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>Richard Reeves

MAN VS. MYTH

“I WANTED TO FIND OUT WHAT IT WAS like to be President and what it was like to be John F. Kennedy,” says Richard Reeves, 57, at home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. “I wanted to know what he read, what he said, what he knew, what he heard and what he actually did.”

The man that Reeves came to know during the six years he spent researching and writing President Kennedy, his eighth book, “was intelligent, inspiring, moderate, creative, a publicly decent man” but also flawed. “He was careless—used to other people cleaning up his messes—too impatient, too restless, too reactive. He was a man of almost total reason,” adds Reeves, “with a fairly shallow emotional life.”

Among the surprises: “the large amounts of heavy-duty medications he took—cortisone-steroids, novocaine, amphetamines, massive amounts of penicillin, allergy shots,” says Reeves, “which I’m sure had an impact on his decisions.”

The author, who did his most serious writing from 5:30 each morning until the first phone call of the day disturbed his concentration, sees similarities between Kennedy and the current Democrat in office. “Both men believe that their own charm will prevail,” he says. “Both men want to be at the center of the action. They can’t stand being alone. Silence and boredom are the enemies.” With his book completed, Reeves, who will resume teaching political science at UCLA in January, is now looking forward to a getaway weekend in Big Sur with his wife, Catherine O’Neill, where, he says, “the thought of John F. Kennedy will never enter my mind.”