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

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  645 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
A brilliant and brilliantly entertaining tour de force of American politics from one of journalism's most acclaimed commentators.

History turns on a dime. A missed meeting, a different choice of words, and the outcome changes dramatically. Nowhere is this truer than in the field where Jeff Greenfield has spent most of his working life, American politics, and in three dra
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published March 8th 2011 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published January 28th 2011)
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Matt Mitrovich
Jan 27, 2013 Matt Mitrovich rated it really liked it
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
May 12, 2011 Sally rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 06, 2013 Daniel rated it did not like it
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
Noah Gittell
Aug 25, 2011 Noah Gittell rated it it was amazing
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
Mal Warwick
Apr 13, 2011 Mal Warwick rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 18, 2011 Andi rated it it was amazing
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
Billy Roper
Mar 20, 2015 Billy Roper rated it really liked it
The author is a real political insider with an intimate knowledge and understanding of Presidential politics, and the mechanisms by which D.C. functions. This book is highly recommended for any political junkie or fan of alternate history.
Orville Jenkins
Feb 27, 2015 Orville Jenkins rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent, well-written, even riveting, analysis of American political history in the last half of the 20th century.

This work represents a new, productive and insightful approach to history, called Alternate History. The approach is to review a key event or factor and develop what might have happened if one important event had turned out differently.

Greenfield analyzes these Presidencies this way. What if John F Kennedy had been assassinated after his election, but before he was inaug
Tony Heyl
Nov 24, 2011 Tony Heyl rated it it was amazing
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
Zachary Anderson
Jan 19, 2016 Zachary Anderson rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book. It took on three what if events and used historical data to justify certain paths political avenues took. I loved the arguments presented, though some of the endings took much suspension of disbelief. A fun read.
Nov 28, 2012 Rob rated it really liked it
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.
May 15, 2014 Ty rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Cain
Nov 12, 2016 Sarah Cain rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Jeff Greenfield's alternate history of three major events in American history: a suicide bombing of JFK in 1960 that was not carried out because the would be bomber Saw Jackie Kennedy and little Caroline come to the door to say goodbye to the president-elect; the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968; and the gaffe that probably sank the re-election of Gerald Ford. Greenfield imagines what the alternatives to these scenarios would have been in a highly entertaining, detailed, ...more
Oct 10, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2011 Adriana rated it liked it
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
Mar 03, 2013 Judie rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 06, 2014 Brentin rated it liked it
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
Dan C.
Aug 12, 2011 Dan C. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
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
Scott Martin
Aug 19, 2015 Scott Martin rated it it was amazing
(Audiobook). With as much attention as we are giving the 2016 Presidential Election in Summer 2015, perhaps it is just as well that I would end up listening to a book about a series of counterfactual histories regarding the American Presidency between 1960-1980. This was actually quite a well-researched work as Jeff Greenfield applied his insider political knowledge combined with extensive historical and political research to try to put together a plausible alternative if certain things happened ...more
Mar 09, 2015 Gina rated it liked it
Some interesting theories about some major "what if's" in American history. But, you have to know somIn this disjointed fiction, there are some interesting theories about several "what if's" in American history. But, you have to know something about the periods (1960's-1980's) to appreciate the stories. And, it helps to have a strong constitution to plow through the unending paragraphs of exposition rather than a novel with characters, plot, and dialog. If Jeff Greenfield had just taken one inci ...more
Jan 12, 2012 Natalie rated it really liked it
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
Jun 05, 2011 Golfer76 rated it liked it
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
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
Apr 10, 2016 Nancy rated it it was amazing
This is a book that demands to be discussed. Who hasn't wondered how the world would be different if some small event did or didn't happen. Jeff Greenfield presents tantalizing glimpses into three What-If scenarios: What if ... JFK had been killed before even taking office? What if Bobby Kennedy had survived the attempt on his life? What if Gerald Ford had won reelection in 1976? Greenfield uses his considerable experience in politics and journalism to speculate on these possibilities. While adm ...more
May 12, 2011 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2012 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
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
Librarian Laura
May 15, 2012 Librarian Laura rated it liked it
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
Sep 06, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it
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
Jul 05, 2011 Zuzana rated it liked it
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
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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
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“In politics, Bugs Bunny always beats Daffy Duck. Daffy's always going berserk, jumping up and down, yelling. Bugs's got that sly smile, like he always knows what's up, like nothing can ruffle him.” 5 likes
“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
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