Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan
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Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  448 ratings  ·  105 reviews
You will never think about recent American history in the same way again.

These things are true:

In December 1960, a suicide bomber paused when he saw the young President-elect John F. Kennedy's family come to the door to wave good-bye....

In June 1968, Robert F. Kennedy declared victory in California, and then instead of heading to another ballroom, as intended, was hustled...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Berkley Trade (first published January 28th 2011)
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Daniel
I finished THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED quickly but I grew more and more annoyed with it as I did so. I'm up for a good counter-factual, and the scenarios explored in the book are not your standard what-if-JFK-had-lived scenario, but Greenfield's narratives feature a number of bad habits that writers of alternate history often fall into: anachronistic jokes, awkwardly shoe-horning in famous people (and famous quotes) into the story, and active wish fulfillment (in this case of the boomer high Broderi...more
Sally
History turns on a dime. It is dynamic, not static. A missed meeting, a chance encounter, a different choice of words, and the outcome changes dramatically (from the inside flap).

In Then Everything Changed, political analyst Jeff Greenfield gives us three events in 20th century American politics and presents the 'what might have been' scenarios. First is a little known attempt on John F Kennedy's life in December 1960, after election day but before the Electoral College met to confirm the result...more
Mal Warwick
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...more
Tony Heyl
This was a lot of fun for a history/politics junkie like me. Greenfield, a CNN contributor, takes three actual instances of major events that nearly happened and then alters history. Instead of being shot in 1963, JFK is killed by a suicide bomber in the late fall of 1960, after his election but before the inauguration, making LBJ President for the Cuban Missile Crisis and very much altering how the civil rights struggles happened. (There had been a bomber in 1960, but he stopped himself at the...more
Matt Mitrovich
I've made no secret on how I disprove of America presidential alternate histories. Next to the American Civil War, it is one of the easiest alternate histories to get wrong. When an alternate historian changes the results of an election they are doing one of two things: either the world will be a utopia when the loser wins or the world will be a dystopia when the loser wins. There is rarely any middle ground.

Then I read Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics J...more
Noah Gittell
Asking the question - "what if?" - is a serious and delicate proposition. Looking at back at one's life to wonder what would have happened if a few key moments had turned out differently can lead to an innocent fantasy or a darker path of regret. Would I still be alive? Would I be happier? What would I be doing with my life? These questions are no simple matter. Greenfield respects this notion by crafting both a serious alternative-narrative of key moments in recent Presidential history, while t...more
Andi
Gives you a lot to think about...what if JFK had been assassinated before the electoral college had cast its votes? How would that constitutional problem been solved? What if RFK hadn't been assassinated in California and he won the presidency? What social programs would we have today? Would we have gotten out of Vietnam earlier? The most interesting segment was on Carter and Ford. What if Ford hadn't flubbed the debate question about Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and had beaten Carter? Ho...more
Rob
One for the political junkies but also an interesting take on alt-history. Small differences may make a difference.
Greenfield certainly knows his modern American politics. This could well be read as a primer on modern politics in the U.S..
He can certainly tell a story and tell it very well.
Jeff Rowe
Full disclosure: I listened to the audio version of this. But man, stunning is right. Stunningly boring. First of all, this guy has a huge crush on the Kennedys. Like how he thinks that if JFK were
killed before his inauguration, Johnson is going to spend the next four years justifying everything as a tribute to John Kennedy. Come on. Then RFK survives the assassination attempt and goes on to make all the right political moves that give him the Democratic Party nomination. But instead of focusing...more
Michael
One of the best alternate history novels that I've ever read. The author explored what might have happened had JFK been assassinated before he was sworn in as President, or if Robert Kennedy hadn't been assassinated & had gone on to win the Democratic nomination for President, or if Gerald Ford had been re-elected. It was all based on speeches and quotes from real politicians who are fictional & thrust into slightly different roles and situations than what actually happened. I felt like...more
Brentin
Alternate history stories are among the most difficult. To really enjoy them, the reader must have some understanding of the history surrounding the events that the author chooses to alter. In the case of Greenfield's book, unless you lived through the events, you would need graduate degrees in History and Political Science to fully appreciate the stories.

The first story takes an event that history has almost forgotten: in 1960, a suicide bomber named Richard Pavlick has a car full of explosives...more
Matt
Greenfield creates a wonderful piece of alternate history meant to entertain the history and political buff alike. His three novellas posit that a single change in history can greatly alter everything that happens thereafter, leaving the ‘new truth’ totally unrecognizable from the known reality that history birthed. With a strong cast of historically accurate characters and plausible scenarios, Greenfield uses his experience in the political world and his smooth writing style to create ‘what if’...more
Natalie
I always love asking the "what if" question when I consider history. There were many points in national and world history when a seemingly small detail drastically changed what would have happened. Wen I found this in audio book format from my library it seemed like it was right up my alley.

This book is shelved in the non-fiction section of the library but it is almost fiction. The author is able to move past fiction by using histories, opinions from eye witnesses (including his own opinions as...more
Jamie
Although the book is about Cold War politics, it ends up being genuinely engaging by taking three events considered to be turning points in the careers of certain politicians (a failed assassination attempt on JFK during the 1960 presidential race, RFK's assassination, and Gerald Ford's public relations fiasco related to Eastern Europe during the 1976 Presidential race) and goes with what almost happened. From there, the author uses his political knowledge to construct an alternate history. All...more
Cindy
Very interesting idea for a book. I had trouble enjoying it, though, because:
1) I don't know enough about political candidates & history to engage with persons in the book. I didn't if know their personalities were being accurately portrayed or to what extent the author took liberties with them. And since they were real people, I wanted to know.
2) Greenfield persistently jumps to different people or situations without identifying who he is talking about. The beginning of a chapter will sta...more
Judie
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 J...more
Laura
Alternate history is always a wonderful concept, but often dicey in execution. Jeff Greenfield does better than most, sticking to plausibility rather than fanciful imagination, and choosing three incidents that almost did happen (Kennedy's assassination in 1960, Bobby's survival, Ford winning a debate).

His first two novellas, which follow Lyndon Johnson assuming the Presidency JFK was elected to, and Bobby Kennedy surviving and winning, are pretty well done. Greenfield's knowledge of backhanded...more
Golfer76
The subtitle to "Then Everything Changed", "Stunning Alternate Histories" is disproven by the extremely knowledgeable Jeff Greenfield. Through
Greenfield's participation and insider knowledge of people, events, and the way that politics work, the three alternate histories are shown to be not all that stunning.

The alternate paths that history could have taken were quite enlightening. I learned a lot about the thinking, writings, and actions of key political figures. Their "alternative" actions se...more
Dan C.
I like and don't like "alternate history." On the one hand, I find it interesting to contemplate what might have happened had certain events happened or not happened. But more often than not, alternate history fiction is handled very clumsily and is usually reduced to "what would happen if someone showed up at the US Civil War with automatic weapons?" THAT kind of alternate history doesn't intrigue me in the slightest and honestly, that's probably more science fiction than anything else. But as...more
Kelly
So, I picked this book up as a recommendation from the Adult Summer Reading program at my local library. It intrigued me with the concept. It is a retelling of three different segments of American history, should things have gone a different way. What would happen if JFK had been killed as planned before he became president? The only reason he wasn't was because the car bomber didn't want to kill him in front of his family, and Jackie and the boys came to the door to see him off that day. What w...more
Ty
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adriana
I won a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program, and thank you very much for that. I'm not sure what prompted me to enter the drawing, as I generally prefer reading fiction. I do remember watching Mr. Greenfield do political commentary on television when I was a teenager, and I remember being impressed by his command of the language. Upon winning a copy of the book, I became alarmed that I was about to read a book written in overly academic and esoteric language, thereby making...more
Paul
Well written alternative histories of our country's Sitting and almost Presidents. What if.... JFK had been assassinated in Florida in Dec. of 1960 as was planned. The Electoral College had not met to "vote" him or Johnson as President. Some juggling is done and Johnson is sworn in, knowing that he is not perceived as the elected one. The Bay of Pigs is a fiasco and he learns to distrust anything from the military. He meets with Khrushchev and stares him town. Cuba is loaded with nuclear missile...more
Schnaucl
Three and a half stars.

I have no doubt that Greenfield could write brilliant, well researched and insightful essays about each of his central premises. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he decided to explore those ideas in novella length fiction that reads very much like essays forced into a story format.

One of the basic rules of good story telling is to show rather than tell and this is where Greenfield fails. The stories are 90-95% exposition. Each story even has at least one section with bu...more
Sandra
Author Jeff Greenfield cut his literary teeth in the tornado of national and local politics, and knows whereof he speaks about the past forty years. If anyone could posit credible alternative realities, it surely must be him. The problem for me was that I am an ignoramus and not sufficiently schooled in the historical events that shaped and surrounded my own life to be able to discern from what he describes what was reality vs. what was his wishful fantasizing. He weaves real events and real quo...more
Ian
Very interesting book by a former Kennedy speechwriter asking what would have happened if several recent U.S. Political events had turned out differently. What if an assassination attempt against JFK in 1960 had succeeded? What if RFK hadn't been killed in 1968 and instead managed to become president instead of Nixon? And what if Ford had beaten Nixon for reelection.

Greenfield knows his stuff, each account reads like real history, making for a fascinating alternate reality – several of which wou...more
Michael Hagerty
I like Jeff Greenfield a lot...have admired his work as a journalist and found him to be just what I expected...smart, pleasant and funny...on the one occasion we met about 20 years ago. So I had high expectations for this book, and for the most part, they've been met.

The opening piece (an assassination of JFK in 1960, prior not only to his taking office but to the Electoral College having voted) is simply riveting. Greenfield puts us in the room as LBJ, Nixon and the men who ran the country 50...more
Zuzana
Jul 05, 2011 Zuzana rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: politics/history junkies
Won this in a Goodreads giveaway. I am giving this 3 stars not because it wasn't written or edited well, but because politics, and history of politics, is not at all one of "my" topics, so it got a little heavy to read at times. 3.5 would have been more accurate if the system would have let me. That said, though, for people who DO like politics and history a lot, this would be a great read! The author presents three "what-if" stories from American politics of the 1960s-80s and they read so plaus...more
Beau Creson
This was a really fun book that will really make you think about what could have happened and how lucky/unlucky we are today because those things didn't happen. The book really goes in depth with who would have been involved and makes a good case for the outcomes. One thing this book does a good job of, with rare exceptions, is making you take a step back to see that whichever side of the isle you are on, we end up in the same place eventually. I doubt this is a message everyone will except, but...more
Brian Eshleman
This wouldn't be everybody's five-star book, but I thought it was amazing. The author seems a master of the interplay between the psychological patterns of historical figures, especially archtypes Lyndon Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy, and the ways in which these figures would react to circumstances slightly or significantly different than what they faced. He has been an insider in Washington for long enough to have seen these patterns play out, and yet, in my opinion, he does not allow his close...more
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Jeff Greenfield (b. 1943) is one of the most prominent political writers in the United States. Born in New York City, he went to college in Wisconsin, and received a law degree from Yale. He entered politics in the late 1960s, as a speechwriter for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and has covered the beltway ever since, contributing to Time, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and, in a lighter vein,...more
More about Jeff Greenfield...
If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History The People's Choice: A Novel 43* When Gore Beat Bush Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow!: Inside the Strangest Presidential Election Finish in American History Jeff Greenfield's book of books

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“A citizen at his home in Rockford, Illinois, or Boulder, Colorado, could read a newspaper, listen to a radio, or watch the round-the-clock coverage on television, but he had no way of connecting with those who shared his views. Nor was there a quick, readily available tool for an ordinary citizen to gather information on his own. In 1960, communication was a one-way street, and information was fundamentally inaccessible. The whole idea of summoning up data or reaching thousands of individuals with the touch of a finger was a science-fiction fantasy.” 4 likes
“There is no such thing as political science, but there are tenancies so strong that they might as well be called laws of nature.” 3 likes
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