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|Three Presidents, three giants—one election.
A thousand secrets.
Round One of 1960's electrifying presidential contest pits charismatic upstart
John Kennedy's blend of Harvard eloquence, social register style, and dashing
vigor against molasses-drawl Senate power broker Lyndon's Johnson mercurial
mix of overbearing Texas bluster and maddening indecision.
Kennedy versus Johnson—the cool patrician versus the manic cowboy.
Round Two pits JFK—dashing yet flawed in ways kept carefully hidden for an
adoring public— head-to-head, down-to-the wire, against lone-wolf Richard
Nixon's brooding, ultimately-damned, quest for political power and personal
Nixon versus Kennedy—Uriah Heep versus Dorian Gray.
The election, the year, the experience, its sights and soundbites, slogans and
hopes and fears, remain indelibly in our collective memory, vivid as ever, a
presidential drama exceeding fiction's bounds, presenting not merely the
grandest of characters, but the most astonishing of plot twists, the sharpest
confrontations, mobsters and molls, brains and bribes, the most eloquent and
compelling of dialogue, eternal truths and convenient lies.
And, when the ultimate cliff-hanger ending of twentieth century politics hurtles to its
exhausted conclusion, its warring tickets find themselves separated by only two
tenths of a single percentage point of the popular vote—and the Mayor of Chicago.
1960's legendary contest remains unsurpassed for color, personality, and
continuing historical significance.
1960 created the world we live in today.
1960 marked the triumph of tolerance over decades of ingrained anti-Catholic
1960 witnessed a spectacular infusion of idealism, style, and glamour into
politics—PT-109 and the birth of New Frontier, frenzied crowds storming the first
"rock-star" candidate, the turbulent sunrise of Camelot's storied thousand days.
1960 also witnessed back-alley, bare-knuckle politics—big money and back-
room deals, threats and broken promises, brutal, murderous mobsters and pious
In other words—politics as usual.
1960 ushered in television's unquestioned political domination, massively
increased emphasis on TV news coverage and advertising and, above all, a
quartet of riveting televised presidential debates staged before 77 million
viewers, seizing the collective national imagination, forever altering American
perceptions of politics and, indeed, of the presidency itself. The old machines
were dead. Television—"the new machine"—was king.
1960 witnessed Martin Luther King's civil rights movement reach maturity and
take national center stage, the sit-in phenomenon, King's sentencing to a brutal
Georgia prison camp, and how JFK's very much spontaneous and very human
intervention triggered King's release—and changed the course of the election.
1960 saw a ruthless multi-millionaire, his fortune made in predatory capitalism,
bootlegging and stock manipulation, his own dreams of political power long ago
destroyed, too controversial to seek any office for himself, skillfully maneuver his
charismatic son into the highest of all of all offices.
1960 pitted Democrats and Republicans in nip-and-tuck combat for a solid year,
at most a percentage point or two separating them. Among the most dramatic
electoral cliffhangers ever—even without a final dollop of fraud.
1960's drama played out across a volatile backdrop of downed spy planes,
mythical missile gaps, bluster and brinkmanship in the China Straits, a looming
recession, a thuggish Khrushchev at the United Nations, spreading Southern sit-
ins, and an impulsive Communist dictatorship ninety miles from our shores.
1960 witnessed the eclipse of old icons—stately and idealistic Eleanor
Roosevelt, urbane but hopelessly indecisive Adlai Stevenson, grandfatherly
Dwight Eisenhower (hostile to JFK, but wary of his own vice-president), crafty but
ailing House Speaker Sam Rayburn, and feisty Missouri loose-cannon Harry
1960 saw show business's spectacular intrusion into presidential politics—"right-
wingers John Wayne and Ronald Reagan for Nixon, a cadre of sentimental
Hollywood celebrities still holding fast for fading liberal idol Adlai Stevenson, but,
towering above all the Rat Pack's Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter
Lawford charging hard for rising star JFK.
1960 was enlivened by a spectacular, eclectic supporting cast, personalities who
would dominate our politics for decade—JFK's equally ambitious brothers Bobby
and Teddy, ebullient liberal Hubert Humphrey, immoderate GOP moderate Nelson
Rockefeller, tough-talking right-winger Barry Goldwater, eloquent newcomer
Eugene McCarthy, and Chicago's powerful and controversial, Richard J. Daley.
1960 featured an ensemble of tough, talented political operatives toiling to propel
their respective candidates to the pinnacles of power—JFK's brilliant
speechwriter Ted Sorenson, his freewheeling press chief Pierre Salinger, stellar
academics Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and John Kenneth Galbraith; Nixon's ruthless
new hires Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman; and LBJ's hardscrabble Texas
cadre of John Connally, Jack Valenti, and Bill Moyers.
1960 featured, last and hardly least, a rogue's gallery of . . . rogues: reclusive
billionaire Howard Hughes; brutal Chicago mobster Sam "Momo" Giancana;
JFK's beautiful mistress Judith Campbell Exner, hardscrabble labor racketeer
Jimmy Hoffa, smoldering with hatred for the Kennedys; oily Senate wheeler-dealer
Bobby Baker, and spectacularly charismatic and corrupt Harlem Congressman
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
But above all, 1960 pitted a warring trio of legendary, unique and totally different
personalities—John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, and Lyndon Baines
Johnson—three imperfect, all-too-human, giants scrambling and scheming and
clawing for the presidency of the United States. How they battled, how they warily
saw each other, their strategies, their alliances, their ambitions, their ideals and
scandals and compromises, their strengths and tragic flaws are all forcefully
chronicled in 1960—LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged
No author—not even Theodore H. White—has yet pieced together the brilliant,
million-pieced mosaic of this fascinating, unprecedented struggle for power, its
towering events and personalities, unlocking its secrets, mixing solid historical
scholarship and rich, anecdotal, human storytelling.
Masterfully building on painstaking research, drawing on nearly a half-century of
documentary literature—histories, biographies, memoirs, interviews, and press
accounts, David Pietrusza tracks down every lead and applies the critically-
acclaimed formula that compelled Publisher's Weekly to compare his 1920: The
Year of the Six Presidents to the work of Doris Kearns Goodwin. It's a winning,
engaging, savvy combination of unparalleled research and breezy, compelling
narrative, riveting character studies, subtle wit, and a remarkable gift for historical
1960—”LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three
Presidencies will transform the way readers see modern American history.
"David Pietrusza provides a cinematic retelling of a pivotal election that featured
three men whose strengths, ambitions, and flaws would make them the leaders of
the United States for the next 14 years, and bring each to grief. With an eye for
the telling detail and the broad sweep of the twentieth century American history,
Pietrusza's story is an important reminder of the perils of choosing a president."
—David O. Stewart, author of The Summer of 1787, The Men Who Invented the
"The bare-knuckle primaries. The back-room dealing of the conventions. The
historic television debates. The explosive controversies of race, religion, and
foreign policy. And, above all, the towering clash of personalities—LBJ, JFK, and
Nixon. They're all here in David Pietrusza's superb 1960. 1960 provides new
insights into that year's hard-fought, pivotal election, but, more than that, 1960 is
great story-telling—a fascinating, can't-put-it-down account of how American
politics really works."
—Former United States Attorney General Richard Thornburgh
David Pietrusza is the award-winning author of 1920: The Year of the Six
|Table of Contents
Featured in Baker & Taylor's Forecast Magazine
1960 Presidential Election Campaign Buttons
Regarding dramatic, motion picture, radio, television and foreign language
rights contact the Carol Mann Agency.
For interviews with the author contact David Pietrusza.
Now Available as a Barnes & Noble eBook.