Ever since John F. Kennedy was killed - 30 years ago today - we have been commemorating the tragic event more feverishly with each passing decade. This year the TV airwaves and the bookstores have been deluged with new attempts - many of them tasteless - to capitalize on it.

On the other hand, the number 30 seems to call out for reminiscence and evaluation. It's about as true an anniversary as you can find. So I've been reading what I think is the best of the new JFK books, one by noted political journalist Richard Reeves, titled simply, "President Kennedy: Profile of Power."It is well-written and makes an interesting attempt to compare Kennedy's leadership style with President Clinton's. Each, Reeves says, came to office with the intention of opening up the White House to new information and a determination to dismantle the bureaucracies they thought isolated their predecessors.

Eisenhower let everything go through numerous other hands first, then he would approve a decision. Kennedy wanted to see it all and make the decision himself. He wanted a flexible style, and he always wanted to be in the center of the action.

"Kennedy preferred to work one-on-one - having hallway meetings and making telephone calls to officers in the State Department or to surprised professors and reporters. Anyone who had just been to countries in crisis or had written something the president heard about was liable to be awakened by a Boston-accented voice saying: `This is Jack Kennedy. Can you tell me . . .?' Some of them hung up on him, thinking it was a joke."

That sounds good. But Reeves thinks that Kennedy's personal style helped trap him into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba and the Vietnam War. Allegedly, he couldn't sort through all the information and misinformation fast enough to make wise decisions. It sounds a little like Jimmy Carter keeping track of who used the White House tennis courts.

In an article in American Heritage magazine (September 1993), Reeves argues that if he is not careful, Clinton's copy-cat Kennedy style will result in the same sorts of disasters for his own administration.

Reeves notes one particular trait he thinks Clinton shares with Kennedy - "a reluctance to prepare and an absolute unwillingness to rehearse. They were both secure - or deluded - in the belief that they would prevail in any one-on-one encounter."

Reeves also notes evidence that Kennedy was careless with the truth - as when he denied outright to reporters that he had Addison's disease. Ever since the announcement of his presidential candidacy, Clinton has been accused of shading the truth.

On the whole, though, Kennedy comes off after 30 years looking much better than he did after 20 years. In the opinion of historians, he has come full circle. The myth of Camelot held sway for at least a decade after his death. Then revisionist historians took a new critical look at his presidency and decided it came up short.

Now after 30 years, the admired, respected JFK is back.

Even with Reeves' candid criti comes off looking like a remarkably powerful leader and an unusually quick study. He was tough, courageous - and flawed. He was also idealistic and open-minded.

It appears that three decades have given scholars a certain perspective that will protect much of his original extravagant image. He will probably never rate next to the Lincoln legend again - but now we can like JFK without making apologies.