1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies Hardcover – Sep 2 2008
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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