Ira Stoll's goal in this book is to argue that John F. Kennedy -- long a liberal icon -- was actually a conservative. To do this, he chronicles Kennedy's career, highlighting the speeches given and policies advocated which supposedly reflect his true conservative beliefs. Yet this proves to be little more than an exercise in sophistry -- and an unconvincing one at that.
Though seeking to claim Kennedy as a conservative, Stoll refuses to define what he means by "conservatism", arguing that the "shifting definitions of the terms over time" make such an effort futile. Instead he depicts Kennedy as a conservative by virtue of being a devout Catholic and anticommunist who opposed union corruption and cut taxes -- a conceit which presumes that liberals couldn't be these things, when in fact many were. Moreover, Stoll fails to address Kennedy's own repeated self-identification as a liberal, as well as the attacks leveled on Kennedy by his conservative contemporaries. Failing to acknowledge these only highlights the weaknesses in his argument, which will only convince readers who want to believe that the man who once declared that he was "proud to be a liberal" was anything but.