A review of Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics, JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan, by Jeff Greenfield
@@@@@ (5 out of 5)
There is a subspecies of the human race that is afflicted, usually from birth, with an insatiable thirst for politics. This book was written for them — and, to this political junkie, what a book it is!
Here we see one perspective on what might have happened had a little known but all too real would-be-assassin succeeded in killing John F. Kennedy in 1960, after the election but even before the Electoral College met to certify his winning the Presidency. With Lyndon Johnson ascending to the White House three years earlier than in reality, we can ponder how different the 60s might have been.
Here, too, we can journey with Robert F. Kennedy through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel the night in June 1968 when he won the California primary — as his brother-in-law tackled Sirhan Sirhan, saving the Senator’s life and giving him a powerful boost in his face-off for the presidential nomination against Hubert Humphrey.
In a third venture into alternate history, we view the changes wrought when President Gerald Ford quickly corrects his historic gaffe denying that Eastern Europe is under Soviet control — and proceeds to win the 1976 election against Jimmy Carter. Ford’s Presidency leads us willy-nilly into the disorienting world of 1980, as Senator Gary Hart jumps into a race against Ronald Reagan . . . and wins.
In Then Everything Changed, we glimpse the past-that-might-have-been through the eyes of Jeff Greenfield, a shrewd political pro turned journalist, whose resume includes a stint as speechwriter for Robert F. Kennedy. Both as an insider and as a journalist, Greenfield has had a front-row seat on politics at the highest level in the land for nearly half a century. His speculations are solidly based on the historical record — he researched this book with with impressive thoroughness — and, in many cases, on the thoughts and opinions of key players at the time.
Even the acknowledgements in this book are well worth reading, because it’s there that Greenfield reveals the sources he relied on — and shows just how closely he hewed to the historical record.