|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
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 validation.
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
1960 created the world we live in today.
1960 marked the triumph of tolerance over decades of ingrained anti-Catholic bigotry.
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 hypocrites.
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
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 Truman.
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
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 Presidents.
SBN-10: 1-4027-6114-7 ISBN-13: 978-1-4027-
$24.95 US $26.95
512 pages Hardcover with Jacket 24-pg b/w
From Union Square Press's Fall 2008 Catalog.
Table of Contents
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|From the Award-Winning Author of 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents