Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan

Jeff Greenfield

Language: English

Pages: 379


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A brilliant and brilliantly entertaining tour de force of American politics from one of journalism's most acclaimed commentators.

History turns on a dime. A missed meeting, a different choice of words, and the outcome changes dramatically. Nowhere is this truer than in the field where Jeff Greenfield has spent most of his working life, American politics, and in three dramatic narratives based on memoirs, histories, oral histories, fresh reporting with journalists and key participants, and Greenfield's own knowledge of the principal players, he shows just how extraordinary those changes would have been.

These things are true: In December 1960, a suicide bomber paused fatefully when he saw the young president-elect's wife and daughter come to the door to wave goodbye...In June 1968, RFK declared victory in California, and then instead of talking to people in another ballroom, as intended, was hustled off through the kitchen...In October 1976, President Gerald Ford made a critical gaffe in a debate against Jimmy Carter, turning the tide in an election that had been rapidly narrowing.

But what if it had gone the other way? The scenarios that Greenfield depicts are startlingly realistic, rich in detail, shocking in their projections, but always deeply, remarkably plausible. You will never think about recent American history in the same way again.

















into war. Today, as we struggle to preserve peace and freedom in a dangerous world, we make this promise to John Kennedy: We will not succumb to the temptation to yield to our grief.” He took a few lines from Sorensen’s draft, shaping them to his simpler style (“We will not negotiate out of fear, but we’ll never be afraid to negotiate”), and added a pointed reference to civil rights. After warning America’s allies to stay united because “a house divided against itself cannot stand, and the house

evidence of an all-out attack on the island. —They did not know that Fidel Castro, certain that a Yankee invasion was coming, was putting enormous pressure on the Kremlin to take strong action against any incursion of his airspace by American airplanes . . . or that Soviet military officers on the ground in Cuba would be responsive to Castro’s urgings. All Wednesday, President Johnson and his team of officials and advisors met to hash out the details of the U.S. response. At sundown on

think the Senate guys are bomb-throwers, and I figure we have about seventy-two hours before Humphrey wraps this up. Well, tomorrow the senior campaign team would gather in Smith’s bungalow on the grounds of the Ambassador. On Thursday, Bobby would fly back East, stopping in Missouri for a meeting with convention delegates, and then Friday he’d be in Niagara Falls, to launch the battle for New York. After that . . .? He checked the numbers one last time. There was no room for doubt, it would be

O’Brien said. “And how can Meany have his labor people vote with the segregationists? I mean, he’s no friends of the blacks, but he did put a hell of a lot of money into the March on Washington.” O’Brien grinned as he shook his head. “It’ll drive Lyndon absolutely crazy.” “Call it a side benefit,” O’Donnell said. David Hackett held up a cautionary finger. “I’m not sure it would be enough to turn things around—not as long as those states have the unit rule. Hell, they could put twenty blacks

said Humphrey, as he nibbled on a slice of cheddar. “You tell the President that if I’d stayed with the unit rule, I’d have lost four hundred delegates. Does he understand that I’m the candidate? Or am I misunderstanding something.” Watson ignored the jab. “The President wants to know about the Vietnam platform plank,” Watson said. “He wants to make sure you understand that any loss of support for our policy is going to be seen in Hanoi as a sign of weakness; he asked me to call your attention

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