Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot

So I’m not a big conspiracy theorist – I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that I (we) don’t know the truth about some significant events in history.  But I do love history, so if the truth is out there, I’m interested.

Talbot doesn’t really have any truths, at least not about the biggest questions, but he pulls together a mostly convincing portrait of Bobby Kennedy (despite the title, he’s the clear focus) as troubled crusader for law and order whose principles take their first hits in getting Jack elected, and then must bend to the exigencies of leading a country deep in the midst of the Cold War, the cruicble for many unlikely alliances.

One of those (at least according to Talbot), among the Mafia, anti-Castro Cubans and the CIA, was to orchestrate JFK’s assassination.  Apparently, the Kennedy brothers’ back-channel overtures for peace with Castro threatened each of these groups enough to justify the immense risks that must be involved in such an enterprise.  The explanation for RFK’s death is a bit more brief, apparently the Secret Service was in on it, but this is not well fleshed out. (Overlap note: Pete Hamill witnessed RFK’s assassination.)

Talbot’s personal commitment to his subject is never in doubt – he was a 16 year old campaign worker for RFK at the time of his death.  As the founder and long-time editor of, his writing shouldn’t be in question either.  But his writing was often distractingly awkward, perhaps because of that emotional component or maybe he didn’t get enough editing pushback.  Not everything is ironic!  His reliance on that word, especially where “apropos” would have been apt, really undermined my faith in in the strength of his conclusions.  After all, if the man can’t be trusted with the English language, how can I trust him to read the documentary evidence?

I enjoyed learning about the personaities surrounding a dramatic period in American history, but the truth is still out there.

One response to “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot

  1. I suppose JFK Dallas Texas was the mother of all conspiracy theories. The official version makes no sense, which leaves plenty of scope for speculation.

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