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1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies Paperback – October 5, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The 1960 presidential campaign season was dominated by the personalities of three men, each of whom became president. Award-winning author Pietrusza chronicles their roles and character in a stirring, hard-edged political saga. This is no insider account; Pietrusza is not beholden to any of the three candidates, and they are not portrayed sympathetically. Johnson, the product of a hardscrabble existence, is viewed as domineering, obnoxious, and ruthless; yet he was the only true FDR-style liberal of the three, and his concern for the disadvantaged was genuine. Kennedy, in contrast, was laid-back, viewed as lazy or uninteresting by his senatorial colleagues, and seemed to lack any distinct political principles. Nixon was brilliant, suspicious, and prone to self-pity, but he probably had the best mastery of the issues. This is a wide-ranging panorama that includes a vast cast of characters, many of whom seem more appealing than the main protagonists. Included are such notables as the eloquent but arrogant Eugene McCarthy, a passionate and compassionate but seemingly overwhelmed Hubert Humphrey, and a sharply skeptical Martin Luther King Jr. An outstanding reexamination. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Here's what Theodore White didn't tell you in 'The Making of the President, 1960.'" --The Denver Post

"This is the kind of book that makes reading history enjoyable." --Book News

"among the best political books I've ever read."--Roger Stone

"I flew through this book--partly because I couldn't put it down and partly because it is supremely readable.  Pietrusza's research brings us 
amazing quotes, and the book features complex characters who are full of enough stories that it's easy to get lost in a book about each of 
them individually.  In 1960, these individuals are playing a part in the same drama and there is never a moment where you wish the author 
would switch back to something more interesting.  Every story he tells is interesting."
--Anthony Bergen, Dead Presidents blog

"LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies aims to take us deeper into the campaign than Theodore 
White's famous The Making of the President, 1960. And it does . . ."
--The Chicago Sun-Times
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402777469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402777462
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert N. Going Esq on September 7, 2008
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Format: Hardcover
For the follow-up to his superb "1920," Pietrusza took something of a chance by focusing on the 1960 presidential campaign. Not that it isn't a subject worthy of remembrance -- especially as we edge toward the 50th anniversary of the epic duel between Kennedy and Nixon -- but the ground has been ploughed many times before, starting with Theodore White's groundbreaking "The Making of the President, 1960." Given the fact that the major players and events are far better known to readers than those of 1920, Pietrusza does an excellent job of tying all the threads of this tortuous race together. He is especially effective when discussing the televised debates, especially the pivotal first one, and makes the important point that Nixon may have LOOKED terrible compared to JFK, but his biggest debits may have been verbal/argumentative in nature (notwithstanding the fact that those who listened on radio did feel that Nixon had won). As in "1920," the main asset of Pietrusza's narrative is its objectivity. With JFK, Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson calling forth such strong emotions from Americans even to this day, Pietrusza's ability to avoid playing favorites is even more impressive here than it was when he dissected the likes of Harding, Wilson, and Coolidge. The additional info on The Rat Pack, Jackie Robinson, the Mob, and JFK's dalliances adds the right touch of spice to the goulash of political wheelings and dealings. A few factual mistakes mar the narrative a bit, but "1960" stands up very well indeed, considering the tough act it had to follow.
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