Book: Joe Kennedy No Angel--But No Bootlegger Either

From the Irish, by Terry Prone:

ANY student of the Kennedy dynasty knows all about the father figure, Joe Kennedy, who shaped and warped the lives of his children through his determination to live vicariously through them and ensure that each should fulfill his ambitions.

This was the man who became US Ambassador at the Court of St James and, while there, provided his masters with consistently rotten advice. That rotten advice was rooted in his incapacity to understand Hitler’s regime, that incapacity influenced, up to a point, by some covert admiration for the Nazis. This was the man who subjected his emotionally troubled daughter to a lobotomy which institutionalised her for the rest of her life.

This was the man who, while cosying up to the Catholic hierarchy, was at the same time flagrantly unfaithful to his marriage vows with (among others) film star Gloria Swanson. (His wife, according to some biographers, had the most cruel revenge when he was rendered speechless by a stroke in later life. That stroke allowed her to spend his money on constant travel and talk to him in ways he would never have tolerated when in the whole of his health.)

This, finally, was the man who built the legendary Kennedy wealth through rum-running during Prohibition. Bootlegging put him arm-in-arm with the Mafia which grew powerful as a result of Prohibition.

No argument about those details, right? Wrong, according to a history of Prohibition, written by former New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent, who points out that in the ten years directly after the Repeal of Prohibition, the much mistrusted Joe Kennedy was proposed for three federal positions considered to be so important as to require Senate confirmation.


  1. In just reading the review of Okrent's book, I believe it is flawed in many respects. First, it assumes that if FDR proposed him for positions ten years after Prohibition, Kennedy obviously had no part in it. FDR himself negotiated with the New York mob for support in the 1932 Democrat Convention. He convinced them to support him over Al Smith then instantly betrayed him when he became President by appointing the Seabury Commission to investigate them.

    The further comparison to how candidates for Senate confirmation were treated then to what they go through now for things like "Nannygate," is ridiculous on its face. It's no secret that it was a time where backroom deals were prevalent mostly because there was no mass media to pound it like it does today, and reporters who were active had no trouble covering up a lot. FDR had no photos shown of him in his wheelchair, or reports of his relationship with his secretary (let's face it, Eleanor was a clock stopper), and even as late as JFK's time his back trouble and philandering were covered up by the press.

    Oh, Okrent works for the NY Times? I guess that explains trying to whitewash any part of the Kennedy clan so worshipped by the left. The next book will say Ted Kennedy was by himself when his car flew into the water.

    Sonny Girard


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