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

Jeff Greenfield, Author
Jeff Greenfield, Putnam, $25.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-399-15706-6
Paperback - 434 pages - 978-0-425-24533-0
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-101-48642-9
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Speculation isn't history, but it's catnip to pundits and journalists like veteran CBS News reporter and commentator Greenfield (The Real Campaign), who can be excused for this romp into what ifs. He rightly says that alternative history's foundation is plausibility. And since he's read widely in the sources, his excursions into possible histories are decently anchored to the ground. In the first narrative, an actual failed attempt to assassinate JFK before his inauguration instead succeeds. LBJ takes his place, Guantánamo is wiped out by a rogue Soviet missile, and war with the U.S.S.R. is only narrowly averted. In the second narrative, Robert Kennedy isn't assassinated, beats Nixon in 1968, winds down the Vietnam War, and with no Watergate scandal, the cultural changes of the 1970s are averted. The third account has Ford winning re-election, but in 1980 it's Hart vs. Reagan, and Hart wins. Of course, there are other possible scenarios, which Greenfield doesn't discuss. And in these novelistic narratives, readers drown in excess, irrelevant detail (dinner menus, precise times of meetings, exact conversations)—all wonkish pundit stuff, and none essential to Greenfield's purpose. In the end, fun but insubstantial. (Mar.)
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