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1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies [Hardcover]

David Pietrusza
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sept. 2 2008
It was the election that would ultimately give America “Camelot” and its tragic aftermath, a momentous contest when three giants who each would have a chance to shape the nation battled to win the presidency.
Award-winning author David Pietrusza does here for the 1960 presidential race what he did in his previous book, 1920: the Year of the Six Presidents—which Kirkus Reviews selected as one of their Best Books of 2007. Until now, the most authoritative study of the 1960 election was Theodore White’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the President, 1960. But White, as a trusted insider, didn’t tell all. Here’s the rest of the story, what White could never have known, nor revealed. Finally, it’s all out—including JFK’s poignant comment on why LBJ’s nomination as vice president would be inconsequential: “I’m 43 years old. I’m not going to die in office.”
Combining an engaging narrative with exhaustive research, Pietrusza chronicles the pivotal election of 1960, in which issues of civil rights and religion (Kennedy was only the second major-party Roman Catholic candidate ever) converged. The volatile primary clash between Senate Majority leader LBJ and the young JFK culminated in an improbable fusion ticket. The historic, legendary Kennedy-Nixon debates followed in its wake. The first presidential televised debates, they forever altered American politics when an exhausted Nixon was unkempt and tentative in their first showdown. With 80 million viewers passing judgment, Nixon’s poll numbers dropped as the charismatic Kennedy’s star rose. Nixon learned his lesson—resting before subsequent debates, reluctantly wearing makeup, and challenging JFK with a more aggressive stance—but the damage was done.
There’s no one better to convey the drama of that tumultuous year than Pietrusza. He has 1,000 secrets to spill; a fascinating cast of characters to introduce (including a rogue’s gallery of hangers-on and manipulators); and towering historical events to chronicle. And all of it is built on painstaking research and solid historical scholarship. Pietrusza tracks down every lead to create a winning, engaging, and very readable account.
With the 2008 elections approaching, politics will be on everyone’s mind, and 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon will transform the way readers see modern American history.

 

 

A sampling of what Theodore White couldn’t chronicle—and David Pietrusza does:

·     Richard Nixon’s tempestuous Iowa backseat blowup, and his  bizarre Election Day road trip

·     The full story of a sympathetic call from JFK to Coretta Scott King

·      John Ehrlichman’s spy missions on the Nelson Rockefeller and Democratic    camps

·      The warnings before Election Day that Chicago’s mayor Daley would try to fix the race’s outcome

·       JFK’s amphetamine-fueled debate performance


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About the Author

David Pietrusza is an award-winning author who has written several books about sporting events in America, as well as history books. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Like It's Meant to be Told Oct. 24 2010
By Rule 62 Ken TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I found this book in a used book store in Halifax a couple of weeks ago and had trouble putting it down once I began to read it, it's one of the best history books I've ever read. The story of the 1960 election was interesting enough in itself. A young John F. Kennedy, backed by his family's money, challenged veteran politicians Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, and Democratic icon Adlai Stevenson for the Democratic nomination, while GOP Vice-President Richard Nixon, shackled by his party's record in office for the past 8 years, fought off a challenge by liberal New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The two men would meet and run in one of the closest election campaigns in years.

Author David Pietrusza writes in a conversational story-telling style that's part tabloid, part historian, telling a lot that the newspapers would never have dared report. This includes Nixon's tantrums (kicking the back of a car seat in Iowa like a petulant child), Kennedy's rampant infidelity, his father Joe Kennedy's behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings, voter payoffs in West Virgina as well as payoffs to black politicians like Adam Clayton Powell to campaign for Kennedy, the tightrope that politicians walked in attempting to court the black vote, while not wanting to alienate racist southerners. The story of how the television debates came about is masterfully told. It is something which not only affected the outcome of the 1960 election, but changed presidential elections forever.

The characters are as interesting as the story. Robert Kennedy is portrayed as ruthless and arrogant. According to the author, he voted for Eisenhower over Stevenson in 1956. Adlai Stevenson is seen as a ditherer.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Told Tale Sept. 7 2008
By Robert N. Going Esq - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Following up on his superb "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents", author David Pietrusza produces another political page-turner, this time dealing with the characters and machinations of a presidential race which marked the beginning of the modern era of campaigning.

Another reviewer complains there is nothing new here (I suppose if you've read 200 books on the Kennedy assassination you might very well feel overly familiar with the material!). Even if true (it's not), the story has never been better or more completely told.

Pietrusza comes into this with no particular hero and no pony in the race, a fact which makes his analyses far more objective than most any review of the topic. He shows his characters warts and all, while at the same time not descending to the level of a hit piece on any of them. They are what they are: Johnson, Kennedy, Nixon, Humphrey, Stevenson, Eleanor Roosevelt and scores of extras.

While interesting and engaging throughout, where Pietrusza really shines is in his analysis of the strategy and tactics of the four debates that nudged the election to Kennedy and changed modern politics forever.

The release of this book is perfect timing, especially for those who think the art of campaigning was invented yesterday. Pietrusza adds to his ever-more-outstanding body of work and has placed himself in the first tier of writers of popular history. Well done.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific! Nov. 8 2008
By Ron Faucheux - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Pietrusza's "1960" is an engaging and entertaining examination of the big personalities, politics and events of the 1960 presidential election. Like his other volume, "1920: The Year of the Six Presidents," his latest work is extremely well written, bringing to life the people and conflicts of history. His treatment of JFK, LBJ and Richard Nixon -- as well as others such as Nelson Rockefeller, Joe Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Barry Goldwater -- are superb and insightful. A must-read for anyone interested in presidential politics. I have used "1920" in my History of Presidential Elections course at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, much to the delight and enlightenment of my students, and I intend to use "1960" as well.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 1960 Election Brought Back to Life Nov. 1 2008
By Bill Emblom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed David Pietrusza's books on Arnold Rothstein, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and the one on the election of 1920. His latest effort on the 1960 election was particularly significant for me since I was a senior in high school at the time. Author Pietrusza brings the principal characters back to life warts and all. I found it to be especially helpful to have them all introduced at the beginning of the book. This is a story involving more than Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson. Joe Kennedy, Harry Truman, Robert Kennedy, Henry Cabot Lodge, Sam Giancana, Judith Campbell Exner, Frank Sinatra, and several others add to the complexity of the story. This was the first year of televised debates, and it was interesting to see how they were viewed by the candidates and to be able to compare them to the Obama and McCain debates of today. Whether you lived through the 1960 election or not this is a story of American history brought to life, and we should be thankful for the author's efforts to educate the reader.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Analysis of a Fascinating Time July 19 2009
By D. Giesen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
On first blush, buying this book seemed like a colossal waste of money and time. After all, in the nearly 50 years since John Kennedy ran for President, we've read, watched and heard everything. What more, one could ask, could be told that the world doesn't know. Or is this book just another brick in the wall of the Kennedy mystique ... or another attempt to bash Richard Nixon?

It was with some surprise then, that the book was a balanced and comprehensive look at the 1960 election. It was fascinating on many levels, not the least of which was the question of how Candidate Nixon came within an eyelash of defeating the vaunted Kennedy machine. After nearly half a century of Kennedy PR, Camelot and Bobby the Dragon Slayer, one looks back and wonders today, who in their right mind would have ever voted for the evil Richard Nixon.

This book answers that question well and provides an unbelievable look at how, despite all their money, contacts and media, the Kennedys almost blew 1960. And how Nixon, ever the tactician, really was much smarter than anyone ever gave him credit (at least now). This from a Nixon-hater!

The book tracks well the emergence of its central characters from the 1940s through 1959. It does not fall into the trap of getting bogged down in information that, by now, we all know nor does Author Pietrusza fall into another trap of over-emphasizing "new" information that meant little but falls into the category of "gee, look what I found..."

Taken in context, what was interesting about the book was the Kennedy campaign's use of tactics that today are grossly illegal and would have landed the whole bunch of them in a federal prison. For example, Joe Kennedy's arbitraging the weekly collection plate in the Archdiocese of Boston to provide a source of undocumented cash or the well-known use of bag money to secure the West Virginia vote. Not a pretty picture, by any stretch of the imagination, but an essential part of Author Pietrusza's efforts to paint a clear understanding of what exactly happened in 1960.

Sure John Kennedy comes off well. He should -- he won. But surprisingly, the villan in the story was not LBJ or Candidate Nixon. It was, of all people, Bobby Kennedy. An early chapter, beginning on Page 61, sets this up even with its title, "When Bobby Hates You... You Stay Hated." Throughout the book, the picture of Bobby emerges of a man who was grossly partisan, often boorish and who lacked any sense of competitive compassion. The tone of the book often characterized Bobby as a man who didn't just want to win, but who also wanted to vanquish and perhaps even shoot his enemies.

The Nixon that emerged from the book was fascinating. He wasn't the robotron he became in 1968 and he actually made up most of the ground he lost in the first debate. The snippet of information of however, that the author missed, or at least misinterpreted, was Nixon's speaking before union groups just before the first debate. Author Pietrusza was right in that Nixon wasn't going to get union endorsements, but the author probably missed the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of those rank and file union memebers to whom Nixon spoke were possible Nixon Democrats. Twenty years later we saw what those same Democrats meant to Ronald Reagan. This is a small weakness in an overall well-written book and it falls into the category of not thinking through why somebody did a certain something.

The picture of Lyndon Johnson that emerged from the book was predictable and broke no new ground. Johnson was portrayed as deceptive and, to a large degree, a victim of Bobby's hatred. All of which was documented many times over. Johnson was portrayed as a brooder and as someone the Kennedy's thought should be neither seen nor heard, but should go away! He'd served a purpose.

The one weakness that perhaps Author Pietrusza could have spent time in his conclusions was the one "what if" that was lacking. What if President Eisenhower had made a more convincing and compelling effort for Candidate Nixon. With a few hundred thousand votes separating the candidates, all Eisenhower had to do was changed a small handful of votes per precinct (or change maybe a dozen or so in Illinois and Texas) and not even the theives could have changed the outcome.

One wishes he'd also talked about the 1960 Bobby versus the 1968 Bobby, which was a Bobby who was NOT recognized by anything in the book. Bobby was not the subject of the book per se, but he was so central to the story that some time needed to be spent on Bobby's emergence and his "new" personality in 1968.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story Retold...with Some Juicy Tidbits Feb. 28 2009
By Joe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
David Pietrusza does a fine job of retelling the story of the hard-fought and extremely close 1960 U.S. Presidential Election. With the advantage of nearly 50 years' hindsight, and lacking close ties to the three main characters, Pietrusz provides a much more balanced account than did Theodore White (a Massachusetts native and Harvard classmate of JFK) in his "Making of the President 1960." The juicy tidbits that White either could not tell, or did not know, make this book interesting--such as JFK's reckless womanizing and dependence on prescription drugs, Nixon's tantrums and election day car trip, and early warnings that the election might be stolen in Chicago.

On the downside, this book could have been better edited and seems much tougher on LBJ and Nixon, than on JFK. Perhaps it is simply the nature of such books that the ultimate winner of the big electoral prize comes off pretty well, while the several losers of the contest do not. Or perhaps it has to do with the later sudden and tragic end of JFK's life and presidency, while both LBJ and Nixon were basically driven out of office--as a result of Vietnam and Watergate, respectively--and died of natural causes at significantly older ages. However, Pietrusza does avoid White's fawning treatment of Nelson Rockefeller, whose arrogant sense of entitlement is shown in the unfavorable light that rank-and-file Republicans of that era (outside New York and the Northeast) certainly must have seen it.
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