The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America

The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America

by Jules Witcover
     
 

Month by month, Witcover re-creates 1968 as he travels with, and reports on, the political fortunes of Lyndon Johnson, Eugene McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Robert Kennedy, George Romney, and Hubert Humphrey. He conveys the actual words of national figures and commentary by rock artists, media people, economists, Vietnam veterans, and Haight-Ashbury hippies. That year… See more details below

Overview

Month by month, Witcover re-creates 1968 as he travels with, and reports on, the political fortunes of Lyndon Johnson, Eugene McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Robert Kennedy, George Romney, and Hubert Humphrey. He conveys the actual words of national figures and commentary by rock artists, media people, economists, Vietnam veterans, and Haight-Ashbury hippies. That year Witcover crossed the country from New Hampshire to California; he was standing on the rioting streets of Washington with Robert Kennedy after King was shot; he was in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel the night Kennedy was gunned down. An eyewitness to history, he presents a unique perspective that captures the mood of a nation and the life of ordinary people as shattering news erupts from assassins' bullets and backroom deals. Witcover broadens our understanding of how that year sowed the seeds of liberalism's demise, the shame of Watergate, Reagan's long reign, and today's new Democratic agenda.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a deft recycling of his earlier works (among them 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy), Baltimore Sun political columnist Witcover has us relive the tumultuous year in which the nation came "unglued." Nixon and Agnew vie for the villain's role, although neither would have been significant, contends the author, had LBJ not eroded his Kennedy legacy by escalating American involvement in Vietnam. As faith and trust in government die, so do Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the latter memorably Witcover's hero. In what is viewed as a might-have-been turning point offering the politics of hope, the crowd magic of RFK grows so uncanny that he must touch thousands of outstretched hands from an open car in motorcade marathons. But he is shot on the night of the California primary, Johnson drops from contention and Vice-President Humphrey is nominated during the bloody rioting at the Chicago convention. Witcover claims that three factors kept Nixon ahead on election dayresentment against "everything people were seeing on television," the failure of Humphrey's ad agency to spend all its TV money and the success of China lobbyist Anna Chennault, Nixon's agent, in stalling LBJ's peace talks with the North Vietnamese in Paris. This backward look is enriched by the 20/20 hindsight of surviving participants, some still prominent in public life. (June)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Witcover (Mad as Hell, LJ 8/93), a columnist for the Baltimore Sun, was an eyewitness to many of the tumultuous events of 1968. He chronicles here the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, increasing public unrest over America's involvement in the Vietnam War, college campus upheaval, and the chaotic Democratic National Convention in Chicago, concluding it was during this year that America turned its back on the progressive social and political changes that marked the 1960s. These events culminated in the election of Richard Nixon as president, and in the years to follow the country would become increasingly cynical about politics and government. Because he was present at many seminal events of that year, Witcover is able to provide a rich and compelling narrative of the time. Highly recommended.Roseanne Castellino, D'Youville Coll. Lib., Buffalo, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
An overblown snapshot of a tumultuous year.

Witcover (Crapshoot: Rolling the Dice on the Vice Presidency, 1992, etc.), a nationally syndicated political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, draws on reminiscences by Al Gore, John Ehrlichman, Allard Lowenstein, and George McGovern, among others, to chronicle the year in which "the dream" gave up the ghost. Which dream is unclear: Robert Kennedy's? Martin Luther King's? Richard Nixon's? Curtis LeMay's? Witcover's account is shot through with a lack of clarity, and the author seems mostly content to recall the days of tear gas and free love with tired (and often ungrammatical) truisms: "Through the medium of television that was a babysitter for many of them through their formative years, these young Americans saw the Vietnam War up close and they despised it"; "The names [of rock groups] alone, aside from the music often so discordant and confusing to older ears, drew a distinct generational line between the now generation and its parents." Witcover's narrative acquires depth only when he recalls his own experiences as a reporter, reliving the good old days of seemingly unlimited expense accounts and one-on-one interviews with the politicos of the day, most notably a carefully suntanned Nixon. Had Witcover written his book as a reporter's memoir of events he himself covered, it would surely have been to better result than this exercise in pop history, which closes with silly speculations on, for instance, what might have happened had Robert Kennedy lived to run against Nixon.

As an overview of 1968, several books, notably Stephen Spender's The Year of the Young Rebels and Todd Gitlin's The Sixties, cover the same ground, and much better.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780788195518
Publisher:
DIANE Publishing Company
Publication date:
08/01/1997
Pages:
544

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