"The Texas School Book Depository, once a warehouse for books, today houses our imagination," Paul Henggeler writes. Today many Americans share a nostalgia for the Kennedy years and their imagined hope and promise; in polls they reaffirm a yearning for the optimism and confidence associated with JFK's brief presidency. American political leaders, keenly aware of the "mystique" and its effects on the electorate, have energetically laid claim to the Kennedy mantle. Mr. Henggeler traces this phenomenon in an engaging and original piece of history. Using fresh archival sources, he describes how Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, have invoked the Kennedy mythology, adopted the Kennedy strategy, even tried to summon up the Kennedy appearance in order to influence Congress, the media, and the American public. As a consequence, John Kennedy is now larger and more influential in American politics than he ever was in the flesh. Used and abused, the Kennedy legend has inspired an entire generation of American politicians, from Lyndon Johnson through Bill Clinton—but our political life may be poorer for it. The Kennedy Persuasion is a convincing, often surprising case study of the great historical image of our time.
Paul R. Henggeler taught American history at the University of Texas, Pan American. His first book, In His Steps: Lyndon Johnson and the Kennedy Mystique, won high praise from historians and critics.