If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History

If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History

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by Jeff Greenfield
     
 

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"On the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, this is the book to read. An intelligent, often haunting book about what America and the world would have looked like if John Kennedy had lived."--Fareed Zakaria

From one of the country’s most brilliant political commentators, the bestselling author of Then Everything Changed, an

Overview


"On the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, this is the book to read. An intelligent, often haunting book about what America and the world would have looked like if John Kennedy had lived."--Fareed Zakaria

From one of the country’s most brilliant political commentators, the bestselling author of Then Everything Changed, an extraordinary, thought-provoking look at Kennedy’s presidency—after November 22, 1963.

November 22, 1963: JFK does not die. What would happen to his life, his presidency, his country, his world?

In Then Everything Changed, Jeff Greenfield created an “utterly compelling” (Joe Klein), “riveting” (The New York Times), “eye-opening” (Peggy Noonan), “captivating” (Doris Kearns Goodwin) exploration of three modern alternate histories, “with the kind of political insight and imagination only he possesses” (David Gregory). Based on memoirs, histories, oral histories, fresh reporting, and his own knowledge of the players, the book looked at the tiny hinges of history—and the extraordinary changes that would have resulted if they had gone another way.

Now he presents his most compelling narrative of all about the historical event that has riveted us for fifty years. What if Kennedy were not killed that fateful day? What would the 1964 campaign have looked like? Would changes have been made to the ticket? How would Kennedy, in his second term, have approached Vietnam, civil rights, the Cold War? With Hoover as an enemy, would his indiscreet private life finally have become public? Would his health issues have become so severe as to literally cripple his presidency? And what small turns of fate in the days and years before Dallas might have kept him from ever reaching the White House in the first place?

As with Then Everything Changed, the answers Greenfield provides and the scenarios he develops are startlingly realistic, rich in detail, shocking in their projections, but always deeply, remarkably plausible. It is a tour de force of American political history.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Jacob Heilbrunn
…[counterfactual history] can be an enlightening exercise to challenge the belief that what happened had to happen. Usually, it didn't. In his diverting If Kennedy Lived, Greenfield, the veteran political commentator, asks how things might have played out had John F. Kennedy survived in Dallas.
Publishers Weekly
08/18/2014
The premise of Greenfield's alternate history, a follow-up to 2011's Then Everything Changed, is certainly a fascinating one, fleshing out plausible scenarios of what might have happened had J.F.K. survived his trip to Dallas. Illustrating how often minor things can change the course of history, rain causes the bubble top on the presidential limo to stay on, thereby preventing Oswald's shots from proving fatal. The imagined fate of L.B.J., Kennedy's 1964 reelection campaign, and U.S. involvement in Vietnam are all believable, though Greenfield can't resist some throwaway lines that undermine the suspension of disbelief (e.g., " ‘Makes sense,' Al Gore Jr. said. ‘It'd be damned hard for a national candidate to lose his home state'"). Perhaps more fitting than plausible is what Jackie decides to do, in the light of her husband's philandering, after the couple leave the White House in 1969. In Greenfield's scenario, the overall arc of JFK's political career post 11/22/63 is logical and supports the point of such speculations—to better understand what did happen by looking at the alternatives. (Oct.)
Library Journal
09/15/2013
Greenfield (Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternative Histories of American Politics; JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan), an Emmy-winning political analyst, speculates how much different the nation and the world would have been if Kennedy had been only wounded by Oswald and gone on to serve two full terms. Here, Kennedy recovers from a serious chest wound and ushers in a relatively peaceful era—compared to the real 1960s—in which the Cold War ends, the United States avoids entrapment in Vietnam, and student protests call for more progressive politics than JFK is already advocating. Yet Greenfield shows that all choices have their price. South Vietnam falls to North Vietnamese forces and Cold War treaties come at the expense of racial progress, as JFK signs a devil's bargain with Southern senators who reluctantly agree to support his diplomatic initiatives in return for limited civil rights legislation. Greenfield grounds his fictional history in research and interviews with some of the era's experts and, as in his previous excursion into alternative history, offers an ending that the reader will not see coming. VERDICT Although character development is not strong, and readers will have to decide if Greenfield's ironic view is plausible, Kennedy-era followers will enjoy this book, an alternate alternate history, if you will, to Stephen King's massive novel 11/22/63.—KH
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-30
What would have happened if Lee Harvey Oswald had been off by a hair on Nov. 22, 1963? For one thing, Greenfield (Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan, 2011, etc.) hazards in this counterfactual history, the 1960s might not have been the '60s--at least not the '60s of the Weather Underground, since some of the things the movement fought against might not have happened. The author supposes that Kennedy survived Oswald's bullets, though not unscathed--no thanks to "carelessness, negligence, and ineptitude on the part of the CIA and the FBI that bordered on the criminal"--and that in his second term, he made efforts to correct a couple of courses that were clearly astray. The first was Vietnam, a quagmire in the making that Kennedy manages, in Greenfield's vision, to extricate himself from. Vietnam falls, doing him some political damage but much less than would be inflicted on Lyndon Johnson. As for LBJ, the author observes that JFK's successor "saw political threats and opportunities through an intensely personal prism," while JFK was more detached and analytical. Greenfield supposes that something like the civil rights reforms that LBJ saw through would have come about but with a different tone. The noncounterfactuals that would have been brought to bear on JFK's second term are of particular interest, particularly the calving off of the South from the Democratic Party. Greenfield also does good service in demythologizing JFK to suggest that, had he indeed lived, his second term might have been marked by scandal and controversy, a Camelot undone by the president's own proclivities as much as by the events of the time. Yet, as Greenfield suggests as well, JFK might also have dismantled the Cold War--even if, nightmare of nightmares, Ronald Reagan might have become president in 1968. Well researched and thought through--an interesting, plausible exercise in pop history that doesn't take itself too seriously.
From the Publisher
Praise for If Kennedy Lived

“It can be an enlightening exercise to challenge the belief that what happened had to happen.  Usually it didn’t.  In his diverting If Kennedy Lived, Greenfield, the veteran political commentator, asks how things might have played out had John F. Kennedy survived in Dallas.”—The New York Times Book Review

“On the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, this is the book to read. An intelligent, often haunting book about what America and the world would have looked like if John Kennedy had lived . . . It's a clever, moving book.”—Fareed Zakaria

“Greenfield grounds his fictional history in research and interviews with some of the era’s experts and, as in his previous excursion into alternative history, offers an ending that the reader will not see coming . . . Kennedy-era followers will enjoy this book.”—Library Journal

“Greenfield does good service in demythologizing JFK to suggest that, had he indeed lived, his second term might have been marked by scandal and controversy, a Camelot undone by the president’s own proclivities as much as by the events of the time. . . . Well researched and thought through—an interesting, plausible exercise in pop history.”—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399166969
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/22/2013
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
1,139,734
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for If Kennedy Lived

“It can be an enlightening exercise to challenge the belief that what happened had to happen.  Usually it didn’t.  In his diverting If Kennedy Lived, Greenfield, the veteran political commentator, asks how things might have played out had John F. Kennedy survived in Dallas.”—The New York Times Book Review

“On the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, this is the book to read. An intelligent, often haunting book about what America and the world would have looked like if John Kennedy had lived . . . It's a clever, moving book.”—Fareed Zakaria

“Greenfield grounds his fictional history in research and interviews with some of the era’s experts and, as in his previous excursion into alternative history, offers an ending that the reader will not see coming . . . Kennedy-era followers will enjoy this book.”—Library Journal

“Greenfield does good service in demythologizing JFK to suggest that, had he indeed lived, his second term might have been marked by scandal and controversy, a Camelot undone by the president’s own proclivities as much as by the events of the time. . . . Well researched and thought through—an interesting, plausible exercise in pop history.”—Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author


JEFF GREENFIELD is the host of the PBS news show Need to Know, a Yahoo! News columnist, and a veteran of CBS News, ABC News, and CNN. A five-time Emmy
Award winner, he is the author of twelve books. He lives in New York City and Santa Barbara.

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If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: AnAlternate History 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mediocre. Let's face it: The point of such 'alternative' histories is to entertain; nothing more. The stuff didn't happen anyway. So the virtues of such an exercise would be suggesting the unexpected, the unlikely, the surprising. This pedestrian account doesn't really do any of these things. So boring, I had to skim-read the second half, or I would have fallen asleep. Save your money and time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great " WHAT IF " read if JFK had survived; very plausible and well researched & written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating speculation on what might have happened if John F. Kennedy was wounded, but not killed, in Dallas. The author displays a great deal of knowledge of real historic incidents which indicate clues regarding the details of a second Kennedy term. Unfortunately, like most alternate history books, much of the speculation only scratches the surface.