TEN years ago this weekend, they gathered before a fireplace in Hyannisport to rough out plans for J.F.K.'s run for the presidency. They all were there, handsome as Irish thoroughbreds, their eyes bright as dimes—Jack, Bobby, Teddy, Eunice, Jean, Pat, Ethel, Jackie, Joe and Rose. Together, attended by their Irish mafia, the Kennedys burst upon the decade to become its dominating political myth.

The family was the realization of Joe Kennedy's dreams of glory. "The measure of a man's success in life," said the founding father, "is not the money he's made. It's the...

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