burning around him. While men like Hubert Humphrey were standing in front of Democratic powerbrokers at fancy ballrooms saying things like: "Here we are, the way politics ought to be in America: the politics of happiness, the politics of purpose and the politics of joy! And that's the way it's going to be, too, all the way from here on out." Bobby was visiting Indian reservations. He was shouting at businessmen gathered to hear him speak who when asked if the government should be spending money on rat control in the inner city responded: “Instead, his voice turned hard and he said, "Do you know there are more rats in New York than people, and there are nine million people there?" This was met with nervous laughter. Jim Osborne believes that no one in the room had been to New York, and most assumed Kennedy was joking.Kennedy's face tightened and the veins on his neck bulged. Speaking slowly and deliberately, and perhaps remembering the girl in Brooklyn whose face had been scarred by rat bites, he said, ‘DON'T LAUGH!’ " This was a Bobby far removed from the cold warrior who was on the staff of Joseph McCarthy, who wiretapped MLK’s phone as Attorney General, this was a man who traveled America and saw such poverty and suffering that he carried it with him for the rest of his short life. He carried it in his words and his face and America responded. His events were more like rock concerts than campaign stops. He was mobbed, grabbed at, items of his clothing stolen, and yet no matter where he went he continued to talk of the other America. To poor people he talked of poverty. To rich people he talked about poverty. To students he talked of poverty and how dismayed he was at how “comfortable” they were. One such exchange would provide the short campaign’s defining moment: “a student called the neighborhood clinics that Kennedy was proposing unneeded and costly. Another asked why he wanted to increase social security payments to the elderly. Another questioned why it mattered that ghetto health centers were second-rate, since most Negroes did not bother using them anyway. Another raised the issue of funding again, saying, ‘All these programs sound very fine and nice and all that, but where's the money gonna come from?’ As at Columbia, Kennedy had finally had enough. ‘From you!’ he barked, pointing a finger at the student who had asked the question. He pointed at the youth with the Reagan balloon and said, ‘From you,’ then went around the hall, jabbing his finger and shouting, ‘From you! ... You! . . . You! .. . You!’. " For Bobby, America had for too long neglected its moral center. It had become a country of accumulation of things rather than an accumulation of communities: "Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things," he said. "Our gross national product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but the GNP, if we should judge America by that, counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead . . . and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage ... it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans." Does any politician today believe this? Or if they do, they courage to say this? I was struck by how a statement like this in 1968 seems so impossible to utter in 2018 where every part of our public life is monetized with a shrug of acceptance that this is what America means. We quibble over tax credits for middle income families or how to ensure that health care remains in the free market, and yet Native Americans continued to suffer as they did in Bobby’s day. Rat infested tenements continue to exist just as they did in Bobby’s day. Endemic poverty and racism continue just as they did in Bobby’s day. I don’t believe, and perhaps he didn’t either, that Bobby was the panacea that would’ve fundamentally altered these stains on the American soul. But the conversation at the very least would have continued under a Kennedy presidency. He would not have a allowed the “comfortable” to ignore how vast swaths of other Americans were being forced to live. A Kennedy presidency would’ve at minimum spared us five more years of Vietnam, Richard Nixon and the erosion of trust in democratic institutions, and maybe even Ronald Reagan. A Kennedy presidency would’ve provided hope for a country desperately in need of it. "Decency is at the heart of this whole campaign. . . . Poverty is indecent. Illiteracy is indecent. The death, the maiming of brave young men in the swamps of Vietnam . . . that is also indecent. And it is indecent for a man to work with his back and his hands in the valleys of California without ever having hope of sending his son on to college. This is also indecent." America had once been "the kind of country that stood for decency and for justice, for confidence and for hope," he said. "But now sometimes it seems we have become something else." Please don’t go into the kitchen Bobby. Walk into the endless crowd that stretches through time and space. Where we need you most.

  6. 5 out of 5

    William

    Wonderfully detailed book about Robert Kennedy's tragic 1968 campaign. While Clarke's book describes a Robert Kennedy who is fun, intelligent, sympathetic to minorities' causes (particularly African-Americans' fight for civil rights), as well as occasionally cold and solitary, his book nonetheless sometimes veers towards hero-worshiping. I have nothing against Robert Kennedy, in fact I count him amongst my personal heroes, however, despite my favoritism for Kennedy when I started reading this bo Wonderfully detailed book about Robert Kennedy's tragic 1968 campaign. While Clarke's book describes a Robert Kennedy who is fun, intelligent, sympathetic to minorities' causes (particularly African-Americans' fight for civil rights), as well as occasionally cold and solitary, his book nonetheless sometimes veers towards hero-worshiping. I have nothing against Robert Kennedy, in fact I count him amongst my personal heroes, however, despite my favoritism for Kennedy when I started reading this book, even I found myself questioning Clarke's over-enthusiastic portrayal of RFK. What this book does accomplish, and very well, is giving us a glimpse at a man who could have been one of our greatest presidents. Unfortunately, we will never know what kind of a leader Robert Kennedy would have been, but his campaign alone can give one hope that there are people (and politicians!) who do care about the non-rich, non-white constituents. Clarke's book is filled with anecdotes from the Kennedy campaign team that, for someone who knows about RFK already, will find captivating. Despite the occasional hero-worship slant of the writing that I mentioned above, what Clarke does brilliantly is humanize Kennedy, make him seem more immediate years after his passing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This was a great book. Because I am old enough to remember what it was like that awful Spring in 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered and then Bobby Kennedy, I really appreciated having these events put into context. RFK's final 3 months were really amazing and, of course, beyond heartbreaking. I was only 9 years but I was enamoured with the man. I was living in San Diego on June 5, 1968 and was listening to the radio, following closely the primary results. I feel asleep with it on, kn This was a great book. Because I am old enough to remember what it was like that awful Spring in 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered and then Bobby Kennedy, I really appreciated having these events put into context. RFK's final 3 months were really amazing and, of course, beyond heartbreaking. I was only 9 years but I was enamoured with the man. I was living in San Diego on June 5, 1968 and was listening to the radio, following closely the primary results. I feel asleep with it on, knowing Kennedy had won and was likely going to be the next president. When I woke up in the morning to the horrible news, it was like a real nightmare...This book is really well documented and researched.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    If RFK wasn't already my hero, he would be after reading this book. This really was the last "true" campaign and there has never been another 82 days like this in our history. It's a compelling and fascinating journey made all the more poignant by the inevitable ending. Robert Kennedy is one of history's great what "ifs" in life. He brought us hope, and still brings us hope today, but the yearning is still there, and I think it always will be. America missed out on something great-a politician l If RFK wasn't already my hero, he would be after reading this book. This really was the last "true" campaign and there has never been another 82 days like this in our history. It's a compelling and fascinating journey made all the more poignant by the inevitable ending. Robert Kennedy is one of history's great what "ifs" in life. He brought us hope, and still brings us hope today, but the yearning is still there, and I think it always will be. America missed out on something great-a politician like we will probably never see again. This book shares memories of the man we wish we could have back again and is one of the best books ever written on him. Share the journey and read this book. You won't be disappointed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marsinay

    4.5 * A book which clearly shows the benefit of having more than 40 years hindsight in analyzing a series of polarizing events throughout a tumultuous time (aka, the 1960s). This is a comprehensive, balanced and insightful overview of RFK’s 1968 presidential campaign. Robert Kennedy comes across as warm and human in his role as the awkward and initially reluctant hero. My one complaint was the heavy-handed foreshadowing included throughout, which felt overly dramatic. The events were tragic enou 4.5 * A book which clearly shows the benefit of having more than 40 years hindsight in analyzing a series of polarizing events throughout a tumultuous time (aka, the 1960s). This is a comprehensive, balanced and insightful overview of RFK’s 1968 presidential campaign. Robert Kennedy comes across as warm and human in his role as the awkward and initially reluctant hero. My one complaint was the heavy-handed foreshadowing included throughout, which felt overly dramatic. The events were tragic enough without that unnecessary emphasis. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed reading this.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    This book made me so sad. It's difficult to believe that, at some point in time, we actually had politicians who cared more about others than themselves. The images of Bobby cradling a dirty child, or allowing people to grab at him everywhere he went even as loud noises made him flinch, or choosing locations to visit based on who needed more help rather than who had more money or voting power...... I was simply done in when, in his first lucid moment after being shot, he asked, "Is everyone else This book made me so sad. It's difficult to believe that, at some point in time, we actually had politicians who cared more about others than themselves. The images of Bobby cradling a dirty child, or allowing people to grab at him everywhere he went even as loud noises made him flinch, or choosing locations to visit based on who needed more help rather than who had more money or voting power...... I was simply done in when, in his first lucid moment after being shot, he asked, "Is everyone else alright?" *sobbing*

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Terrell

    Robert F. Kennedy was my first real life hero. As I read this book and moved toward that horrible June 4 evening in Los Angeles, I desperately wanted to somehow reach out and stop RFK from walking toward that kitchen where Sirhan Sirhan was waiting. Robert Kennedy was so different as a candidate - as a hope for America in a time of domestic turmoil that those who were not living then can not truly understand. Yet RFK could reach across the gap -- touching blacks and George Wallace blue collar sup Robert F. Kennedy was my first real life hero. As I read this book and moved toward that horrible June 4 evening in Los Angeles, I desperately wanted to somehow reach out and stop RFK from walking toward that kitchen where Sirhan Sirhan was waiting. Robert Kennedy was so different as a candidate - as a hope for America in a time of domestic turmoil that those who were not living then can not truly understand. Yet RFK could reach across the gap -- touching blacks and George Wallace blue collar supporters with the same message. He did not coddle voters but challenged them to be better. He spoke not in political platitudes, but spoke of the soul and of finding meaning in our lives. He talked of the need for humans to care for each other. This book captures those fateful 82 days of American politics - American history. The author details Kennedy's words, his moods, his dealings with Black Panthers and Nebraska farmers, and we are left to marvel that such a man lived -- and to wonder what would have happened had he not died. The book is perhaps a bit strong on praise and a offers a bit too many excuses for RFK's shortcomings -- He was human, after all. And there are a few places where the writing is repetitive. But this book is a powerful revisiting of a time now relegated to history. A time in America that truly was the worst of times -- and the best of times.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Browne

    This is a very interesting book and a very quick read. There is a lot of anecdotal information, and although everyone knows how it will end, it still brings tears to the eyes of the reader. Not alone was his assassination heartbreaking but when one thinks about what a different country we might now have had his life not been cut so short, it compounds the grief. The book reads more like a newspaper story than a book. it is a shame that Clarke didn't interweave his information into a better narra This is a very interesting book and a very quick read. There is a lot of anecdotal information, and although everyone knows how it will end, it still brings tears to the eyes of the reader. Not alone was his assassination heartbreaking but when one thinks about what a different country we might now have had his life not been cut so short, it compounds the grief. The book reads more like a newspaper story than a book. it is a shame that Clarke didn't interweave his information into a better narrative.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    First, I must say that I am a fan of narrowly scoped biographies. So much more can be learned by focusing on a small, rather specific, event or period of time as opposed to trying to capture a man or woman's entire life into one book. By focusing on the 82 days between Bobby Kennedy's announcement that he would run for President and the night of his assassination, Clarke was able to show the ebbs and flows of Kennedy's final days. In this book, we are able to see development of campaign. Through First, I must say that I am a fan of narrowly scoped biographies. So much more can be learned by focusing on a small, rather specific, event or period of time as opposed to trying to capture a man or woman's entire life into one book. By focusing on the 82 days between Bobby Kennedy's announcement that he would run for President and the night of his assassination, Clarke was able to show the ebbs and flows of Kennedy's final days. In this book, we are able to see development of campaign. Through the pages, we witness Robert Kennedy throwing his full person into his bid to win the Democratic nomination. I never knew how much his desire to become President consumed him. Obviously, we know how the story ends. How we get there is fascinating. Through the memories and memoirs of those who traveled the country with him during those 82 days, we are with Kennedy when he finds out Lyndon Johnson decided not to seek re-election. We are with him in the hours and days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are with him when he loses the Oregon primary and becomes the first Kennedy to lose an election. It is amazing to me that after 40 years, Clarke was able to paint such an emotional portrait of the man, that he was able to provide a very clear picture of what seemingly made the man tick. I must also laud the author for refraining from taking potshots at those with dissimilar political views. That never makes for good reading. As it stands, I think The Last Campaign is just about as good as it could be. If it feels incomplete, it is only because Robert Kennedy's life was. I highly recommend it for anyone with any interest in Bobby Kennedy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Neumann

    I'd like to write a lengthier review of this book later, after I have an opportunity to meet with my friends to discuss this at our book club (my first ever...apparently I'm all growns up). Suffice it to say, I did not love this book. In fact, I didn't even like it that much. I felt that most of the book bordered on hero worship, to the point that I could not form an objective opinion about Kennedy's storied '68 campaign. That said, I ultimately gave "The Last Campaign" two stars rather than one I'd like to write a lengthier review of this book later, after I have an opportunity to meet with my friends to discuss this at our book club (my first ever...apparently I'm all growns up). Suffice it to say, I did not love this book. In fact, I didn't even like it that much. I felt that most of the book bordered on hero worship, to the point that I could not form an objective opinion about Kennedy's storied '68 campaign. That said, I ultimately gave "The Last Campaign" two stars rather than one because it inspired me to research a bit of my own family history. My great uncle, Judge Samuel Silverman, is credited by Kennedy biographer Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (read the book "Robert Kennedy and His Times" for an explanation) for facilitating RFK's foray into national politics. Anyway, I have tried to find articles about my uncle online for years, but have come up empty-handed time and time again. This book inspired me to make another attempt and guess what? I found a LOAD of information about my uncle. Very cool. If you have a moment, check this out: http://books.google.com/books?id=0xqr... My favorite line is on page 752: "Hearing a report on [Silverman's] qualities, Kennedy said, 'Habemus papem' [we've found our pope]".

  15. 5 out of 5

    John Daly

    Robert Kennedy's campaign for the presidency lasted 82 days that included some of the most traumatic moments of the sixties. Thurston Clarke in this short book examines those 82 days of 1968 campaign and it captivates you instantly and makes you long to hope that maybe it could have been RFK and not Nixon standing on west side of the Capital facing the mall taking the oath on January 20, 1969. One of the most powerful moments of the book is the descriptions of the events of the night of April 4th Robert Kennedy's campaign for the presidency lasted 82 days that included some of the most traumatic moments of the sixties. Thurston Clarke in this short book examines those 82 days of 1968 campaign and it captivates you instantly and makes you long to hope that maybe it could have been RFK and not Nixon standing on west side of the Capital facing the mall taking the oath on January 20, 1969. One of the most powerful moments of the book is the descriptions of the events of the night of April 4th just two hours after the assassination of Dr. King RFK was in Indianapolis and despite the request from police not to speak to the mostly African American audience RFK got up to speak and inform the audience of Kings death. This words included this "Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people." It's interesting to note that only Indianapolis was spared a major race riot that night. After finishing this book I've picked up a copy of the classic The Making of a President 1968 by Theodore H. White to get a fully picture of how the general election ended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennelle

    This book started out as one of the saddest books I have ever read. I choked back tears a couple times. I have always admired Robert Kennedy in a sort of "on a pedestal" way. This book showed his human side, faults and all. I realize that while he was deeply compasionate about social injustice, he was also a politican. Campaigns, especially those for the highest office in the land, often are laced with the darkest politics, and his campaign was no exception. He was stubborn to a fault and willin This book started out as one of the saddest books I have ever read. I choked back tears a couple times. I have always admired Robert Kennedy in a sort of "on a pedestal" way. This book showed his human side, faults and all. I realize that while he was deeply compasionate about social injustice, he was also a politican. Campaigns, especially those for the highest office in the land, often are laced with the darkest politics, and his campaign was no exception. He was stubborn to a fault and willing to play "the game" to become president. But by the same token, he realized that only by becoming president, could he make the most lasting changes to remedy what he considered to be moral injustices such as racial discrimination, poverty, and treatment of Indians. Some of the reviews that I read before reading the book indicated that Thurston Clark had a deity-like perception of RFK, but I found the book to be not quite that bad. He did talk about RFK's flaws and also present others' criticism of RFK is a balanced way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matt McCormick

    I was looking back over the books I’ve read in the last few years and was disappointed I didn’t take the time to review this one. It’s one of my favorites. It is critically timely as it reminds us that we really can have leaders who, although flawed as all humans are, won’t to be, are intelligent and passionate. Leaders who if blessed with personal fortune are compassionate to those without. Leaders who believe in an inclusive America that strives everyday to protect the liberty of all regardles I was looking back over the books I’ve read in the last few years and was disappointed I didn’t take the time to review this one. It’s one of my favorites. It is critically timely as it reminds us that we really can have leaders who, although flawed as all humans are, won’t to be, are intelligent and passionate. Leaders who if blessed with personal fortune are compassionate to those without. Leaders who believe in an inclusive America that strives everyday to protect the liberty of all regardless of their color, ethnicity, gender, religion or lack of it, and sexual orientation. Leaders who are well read, articulate and thoughtful. Bobby Kennedy and his 1968 campaign remind me its possible.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Scott (on temporary hiatus)

    If you are an admirer of the tough but idealistic candidate you will read this detailed, heartbreaking book and wonder "What if . . . ?" If you are an admirer of the tough but idealistic candidate you will read this detailed, heartbreaking book and wonder "What if . . . ?"

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill F.

    Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby? Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill, With Abraham, Martin and John. Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John” is one of at least two songs whose lyrics were altered in-studio due to the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy [D, NY] on June 5, 1968 at 3:16 am Eastern time. As the title suggests, the song was written [by Richard Holler] as a result of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and was a poetic triumvirate Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby? Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill, With Abraham, Martin and John. Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John” is one of at least two songs whose lyrics were altered in-studio due to the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy [D, NY] on June 5, 1968 at 3:16 am Eastern time. As the title suggests, the song was written [by Richard Holler] as a result of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and was a poetic triumvirate tying Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and King together as men who, “freed a lot of people, but it seems the good they die young…” As Dion was laying down vocals, Bobby Kennedy’s assassination led Holler to add the final paragraph [above] to the song. The other song similarly adjusted was the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy with the Devil”. Keith Richards’ and Mick Jagger’s lyric was originally, “I shouted out, ‘Who killed John Kennedy?’, when after all, it was you and me”. As they were laying down the track, RFK was killed, leading Richards to slightly alter the line to have Jagger sing, “I shouted out, ‘Who killed the Kennedys?’, when after all…” If I was truly conceived exactly nine months prior to my actual birth, then I was conceived the night that Robert Kennedy was murdered. Other than that – and my nephew’s being born exactly 40 years after the event – I have never thought much about Bobby Kennedy’s 82-day campaign for the Presidency in 1968. I knew the basic facts about the assassination in California, and had seen an extended rebroadcast of the event as it aired in the middle of the night on the east coast on June 5, 1968 – including Lyndon Johnson’s simply surreal address of mourning to the Nation. After listening to LBJ, anyone dropping in from Mars would have been clueless as to the visceral hatred both men shared for one another. That LBJ didn’t win an Oscar for that performance was criminal. Until reading Thurston Clarke’s The Last Campaign, however, the actual campaign that preceded the assassination never captured my interest. I had generally believed that RFK – in 1968 at least – had been an opportunist. That he ran only after Sen. Eugene McCarthy [D, Minn] showed how vulnerable LBJ was by capturing 42% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, and that Kennedy probably would not have been able to wrest the nomination away from Vice President Hubert Humphrey had he not been killed. While Clarke often slips beyond the impartial into that world of Kennedy-worship that often makes books about them unreadable, his work does make a very strong argument that Robert Kennedy’s run for the Presidency in 1968 was nothing less than a political revolution that held the promise of a universally new way of politics. Clarke’s portrayal of the campaign, of RFK’s own inner-psyche and transformation at the hands of those who nearly tore him to pieces in trying to touch him, really does lead me to question my previous assumptions of the viability of Kennedy’s candidacy. Those in the love-Kennedy camp often rhapsodize about ‘what might have been’ had President Kennedy lived; had Bobby Kennedy lived, etc. It is romantic and dramatic to draw up ‘might have beens’ and ‘what ifs’ when writing about either Kennedy. Bobby, though in particular, lends himself to this phenomenon because we know how it ends. We know what President Richard Nixon is going to do – not just in Vietnam and Laos but at home – and we know that what followed were some of the darkest political days in our nation’s history. Because we know all of this, it is tempting to think that – had Bobby lived – it all would have been different. It is very, very hard to stop yourself from doing that kind of dreaming when reading Clarke’s work. For one thing – Clarke never shuts up about it, constantly hammering home his conviction that RFK would have been the greatest president since Lincoln. If you begin this work, though, aware of this tendency, and keep focused on the facts and stories alone, Clarke’s book is truly fascinating. Because Bobby Kennedy’s campaign was fascinating. Clarke interviewed extensively all of the surviving members of the [very large] press pool that followed Kennedy from Day 1 to Day 82 of his campaign. These recollections are often being told here for the first time by men and women who – as journalists – fell in love with Kennedy and later felt guilty about losing their impartiality. That – combined with the horrific end of the campaign – led many to remain silent for nearly 40 years about what went on behind the scenes of that campaign. For Clarke, however, they open up and tell an amazing story. For one thing [and this a major theme of the book], there was the almost universal belief among all of the media that Bobby Kennedy was going to be shot. From the first night of the campaign, when a bunch of reporters having drinks after hours took up a pool to see who could guess the exact date on which Kennedy would be shot [and this was in March; even before King had been killed] there was an inevitability among the press that this man was going to die before he could possibly succeed his brother. That he would die at the hand of an assassin and that it would happen while he was campaigning. Indeed, that sense of inevitability was felt by many Kennedy aides. The candidate himself thought a great deal about it, according to some of the sources for Clarke’s book. These sources – mostly journalists who Kennedy often sought out after-hours to pour out his soul off the record – say Kennedy once said, “There are guns between me and the White House.” When asked what that meant, Kennedy reportedly smiled and said, “These people [the voters] say I’m a hero; well, heroes get shot.” On many occasions during the campaign, a car would backfire, or someone would set off firecrackers, and Kennedy would jolt upright, cover his head with his hands, or otherwise recoil as if it was Dallas 1963 all over again. In addition to having that sense of inevitability about him, Clarke’s Bobby Kennedy is a man who – by March 1968 – was eager to leave his brother behind. “I’m interested in what can help this country in 1969,” Kennedy said, “not what we did in 1963.” Indeed, Bobby Kennedy by 1968 was far more ‘in-touch’ with the downtrodden, minorities, poor, and disenfranchised than his brother ever was [or would have been had he lived]. Bobby’s sense of empathy and his deep compassion were not characteristics, in fact, that his brother would have even recognized in his Attorney General. Indeed, the Bobby Kennedy of 1968 would have been unrecognizable to John Kennedy – both physically, with his long hair, and philosophically with his deep and passionate concern for African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and poor whites. And these constituencies loved Bobby Kennedy. One of the great senses of tragedy around Kennedy’s 1968 assassination was the feeling held by many minorities that RFK had been their last best hope. With his death, no politician for the next 25 years would ever hold their esteem the way Bobby Kennedy had. And Kennedy loved these people. Despite his abhorrence of being so much as touched let alone having his shoes, cuff links, ties and other apparel torn violently from his body by adoring mobs, Kennedy insisted on allowing it to happen. Whenever his [private] security detail would object or try to keep crowds away, Kennedy would reprimand them on the spot and insist that he be allowed to freely greet and mingle. In fact, one of the many ironies of RFK’s actual assassination is that almost to a person those who believed he would be killed thought it would happen during these meet-and-greets. No known attempt on his life, however, was ever made during these literally hundreds of gatherings. His end would come in a hotel kitchen instead. Here, too, Clarke points to another irony: Kennedy always insisted on leaving a speaking engagement by walking through the crowd and out the back to the exit. On the few occasions during the campaign that aides led him through a back way – such as the kitchen entrance of a hotel – he would furiously chastise them, “Never do that again!” It is possible that – after 82 days of tireless and endless campaigning – by June 5th Robert Kennedy was just too tired to go through the crowd one more time. That is the only reason anyone associated with the campaign can explain - 40 years later - why Bobby Kennedy allowed himself to be led through the kitchen where Sirhan Sirhan was waiting to kill him. In fact, some of Kennedy’s security detail that night had started to clear a path in front of the speakers podium, so that he could exit through the crowd, only to have to double back quickly [and, ultimately, futilely] when they realized their candidate had instead ducked back to the hotel kitchen. For me personally, another of the great revelations in this book is the fact that Robert Kennedy knew he’d been shot. Because he’d been hit in the head, I had always assumed he lost consciousness instantly. He did not. Because there were so many people in the room at the time – one journalist estimated that there were 80 human beings within a 20-foot radius of the candidate with all of their attention focused on him when Sirhan pulled the trigger, Kennedy’s assassination was the most-witnessed political killing ever. While the Zapruder film captures in vivid and gory detail the assassination of John Kennedy, that film came to light only five years after the event. Until that time, very few had witnessed the actual shots and grim results. Not so with Bobby Kennedy. The proximity between Kennedy and Sirhan was less than a few feet. Five others were wounded. As Kennedy had been led back through the kitchen, he clasped hands with cooks, dishwashers and other well-wishers. As he was leaning across one of the kitchen worktables to shake hands with yet another member of the kitchen staff, Sirhan reached out from the crowd, pointed a revolver at Kennedy’s head and fired. Sirhan used a .22-caliber pistol, not an ‘ideal’ weapon for an assassin. Later, the surgeon who operated on Bobby Kennedy would say that if the fatal bullet had hit Bobby Kennedy just a centimeter further back on his head than it did, Kennedy would have survived and eventually recovered with no brain damage. Clarke recounts word-for-word the actual moment of the assassination as recorded live by Mutual Radio Network reporter Andrew West. West happened to be lucky enough to get Kennedy’s attention just as he entered the kitchen. The candidate agreed to talk with him, while he greeted the kitchen staff. On the tape, West asks, “Senator, how are you going to counter Mr. Humphrey and his backgrounding [sic] you as far as the delegate votes go?” Kennedy – still shaking hands – responds, “It just goes back to the struggle for it….” The gunshots. At that point, West frantically screams, “Senator Kennedy has been shot – Senator Kennedy has been shot. Is that possible? Is that possible? It is possible, ladies and gentlemen. Is it possible? He has. Not only Senator Kennedy – Oh my God – Senator Kennedy and another man – a Kennedy campaign manager – and possibly shot in the head. I am right here and [Kennedy aide] Rafer Johnson has hold of the man who apparently has fired the shot….HE STILL HAS THE GUN!! The gun is pointed at me this very moment. I hope they can get the gun out of his hand. Be very careful. GET THE GUN! GET THE GUN! Stay away from the gun. Stay away from the gun. His hand is frozen….get his thumb, get his thumb take a hold of his thumb [here West momentarily forgets he is on the air] fucking BREAK it if you have to. Get away from the barrel. Look out for the gun. OK – all right. That’s it, Rafer, get it. Get the gun, Rafer. Ok, no hold on to the gun. Ladies and gentlemen they have the gun away from the man. I can’t see the man. I can’t see who it is. Senator Kennedy right now is on the ground. He has been shot. This is a – this is – wait a minute. Hold him! We don’t’ want another [Lee Harvey] Oswald, Rafer! Hold him. Keep people away from him. This is a – make room, make room, make room, make room. The Senator is on the ground. He’s bleeding profusely…apparently the Senator has been shot from the frontal area, we don’t see exactly where the Senator has been shot.” At this point, Kennedy was still conscious. His eyes would focus and then go blank and then refocus again. A busboy kneeled at his side with a towel, uncertain where to put it as there was so much blood he couldn’t be sure where Kennedy had been hit. Kennedy looked up at the busboy and said, “Is everybody else all right? Is [aide] Paul [Schrade] okay? Is everybody all right?” As Kennedy’s wife, Ethel – who had been held up at the podium by well-wishers and only entered the kitchen after hearing the shots – reached him, he said to her, “My head!” Another witness said he then said, “Jack, Jack…” and lost consciousness. He regained it, however, when the ambulance attendants were finally able to reach him through the throng. “Don’t!” Kennedy screamed, “Don’t lift me. No, no, no, no!” As Clarke says, perhaps the most surprising thing about Kennedy’s assassination is that almost literally no one was shocked, not even the victim. Journalist Hays Gorey recounts, “Gazing up from the floor, Robert Kennedy, still lucid, wore a haunting expression that no one who knew him will ever forget. He was fully aware of what had happened.” Another reporter, Peter Hamill – speaking for the first time in 40 years about the event – told Clarke that Kennedy had “a sort of sweet kind of acceptance” on his face as he lay on the floor. Hamill looked in Kennedy’s eyes and “instead of asking ‘What happened?’ they seemed to be saying, ‘So this is it.’” The depth of the grief expressed by the underprivileged of all colors at Kennedy’s death is telling. Clarke’s account is well-done and thought-provoking. Of course, the answer will never be known – would Kennedy have won? Would he have even been a good president? What Clarke’s work does answer, however, is the question, ‘Why did this man want to be president?’ Whatever ambitions he may have had immediately after his brother’s death, by 1968 he was running for president because he’d found himself. He had found ‘his people’ and he was going to show them that in this country they could have faith in the government because he was going to make sure they were never forgotten. It is tempting to chalk this up to rhetoric and in-the-heat-of-campaign bullshit. The fact that so many in the press fell in love with Bobby Kennedy during those 82 days, and that they fell in love with him because of what he was saying and doing, however, does tend to give credence to the idea that he really believed what he was saying. That these really were ‘his people’ and that he intended to do things his brother would never have dreamed of doing. We’ll never know, of course, but Clarke’s book brings those 82 days to life and is well worth the read for it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Val

    As this summer was the 50th anniversary of RFK's tragic assassination in Los Angeles, and I had the opportunity to visit the site of that event many years ago, I wanted to include a book about his campaign that year in my Reading Challenge. The description claims this is "the definitive account" of RFK's 1968 campaign. Although it is detailed and a good read in various ways, there is a much more definitive and detailed account of the 1968 campaign included in the excellent Robert Kennedy and His As this summer was the 50th anniversary of RFK's tragic assassination in Los Angeles, and I had the opportunity to visit the site of that event many years ago, I wanted to include a book about his campaign that year in my Reading Challenge. The description claims this is "the definitive account" of RFK's 1968 campaign. Although it is detailed and a good read in various ways, there is a much more definitive and detailed account of the 1968 campaign included in the excellent Robert Kennedy and His Times, by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Schlesinger was intimately involved in most of the events in RFK's political life, and although a friend, he did not try to hide RFK's weaknesses and mistakes, while also describing RFK's maturing political, racial, and economic views from his brother's presidency through the 1968 campaign. Schlesinger's account is an important and gripping part of a lengthy and valuable overall biography of RFK, that is worth reading for anyone who really wants to learn what RFK was like, what led him to his radically different views in 1968 vs 1960, and what he hoped to achieve if elected president. Clarke's book does a good job of covering the 82-day campaign, almost day-by-day, presenting where RFK was, what he hoped to achieve in each city, and how audiences received his message and unique campaigning style. Having been around many candidates as they campaigned around the nation, I agree with Clarke and Schlesinger that the raw emotion and desperate hope crowds demonstrated at RFK's rallies was unlike the displays for candidates who came after him. Campaign events are so heavily scripted now, with crowds told when to cheer, cameras positioned to make every event look like a full arena no matter how many empty seats, candidates speaking many words but saying nothing substantive and making pleasant-sounding but empty promises. This is true of both parties, and no campaign since 1968 has matched the genuine electricity and outpouring of affection and hope that RFK's generated as his momentum built heading into the California primary that year. Clarke includes a quote from a black minister that is also found in other books about RFK, but it concisely and powerfully conveys what RFK meant to America's black community: the minister said RFK was "the last of the great believables." Black voters were disillusioned, angry, bitter about rights and equality of opportunity not fully realized. RFK was at the time the last of the "believable" white politicians, and black leaders around the country believed in him, and they believed him when he talked about their anger and despair. His views of this plight developed through his experiences as Attorney General dispatching justice department agents and officials to enforce voting rights in the south. They developed from visiting black and Latino ghettos and crumbling communities throughout America, even on Indian reservations. He wept in private seeing the poverty and hopelessness in these communities and he started speaking out forcefully and courageously that a nation of plenty should not also be a nation with poverty. Clarke provides views of RFK from minority leaders who met with RFK, as well as ordinary citizens who crowded his campaign events just to touch him and thank him for taking up their causes. As Clarke described the sad events in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen in Los Angeles that tragic June, it brought back powerful memories of going to that site with my dad long ago, and listening to him describe what he remembered from that awful day. He had been born and raised in L.A., and was a journalist in 1968 when RFK was assassinated in L.A. as the California democratic primary unfolded. Walking around in that building and listening to what happened there left quite an impression on my young mind, and my dad became emotional talking about what RFK was like. My dad would agree with the moniker "last of the believables" for RFK, and I'm not sure he ever had as much genuine enthusiasm for a presidential candidate again after 1968. RFK was committed to ending the Vietnam War, and was willing to speak openly about disparities in opportunity for blacks and Latinos, and had significantly more substantive plans for reducing poverty than anything Lyndon Johnson had attempted with his so-called "war on poverty." RFK made a lot of enemies taking the positions he took in 1968, but he would not water-down his message or apologize for it, nor was he intimidated by the increasing number of threats he was receiving. Candidates today do not throw themselves into crowds. Their staffers and protective details control (understandably) how "spontaneous" their interactions with voters are, and usually they are not spontaneous at all. RFK took his life into his own hands meeting with radical and sometimes violent leaders of rights groups, he listened, and won most of them over with his sincerity and commitment to act. He spent days not driving through America's slums, but actually walking and talking and sitting and holding sick children, often with no cameras to make it a photo op. He spent more time in 1968 campaigning among minority crowds who likely would have voted for him anyway, than he spent in affluent communities where campaign donations typically flow. That would never happen today. Little time is spent with voters whose vote a candidate can count on already. Fortunately for Indianapolis, RFK was spending time winning over black voters in that city when MLK was murdered in Memphis, as RFK's brief but incredibly powerful and heartfelt impromptu remarks in Indianapolis to a racially divided and already angry crowd softened the response to MLK's death, leaving it the only major American city that did not have riots that night and following days. Such was the persuasive power of personal charisma and believability RFK had with the downtrodden and oppressed. Today crowds will cheer and act like they are seeing a celebrity when a candidate takes the stage, but with RFK crowds saw a young man they genuinely believed would put America back on track and end the madness of wars, cultural upheaval, racial violence, and assassinations of JFK and MLK. Clarke offers good explanations for why so many thought this way of RFK, primarily through quotes. Many in minority neighborhoods believed he was the ONLY man who could unite the nation again. To many, he was the last hope for a better future, and when he too was gunned down, despair turned to rage in struggling cities and the country has become increasingly fractious ever since, divided economically and racially to a degree that would break RFK's heart to see 50 years after his assassination. The 1968 campaign is a fascinating "what if" moment in American history, and if we are going to tackle and resolve any of the issues RFK died trying to champion, it behooves us all to read and understand his egalitarian vision of a healed America.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristy Miller

    If I would give this book 10 stars if I could. This book captures a moment in time, a moment in politics, a moment in history, when America was at a fork in the road; with the war in Vietnam, with race relations, with the economic disparity. Bobby Kennedy had been known as a ruthless political operative, and the strong-arm of his brother's White House. When he was elected as the senator from New York, he began to differentiate himself from his brother's policies, and pursuing ones that he held d If I would give this book 10 stars if I could. This book captures a moment in time, a moment in politics, a moment in history, when America was at a fork in the road; with the war in Vietnam, with race relations, with the economic disparity. Bobby Kennedy had been known as a ruthless political operative, and the strong-arm of his brother's White House. When he was elected as the senator from New York, he began to differentiate himself from his brother's policies, and pursuing ones that he held dear. He felt partly responsible for the US situation in Vietnam, but knew that there was no winning that war and wanted to lessen the number of deaths on both sides. He had seen extreme poverty, and children starving on US soil, and was appalled and ashamed. He understood the frustrations of the Chicano and the Negro people, and wanted to bridge the divide. When he decided to run for the presidency, he did so because he felt to do otherwise would be moral cowardice. He knew hes was in danger, but he sought to change the world. My mother was raised by staunch republicans in the pan-handle of Texas, and when you ask her about Bobby Kennedy you will see tears in her eyes. This book captures the hope that was in his campaign, and it is both beautiful and devastating. If he had lived I believe that this country would have been markedly different. I cry for what could have been.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Bobby Kennedy is one of my personal and political heroes. I think if he had lived and been elected President, as I think he would have, he had the potential to be a truly great President, one who really cared about the poor man, the black man, the Native Americans on the reservation. He believed in reconciliation and redemption, in accepting collective guilt and collective responsibility. I think America would have been a better place for a Bobby Kennedy Presidency, I really do. And it's the ult Bobby Kennedy is one of my personal and political heroes. I think if he had lived and been elected President, as I think he would have, he had the potential to be a truly great President, one who really cared about the poor man, the black man, the Native Americans on the reservation. He believed in reconciliation and redemption, in accepting collective guilt and collective responsibility. I think America would have been a better place for a Bobby Kennedy Presidency, I really do. And it's the ultimate tragedy that he never got that chance - that whilst Jack had three years, Bobby was killed right after the moment of his greatest political triumph, when he won the California primary. This book is a real love-song to Bobby Kennedy, and reading it it's hard not to fall in love with him all over again, as so many did during his incredible campaign. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go away and cry now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Excellent, excellent book. It was great to get a picture of what the campaign was like, what it meant, and how he got to the place where he wanted to run it. For being such a legendary political celebrity, he really just wanted to help people and fix things, and hated having to play the political and media game to do so (and he often refused to play). The descriptions of his interactions with crowds, and of his trips to the reservations and poor areas where he'd just sit with poor, filthy, starv Excellent, excellent book. It was great to get a picture of what the campaign was like, what it meant, and how he got to the place where he wanted to run it. For being such a legendary political celebrity, he really just wanted to help people and fix things, and hated having to play the political and media game to do so (and he often refused to play). The descriptions of his interactions with crowds, and of his trips to the reservations and poor areas where he'd just sit with poor, filthy, starving kids and comfort them, play with them, show them they were loved and someone cared, even a funny-looking bookish guy with a Boston accent. It's almost painful to think what the world would be like with him as President in 68 instead of Nixon.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Baidhurya

    About the person. RFK was not a great orator but a passionate orator. And it was just with this passion that he won crowds. He said what he felt. He was a man of principles and felt about the poor and powerless. This incident tells you about his courage and the kind of person he was. It was because of his speech that there were no riots in Indianapolis after Martin Luther's assassination. He took a great risk of getting into a black ghetto and in a 6 minute speech convinced them that violence ca About the person. RFK was not a great orator but a passionate orator. And it was just with this passion that he won crowds. He said what he felt. He was a man of principles and felt about the poor and powerless. This incident tells you about his courage and the kind of person he was. It was because of his speech that there were no riots in Indianapolis after Martin Luther's assassination. He took a great risk of getting into a black ghetto and in a 6 minute speech convinced them that violence can't be the answer to King's death. About the book. Well written and narrated. It keeps you engaged and and you can't keep it down.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Craig

    Reviewers have charged Clarke with hero worship regarding his subject RFK. I can understand that, but I think the book is more even handed though. Clarke presents his flaws and RFK's preferred method of campaigning: to the crowds. This methods was effective, but not all the time. I think RFK could have been a more well rounded campaigner if he was more comfortable with TV and working the suburbs. One thing sticks with me: the power of RFK's message and conviction, a politician that really said wa Reviewers have charged Clarke with hero worship regarding his subject RFK. I can understand that, but I think the book is more even handed though. Clarke presents his flaws and RFK's preferred method of campaigning: to the crowds. This methods was effective, but not all the time. I think RFK could have been a more well rounded campaigner if he was more comfortable with TV and working the suburbs. One thing sticks with me: the power of RFK's message and conviction, a politician that really said was on his mind. We just don't see that anymore.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    What an amazing politician he was. This book made me depressed that there don't seem to be any politicians today who will fight for what they believe in, and what is morally right, rather than strategizing (Adjustment Bureau, anyone?) and saying what they think will win them the next election. But in the end, it did make me hopeful that it possible. It happened once with Robert Kennedy, it could happen again. What an amazing politician he was. This book made me depressed that there don't seem to be any politicians today who will fight for what they believe in, and what is morally right, rather than strategizing (Adjustment Bureau, anyone?) and saying what they think will win them the next election. But in the end, it did make me hopeful that it possible. It happened once with Robert Kennedy, it could happen again.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cullen

    Since I was born in the 80's I didn't know much about RFK other than that he was JFK's brother and was assassinated while running for President in 1968. This book did a great job of explaining why he was special and why people loved him so much. It does not require that you be a political junkie or a child of the 60's - only that you are interested in US history. Since I was born in the 80's I didn't know much about RFK other than that he was JFK's brother and was assassinated while running for President in 1968. This book did a great job of explaining why he was special and why people loved him so much. It does not require that you be a political junkie or a child of the 60's - only that you are interested in US history.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mario Adame

    A very quick read with accounts that will interest your heart and mind. RFK was one of a kind leader who touched the lives of millions during his time on earth and even more so today. The author accurately captures RFKs leadership in times when courage was deeply needed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nora

    Factually dense retelling of the last 3 months of Robert Kennedy's campaign and life. Quite historically interesting for someone who wasn't alive when it happened. He was well on his way to becoming president, and our country would have been quite different had he not been assassinated. Factually dense retelling of the last 3 months of Robert Kennedy's campaign and life. Quite historically interesting for someone who wasn't alive when it happened. He was well on his way to becoming president, and our country would have been quite different had he not been assassinated.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    This campaign, and how he kept calling the country back to ethics and principles of justice, amazing. It’s mind-boggling to think how things might have been if he’d survived.

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