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Then Everything Changed : Stunning Alternate…

Then Everything Changed : Stunning Alternate Histories of American…

by Jeff Greenfield

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1718113,037 (3.46)14
Veteran CBS News reporter and commentator Greenfield speculates what would have happened if an actual failed attempt to assassinate JFK before his inauguration instead succeeded; Robert Kennedy isn't assassinated, beats Nixon in 1968, winds down the Vietnam War, and with no Watergate scandal, the cultural changes of the 1970s are averted; and, Ford wins re-election, but in 1980 it's Hart vs. Reagan, and Hart wins.… (more)



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» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Substance: Grenfield certainly knows his subjects (was a player himself) and also incorporates much of what was secret at the time and later revealed (published 2011). Don't read this unless you really know the subject, or don't care to separate fact (and its spin) from fiction from speculation.His preference for Robert Kennedy and Gary Hart as presidents does not blind him totally to their flaws (in fact, one major theme is that the disasters that overtook some men in reality were in the wings for others; don't want to get too more detailed because, spoilers). He caught me one time: I didn't believe the media actually did turn on Teddy Kennedy when he campaigned for prez. That may have been an object lesson for them later during Clinton's debacle. The scenarios are all plausible (despite the wish fulfillment aspects) and contain a number of humorous jabs.

Style: This is for the serious poli-wonk, who is comfortable reading (non)fiction details about politicians and policy. One major complaint (Greenfield is not the only transgressor but the habit irritates me a lot). After a long section on one person, he starts the next section and runs for several long paragraphs on pronouns only, leaving the subject in "suspense" -- but it's unnecessary and annoying.
Note that the three scenarios are totally independent, not cumulative changes. All the fictional changes are "reset" for the succeeding campaign and reign.

2015-04-11 Stuart Schneiderman's blog "Had Enough Therapy?"
( )
  librisissimo | Apr 11, 2015 |
read the first installment, about JFK's alternate death. Fascinating glimpse into what might have been, but entirely too much politics, and my own lack of knowledge/interest about RFK's career and assassination ultimately led me to put the book away in part 2; never reached part 3 about Reagan.
  annodoom | Jun 12, 2013 |
Most of us are aware of how much life can change in a minute: A gunshot kills someone. A gun shot misses killing someone. A person says the wrong thing and damages a relationship. A person says or explains everything correctly. Using fact and fiction in THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED, Jeff Greenfield puts this to a test by exploring how the United States might have been different if the actual scenarios had differed.
In the first incident, an extremist planned to run a car filled with explosives into John F. Kennedy’s car in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 11, 1960. He had been stalking the president-elect for quite awhile. Just before JFK got into his car, though, Jackie and Caroline Kennedy came out of the house to wave goodbye. The man did not want to kill him in front of his wife and child, so he aborted his plan.
In THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED, when the door opened, a housekeeper came out. The man carried out his plan and JFK, along with many others including the press corps, were killed. This was after JFK was elected in a close and, in some ways, suspected election but before the Electoral College had met. There was no precedent for such an event. Beside trying to determine who should become President, Greenfield explores how the new President handled The Bay of Pigs campaign, dealing with the Russians, and the Peace Corps.
Chapter two imagines Sirhan Sirhan’s bullet being deflected and Robert Kennedy not being killed Los Angeles on June 4, 1968. Greenfield ponders how the campaign for president would have been affected as well as the Democrat Convention in Chicago that year and, again, what new President would have faced and done during the next four years in the White House.
The third chapter raises President Ford’s debate response “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration.” Instead of dooming his campaign, he is able to extricate himself admirably and the original statement is forgotten. Can he win election? What if Teddy Kennedy was being protected by the Secret Service and no one died at Chappaquiddick? What if the Democrat’s candidate in 1980 had been able to throw Ronald Reagan off his stride in the single 1980 debate?
The alternative, fictional histories include how event would have changed not only the US relationship with other countries and major domestic issues, but also things like the movie M.A.S.H., Ted Koppel’s nighttime television show, and “The Jeffersons.”
It introduces issues that are current in the United States: pollution, class division, the economy, fuel efficient cars. Robert Kennedy quotes the Philadelphia head of the NAACP when he criticized welfare stating “it told the men in the ghetto ‘we have no useful work for you to do.’” Al Gore, Jr., as a newly elected congressman says his “first act would be to introduce a Constitutional amendment to award the Presidency to the popular-vote winner.” Dick Cheney, as the White House Chief of Staff talks about simplistic solutions states, “Putting the awesome power of the President in than hands of the purveyors of the politics of platitudes is like putting a loaded gun in the hands of a novice and inviting him to hunt: Someone is likely to get hurt.”
As he explains at the end of the book, much of the dialogue is taken from actual speeches and comments made by the characters in other situations.
Imagining what could happen if is a common activity. Jeff Greenfield has turned it into a thought-provoking book. ( )
1 vote Judiex | Mar 3, 2013 |
Even though I don't write about it too much here, I'm something of a politics junkie by nature, and I also happen to love some well-informed speculative writing, so when I learned that Jeff Greenfield had written Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2011) the book went right on the "must read" list.

Putting his many years of political reporting and experience to good use, Greenfield has taken three "turning points" and spun out the longterm scenarios of what might have happened had things gone differently. As he writes in the preface, "what would have happened if small twists of fate had given us different leaders, with different beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses? I've tried here to answer that question by exploring, in dramatic narrative form, complete with characters, thoughts, and dialogue, a trio of contemporary alternate American histories, all flowing from events that came a mere hairsbreadth away from actually happening" (p. xii).

What if a suicide bomber had killed JFK outside his house in December, 1960, before the electors had cast their ballots? What if RFK hadn't been shot in June, 1968, just after winning the California primary? What if Gerald Ford had recovered from a crucial gaffe during a 1976 debate, and won reelection? Greenfield outlines what the next years and decades might have looked like under those circumstances. While some of the conclusions may seem implausible, far-fetched, or even silly, I'm hard pressed to say that any of Greenfield's flights of fancy are any less likely than some of the actual things we've seen in our politics over the last few decades.

From what he writes in the Acknowledgments, it would appear that Greenfield had been contracted to write a novel (he'd done an earlier one for Putnam). I'm glad that he ended up writing this book instead, and I certainly hope he had as much fun writing it as I had reading it. I absolutely loved the arcana he delved into, from the complicated mechanics of Democratic primary delegate math to the vice-presidential calculations of the 1980 candidates. If you get as excited about these things as I do, go out and buy this book, and read it closely.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2011/09/book-review-then-everything-changed.html ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Sep 3, 2011 |
I enjoyed it, though sometimes it feels as though Greenfield tries too hard to make a witty comment (i.e., George McGovern saying "A running mate with a mental issue will kill a campaign" or something similar. In real life, McGovern chose Sen. Tom Eagleton to be his running mate during his own presidential run in 1972. Eagleton had a history of mental illness).

While it's far from a perfect alt-hist, the market has so few good ones that this is in the upper echelon. Pick this up if you enjoy the genre. ( )
  MAINEiac4434 | Aug 18, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeff Greenfieldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dewey, AmandaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
KeenanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On February 13, 1933, a man with a loaded pistol set out for Miami Beach's Bayfront Park, where a public event was in progress. (Preface)
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