Finally, it’s all out—including JFK’s poignant comment on why LBJ’s nomination as vice president would be inconsequential: “I’m 43 years old. I’m not going to die in office.”
Combining an engaging narrative with exhaustive research, Pietrusza chronicles the pivotal election of 1960, in which issues of civil rights and religion (Kennedy was only the second major-party Roman Catholic candidate ever) converged. The volatile primary clash between Senate Majority leader LBJ and the young JFK culminated in an improbable fusion ticket. The historic, legendary Kennedy-Nixon debates followed in its wake. The first presidential televised debates, they forever altered American politics when an exhausted Nixon was unkempt and tentative in their first showdown. With 80 million viewers passing judgment, Nixon’s poll numbers dropped as the charismatic Kennedy’s star rose. Nixon learned his lesson—resting before subsequent debates, reluctantly wearing makeup, and challenging JFK with a more aggressive stance—but the damage was done.
There’s no one better to convey the drama of that tumultuous year than Pietrusza. He has 1,000 secrets to spill; a fascinating cast of characters to introduce (including a rogue’s gallery of hangers-on and manipulators); and towering historical events to chronicle. And all of it is built on painstaking research and solid historical scholarship. Pietrusza tracks down every lead to create a winning, engaging, and very readable account.
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The election of 1960 matched two World War II veterans and resulted in Democrat John F. Kennedy defeating Republican Richard M. Nixon to become the first Catholic president. The Roman Catholic Church was virtually the only Christian church in the former Western Roman Empire until the Protestant Reformation. Lyndon B. Johnson, a powerful Democratic Senator from Texas, was JFK's vice-president in the 1960 election and succeeded him in November 1963.