Thomas C. Reeves, in A Question of Character, presents a portrait of John F. Kennedy which is far less flattering than most works on the assassinated president. Reeves explores the aspects of Kennedy's character which show him to have been a man full of flaws and defects. He further shows how those flaws were rooted in Kennedy's childhood and upbringing, especially as a result of his father's influence. Reeves intends to offer a biography in contrast to the admitting and even worshipful portraits of Kennedy which have dominated literature on the president. In fact, Reeves writes that he himself was among those who saw Kennedy as a man of exemplary qualities:
I had no reason to doubt the early Kennedy literature. Though it was essentially adulatory, that approach seemed to fit the facts. the authors were often those closest to Kennedy; they based their accounts on personal recollections as well as documents. The credentials of, say, historian arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Kennedy speech writer Theodore Sorensen were unassailable; their writings were moving and brilliant. The books came from leading publishers, and the reviews were glowing. the standard college textbooks soon made Kennedy one of our great or near-great presidents.
However, doing research for another book, Reeves began to notice contrary evidence which suggested Kennedy was a less than great or even near-great president and man. Reeves "began reading deeply in the primary as well as secondary sources" and "revised" his "youthful observations." The result of his work is this book which does not aim to destroy the myth of Kennedy the man or the leader, but rather to provide an objective, balance and humanizing portrait.
Reeves begins by noting the achievements of the Kennedy administration in economics, social programs, education, space and peace, and by acknowledging his charisma. The public's attraction to Kennedy was solidified by his assassination. Among ...