The Making of the President 1960 Hardcover – January 1, 1964
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- ASIN : B001AA154O
- Publisher : Atheneum Publishers; First edition, later printing (January 1, 1964)
- Language : English
- Item Weight : 1.75 pounds
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,653,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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This is Jack Kennedy seen before we found out about all those women and before we heard that Sam Giancana said to Judith Campbell Exner, the girlfriend he shard with the President, "Your boyfriend wouldn't have been elected without me." It's Nixon years before Watergate.
The personal details are not as juicy as those we get now. Teddy White mentions on more than one occasion Jack Kennedy's deep need for soup, but when he talks about Kennedy's witty remarks about his fellow politicians, he leaves it there. He doesn't give us any idea of what Kennedy actually said. The candidate's actual remarks to him are rarely if ever quoted.
Then there are other assertions made that no longer hold true We're told that Nelson Rockefeller needs to run for the presidency is 1960 because if another man is elected and wins two terms, he will need to wait until he is 60 to run again which White judges is "too old." Women as candiates aren't even thought of. White observes: "If the conventions do their job well, and they usually, two men of exceptional ability will be chosen."
Though White explains that he was denied a chance to speak to Nixon directly, his portrait is somehow more vivid than that of Kennedy. Kennedy handled White very well and White, in turn, is filled with admiration of Kennedy. White understands when other reporters are being flattered but it's not as clear that he realizes when he's being charmed.
On crowd size, White makes one observation that perhaps Bernie Sanders could learn from: "Bu a big crowd, however huge or enthusiastic, means nothing at all--no greater demonstrations occurred than for Kennedy in Ohio. or for Nixon in Georgia; yet both of them lost those roaring states stunningly.
=== The Good Stuff ===
* We like to think that Barrack Obama harnessed a new force, the internet, in his campaigns of 2008. No doubt he was the first candidate to truly have an online presence, but as this book shows, he was mere following in the footsteps of men before him. JFK and even to some extent Richard Nixon put the new medium of television to work for them in 1960. In many cases they learned by doing, and looking back, it seems that JFK's men learned faster. But if you substitute "website" and "email" for "TV ads" and "directed phone campaigns", the election technology of 2008 and 1960 is remarkably similar.
* We also see many of the same issues showing up as in modern elections. The choice of an ideal running mate, what states to campaign in, how to allocate scarce resources...really the game hasn't changed all that much.
* White does a nice job of relating the tale. Even though the text is over 50 years old, it still reads like a contemporary work, and could easily have been a more modern work. It was very interesting to read of Nixon while he was still considered somewhat of a "good guy", without all the baggage that would clog up the story if it had been written after 1973.
* White seemed to have good access to the Kennedy campaign, including details of some rather confidential meetings on strategy and decisions on when, where and even if he was going to run. The Nixon folks, as expected, were someone more secretive, but even parts of that tale come through in the book.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff===
* The book screams for an "Afterword" describing the net results of the 1960 election-not so much from a political history viewpoint, but its effect on campaigns in general. For certain it was the first election that showed the need and benefits of "big money" in campaign chests, but also the ability for a relative unknown (JFK) to bypass, or at least influence the choice of a party for their candidate. Certainly Reagan, Carter, Clinton and Obama took note.
=== Summary ===
Anyone who is a fan of politics, and especially of the strategies and tactics of political campaigns will enjoy the book. it is a bit outdated on details, but the underlying concepts of communication and use of technology in elections are as relevant today as 1961. I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest.
So it is easy to see how this would have been a "blow the covers off" of political maneuvering and an excellent piece of expose writing. It certainly shows you exactly how politics worked in the 50's and 60's. The writing is supposed to build suspense and take twists and turns as candidates come into the race, fall out and make big wins and big loses.
But because we all know how it turned out, it reads as a bit dated for me now. It's best looked at as an mid-century history of a campaign. That's why it gets 4 stars instead of 5. It's just not quite relevant to politics today.
But it's still a 4 star read and as a daily deal it was worth the money. At full price, I'd get a copy at the library rather than spend the money.
Top reviews from other countries
White offers fantastic asides, some of the most interesting passages, on items which affect the outcome of the election, for instance the changing demographics of the nation from 1850 to 1960 or the changes in the roles of the primaries are deeply engaging insights.
While the book does suffer a little from its ageing, it remains a wonderful combination of character driven drama and historical detail. Highly recommended.