Disclaimer: Received a copy of this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.
The three-term Congressman who entered the Senate in January 1953 wasn't thought to be a future President at any time, let alone by the end of the decade. As John T. Shaw chronicles in JFK in the Senate, John Kennedy saw the U.S. Senate as a stepping stone to achieve the presidency. And in his nearly eight years in the upper chamber, Kennedy learned lessons that helped him to be a better politician and help secure him the nomination and later election.
Shaw’s study of Kennedy in the Senate starts with a basic outline of his life with a focus more on his first Congressional and Senate campaigns respectively than anything else, including his three-terms in the House. Shaw’s then looks at Kennedy time in the Senate in three aspects: domestic, foreign, and finally his role documenting the institution’s history. Shaw concludes by showing how Kennedy used the Senate to launch is campaign for 1960.
The focus on Kennedy in relation to the Senate is revealing especially as Shaw brings to the reader’s attention things not previously emphasized. The first was Kennedy’s legislative work on the labor issue as well as he learned to balance regional and national economic issues, issues that seemed glossed over or neglected in larger studies of Kennedy’s life. The second was Kennedy’s perspectives on foreign policy while in both the House and Senate including his critiques of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations’ foreign policy. Shaw reveals how Kennedy’s views and critiques turned out to be astute in the hindsight of history. Finally Shaw shows through Kennedy’s work on Profiles in Courage and the committee to designate the five greatest Senators that he seemed to show his political priorities for higher office by separating his career from those past and present who were thoroughly Senators.
In barely over 200 pages, Shaw gives a well-rounded look at John Kennedy’s career as a U.S. Senator before he became only the second person ever to be elected President directly from that body. Shaw shows that Kennedy deliberately didn't strive to be the best Senator he could like his colleagues, his aspirations went higher. And that is why this book is recommended for anyone interested in Kennedy.