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Kennedy and Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America Paperback – August 28, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

Christopher Matthews, the Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner and a former aide to Tip O'Neill, offers a fascinating look at the connections between the two most well-known politicians in the last 40 years. He traces the symmetries of their beginnings--both were elected to the House of Representatives in 1946 and assigned to the same committee--as well as their similar thirst for power. While both men's rise and fall, events that had profound effects on America, have been well chronicled, Matthews' book is one of the few, if not only, that places the two in parallel historical context. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Wartime naval officers John Kennedy and Richard Nixon entered politics in the congressional class of 1947 and remained friendly thereafter. Until ambition and party identity began to pull them apart, they even shared a Cold War conservatism and middle-of-the-road domestic agenda. Yet Kennedy would remark after his narrow presidential victory in 1960, "If I've done nothing [else] for this country, I've saved them from Dick Nixon." Because Kennedy had his father's fortune as well as his father's ruthlessness, he was able to hold his own in the national arena after Nixon's own opportunism got him (during Eisenhower's illnesses) within a heartbeat of the White House. Additional Kennedy advantages were his authentic hero status and a reputation for braininess gained from his book Profiles in Courage. Washington cable news anchor Matthews (Hardball: How Politics Is Played) has described the largely familiar parallels between the political careers of the two electoral rivals and added some striking ones of his own. Nixon, he contends, was handicapped by resentment of Kennedy's affluence and easy elegance, struggling clumsily once in office to match what he saw as his presidential style. Running against the graceful ghost of one Kennedy, he found himself, in 1968, competing against the shade of a second martyred Kennedy, then against the inheritance of the Last Brother?whose ambitions he sought to sidetrack by means of the bunglers of Watergate. Haunted by the Kennedys, Nixon recklessly undermined his own presidency. To Matthews, the "Camelot" aura is as much a misperception as the idea that Watergate represents the real Nixon. Despite a straining for balance and a tendency to oversimplify to fit the tale to the theme, it is a good story. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684832461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684832463
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Joseph S. Lamountain on November 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
You might be surprised after reading Matthews' fascinating story on the friendship and rialry between these icons of post-WWII America. Having read numerous books on Nixon, and a few on Kennedy, I began reading without much expectation that I would walk away with any new insights or knowledge. How wrong I was.
What surprised me most was the number of similarities between Kennedy and Nixon's political views. From their ardent anti-communism to their disdain for the prevailing purveyors of liberalism, it's easy to see how they forged a friendship upon their election to Congress in 1947.
Kennedy and Nixon also shared a strong desire to move ahead and gain the ultimate prize - the Presidency - and this evenaully lead to their rivalry and ultimate disdain for one another. I never realized how Kennedy (and his family) consumed and impacted Nixon's political and physical psyche. But given Teddy Kennedy's significant behind-the-scenes involvement in Nixon's ultimate downfall, fully chronicled here, he had good reason.
If you're searching for a fresh analysis and interpretation of these two icons in American history, this is the book for you.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Stamper VINE VOICE on November 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Chris Matthews was an aid to Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, the largest liberal voice of the 1980s. I was surprised then at how even-handedly he treated his subjects.
He describes the Kennedy flaws quite aptly. He lays out the Nixon virtues in quite the same way.
It begins with Kennedy and Nixon both elected to the house of representatives in 1946. Kennedy was jovial and light. Nixon was quite a serious young man. Nixon went to the senate first. Kennedy made it to the Senate when Nixon became vice-president. The men had a cordial relationship.
In 1946 they went to Pennsyvannia to debate. Afterwards they ate dinner together in a local diner. On the train trip back to Washington they flipped a coin for the bottom bunk. Richard Nixon was a Guest at John and Jackie's wedding. They were both guests at Senator Joe McCarthy's wedding.
They would have remained cordial until they went against each other in the 1960 presidential contest.
Matthews shows how this loss at the hands of John Kennedy changed the way he saw politics. In a way Matthews blames the kennedy's for Nixon's ethical demise. Nixon felt the Kennedy's stole the election and decided no more Mr. Nice Guy. The culmination of this would lead to Nixon's resignation some 14 years later.
I left the book liking both Kennedy and Nixon as men and Presidents more than when I picked it up.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Anthony G Pizza VINE VOICE on March 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
MSNBC host and news columnist Christopher Matthews charts the rivalry of "Kennedy v. Nixon" as backstory and inspiration behind most of America's post-World War II history. His meticulous research and breezy storytelling style creates a psychological/historical drama mixed with Shakespearean tragedy and some hilarious, touching anecdotes.
In it, Richard Nixon, the 37th president who resigned under pressure from the Watergate scandal, battles the ambitions, then the "Camelot" mythology of President John F. Kennedy, who defeated Nixon in 1960's close, contested election. Nixon is then shadowed throughout his political life by memories of the slain president: first by brother Robert, (a likely 1968 candidate before his assassination), and finally youngest brother Edward Kennedy.
"Kennedy vs. Nixon" tells a story of personal friendship souring under political differences and career paths. It shows how these cordial political colleagues who shared a hallway both opposed what they saw as Yalta's squandered victory after World War II, and fought Communist insurgency and infiltration domestically and internationally. Matthews traces their roles in the era's major events, all playing against a Cold War backdrop: tacit support for Joe McCarthy's investigations, distrust of Alger Hiss as Nixon prosecuted him, 1952's infamous "Checkers" speech preserving Nixon's vice-presidential candidacy even as President Dwight Eisenhower coldly minimizes Nixon's accomplishments and even attempts to remove him.
During these chapters Matthews reveals the start of Nixon's legendary personal distrust, hinted when vanquished Congressional opponent Helen Douglas branded him "Tricky Dicky.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Raymond D. Curry on August 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
Chris Matthews has written a extremely readable, informative, and fair history concerning two of the most important politicians in the post war era. Both were elected to the House of Representatives in 1946. Kennedy ran as a fighting conservative and Nixon as a common sense liberal. They became friends while serving in the House and later in the Senate. When it appeared that Kennedy might die in the mid 1950's Nixon broke down and cried. Both come across as extremely fair minded Senators politicians to do the right thing. Their friendship did not survive the 1960 election. After Kennedy was assassinated, Nixon could never live up to the myth of Camelot. It haunted him throughout the rest of his political career and played a part in his descent into Watergate.
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