Kennedy & Nixon
The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America
by Chris Matthews
(Click for Amazon book review)
OnTheIssues.org BOOK REVIEW:
The author of this book is the well-known host of MSNBC's "Hardball." He made his name as a political pundit by publishing this book in 1996, although his 1999 book Hardball: How Politics is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game provided his lasting catchphrase. Matthews does "know the game," since he was a Congressional aide to Tip O'Neill (D, MA) and a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter. He also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1974, and considered running for Senate in 2010.
As indicated in the subtitle, the Kennedy-Nixon rivalry "shaped postwar America" from 1946 until Nixon's resignation in 1974. In 1946, both Kennedy and Nixon were first elected to Congress; both had served in WWII; they had offices directly across the hall from one another when Nixon was Vice President and Kennedy was a Senator. Those parallels are explored along with their differences: Kennedy lived a wealthy lifestyle in Georgetown with servants; Nixon instead lived the "Dagwood Bumstead" lifestyle (p. 56); Kennedy went to Harvard; Nixon went to Whittier College. Although Kennedy famously looked full of "vigor" in comparison with Nixon in the 1960 debates, in fact Kennedy was sickly compared to Nixon: JFK was given last rites once during back surgery (p. 99) and another time for Addison's disease (pp. 54-7).
But the book explores more than their personal parallels and differences; it also explores deeply both their politics and their policy stances. Both fought Communism while in Congress: Nixon more famously with the "Alger Hiss case"; but Kennedy was no liberal when it came to Communism. In fact, that's one of the most interesting subtexts of the book: Both men pushed moderate politics instead of the harsh labeling of today. Nixon pushed what he called "practical liberalism" (p. 34) and Kennedy called himself a "fighting conservative" (p. 40). Those self-imposed labels are opposite of their party affiliation, and indicate a willingness to work with the other party in a way which would never be dared by today's politicians.
The book concludes, "Today, the Kennedy Center and the Watergate sit beside each other along the Potomac--like unmatched bookends." This book is not a "retrospective" of "insider politics" like we at OnTheIssues hate--it has some real history; some real sympathy for both sides of many hot issues; and some real depth in explaining two important leaders' motivations. Chris Matthews certainly deserved to earn his reputation with this book--if only other political pundits did the same!
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, April 2014
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
John F. Kennedy: 1960: Called Martin Luther King's wife when MLK was jailed.
Richard Nixon: 1947: Joined HUAC to catch real Communists.
Richard Nixon: 1960: Declined to commit to a black Cabinet member.
John F. Kennedy: 1962: Negotiated no steel price rise & no pay raise.
John F. Kennedy: Rage at those who ignore Soviet expansionism in Europe.
John F. Kennedy: 1949: Stop onrushing tide of communism from engulfing Asia.
John F. Kennedy: Committed "Cold Warrior," including aid to Franco's Spain.
John F. Kennedy: 1957: Switch from Eurocentrism to focus on developing world.
John F. Kennedy: No US troops to Taiwan to defend Quemoy and Matsu.
Richard Nixon: Coined term "Domino Theory": defend against Asian Communism.
Richard Nixon: 1960: Krushchev's grandchildren will live in freedom.
Richard Nixon: Appeasement didn't work with Hitler & won't work with China.
Richard Nixon: 1968: Open China so they accept international rules.
Richard Nixon: If every nation can't be friend, let them not be enemies.
Richard Nixon: 1971: Initiative came after years asking "Who lost China?".
Ted Kennedy: 1971: Nixon's China initiative was a "magnificent gesture".
Dwight Eisenhower: 1952: Who can clean up the mess in Washington? Ike can!
John F. Kennedy: 1946: Missed filing deadline for running for Congress.
Richard Nixon: "Practical liberalism" instead of government control.
Richard Nixon: 1952 headline: "Secret Nixon Fund" led to resignation call.
Harry S Truman: 1940s: Stop the Red advance by military aid to Europe.
John F. Kennedy: Lone senator to take no position on McCarthy condemnation.
Richard Nixon: 1948: Require Communists to register with government.
John F. Kennedy: 1946: Power of big labor has to be tamed.
Richard Nixon: 1946: Labor PACs are Communist; so no PAC support.
Principles & Values|
Dwight Eisenhower: 1955: Preferred to dump Nixon as V.P.
Dwight Eisenhower: Suffered heart attack prior to 1956 re-election campaign.
Gerald Ford: 1972: Killed banking committee's investigation of Watergate.
John F. Kennedy: 1960 slogan: Get the country moving again.
John F. Kennedy: Founded "Muckers Club" to fight high school elitism.
John F. Kennedy: 1947: Diagnosed with Addison's Disease and given Last Rites.
John F. Kennedy: 1953: Targeted Nixon as presidential rival for 1960.
John F. Kennedy: 1953: Married Jackie when she was 22-year-old college senior.
John F. Kennedy: 1955: "Profiles in Courage" established political stature.
John F. Kennedy: Ran for Vice Presidency at 1956 convention.
John F. Kennedy: 1957: Won Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage.
John F. Kennedy: 1960: primaries dominated for first time over backrooms.
John F. Kennedy: "Camelot" symbolizes longing for something beautiful & lost.
Lyndon Johnson: 1960: Planned on nomination at a brokered convention.
Richard Nixon: Radio debate listeners say Nixon won; TV viewers say JFK.
Richard Nixon: By age 43, elected to House, Senate, and Vice-Presidency.
Richard Nixon: At 17, offered scholarship to Harvard, but could not afford.
Richard Nixon: Founded "The Orthogonians" to fight college elitism.
Richard Nixon: Earned nickname "Tricky Dicky" in 1950 Senate race.
Richard Nixon: 1950s: As VP, frontrunner for 1960 presidential nomination.
Richard Nixon: 1955: Outflanked Ike to keep V.P. post instead of Cabinet.
Richard Nixon: Ran for CA governor in 1962 instead of President in 1964.
Richard Nixon: 1972: Bugged offices of Democratic Party in Watergate hotel.
Richard Nixon: 1973: Existence of tapes was fatal blow to presidency.
Richard Nixon: 1973 Saturday Night Massacre: Fired special prosecutor.
Ted Kennedy: 1972: Party's presidential hope as "Last Brother".
Ted Kennedy: 1972: Used Congress' subpoena power to investigate Watergate.
Ted Kennedy: 1973: Impeach Nixon if he refuses to give White House tapes.
Ted Kennedy: 1980: I want to be president to bring sense of restoration.
Dwight Eisenhower: 1957: Sputnik ended "Peace and Prosperity" boosterism.
Richard Nixon: 1968: Built campaign strategy around controlling television.
Richard Nixon: 1971: Absolutely no one should hear White House tapes.
War & Peace|
Harry S Truman: 1949: No military response to Communist victory in China.
Harry S Truman: Soviet Union is animated by a new fanatic faith.
John F. Kennedy: Avoid mistake of WWII by stopping Soviet advance in Europe.
John F. Kennedy: Pouring money into jungles of Indochina is self-destructive.
John F. Kennedy: 1962: Supported anti-Diem coup as means to win Vietnam War.
Richard Nixon: Operation Vulture: Nuke Vietnam if North overruns South.
Richard Nixon: Supported 1960 CIA-backed invasion of Cuba.
Richard Nixon: 1965: If we give up Vietnam, Pacific Ocean becomes a Red Sea.
Ted Kennedy: 1969: Get out of Southeast Asia lock, stock, and barrel.
Welfare & Poverty|
John F. Kennedy: New Deal contributes to end of capitalism in America.
The above quotations are from Kennedy & Nixon
The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America
by Chris Matthews.
Biographies of past presidents:
- President George W. Bush
- Decision Points, by George W. Bush
- A Charge to Keep, by George W. Bush
- President Bill Clinton
- Back to Work, by Pres. Bill Clinton
- The Agenda, by Bob Woodward
- President George H. W. Bush
- All the Best, My Life in Letters, by George Bush Sr.
- The Family, (the Bushes) by Kitty Kelley
- William & Mary Environmental Law Review, by Cameron Lynch
- President Ronald Reagan
- Dutch, a Memoir of Ronald Reagan, by Edmund Morris
- Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, by Pres. Ronald Reagan
- President Jimmy Carter
- An Hour Before Daylight, by Jimmy Carter
- Jimmy Who?: biography of Jimmy Carter
- President Gerald Ford
- Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate,by Bob Woodward
- A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford
- President Richard Nixon
- Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon
- The Watergate Transcripts, by The Washington Post
- President Lyndon Johnson
- The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro
- Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, by Michael Beschloss
- President John F. Kennedy
- Profiles In Courage, by John F. Kennedy
- A Nation of Immigrants, by John F. Kennedy
- Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews
- 1000 Days, by Arthur Schlesinger
- President Dwight Eisenhower
- Waging Peace, by Dwight Eisenhower
- Ike and Dick, by Jeffrey Frank
- President Harry Truman
- Plain Speaking, by Merle Miller
- Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes