Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry that Shaped Postwar America
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In this startling dual biography, Chris Matthews shows how the contest between the charismatic Kennedy and the talented yet haunted Nixon propelled America toward Vietnam and Watergate.
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon each dreamed of becoming the great young leader of their age. First as friends, then as bitter enemies, they were linked by a historic rivalry that changed both them and their country. Fresh, entertaining, and revealing, Kennedy and Nixon reveals that the early fondness between the two men—Kennedy, for example, told a trusted friend that if he didn’t receive the Democratic nomination in 1960, he would vote for Nixon—degenerated into distrust and bitterness. Using White House tapes, this book exposes Richard Nixon’s dread of a Kennedy “restoration” in 1972 drove the dark deeds of Watergate.
hands over the next few weeks. There would be serious trouble if anything anyone said were to interrupt or disrupt any progress we are trying to make to bring this war to a halt.” Nixon saw easily the electoral calamity the cagey Johnson was preparing for him. He later admitted his sentiments. “Had I done all this work and come all this way only to be undermined by the powers of an incumbent who had decided against seeking reelection?” Fortunately, he had allies of his own. Anna Chennault, widow
recruited for their political acumen, rarely got in to share it. But more than organizational skill was involved. The key to Haldeman’s power, his deputy Jeb Magruder surmised, was that he “hated Nixon’s political enemies as much as Nixon hated them.” * * * A small overseas skirmish that occurred that first spring at the residence of the American ambassador to France, Sargent Shriver, served as a reminder that the Kennedys still topped the list. It happened when John Ehrlichman turned up at
left, to see that great House illuminated, with the fountains playing. The way you have hung the portraits does them great honor—more than they deserve. They should not have been such trouble to you. You bent over backwards to be generous, and we are all deeply touched and grateful. It made me happy to hear the children bursting with reminiscences all the way home. Before John went to sleep, I could explain the photographs of Jack and him in his room, to him. “There you are with Daddy right
Kennedy said, chuckling at the distasteful memory of Nixon’s stage gimmick. “Not only do you keep him off balance, but you upstage him.” Keeping Richard Nixon off balance remained high on the Kennedy agenda. Within months of taking office, the new attorney general, Robert Kennedy, ordered a Justice Department investigation of the Nixon family’s loan from Howard Hughes. He dropped the matter only when he could not find any evidence with which to prosecute. Beneath the New Frontier’s confident
Jacqueline Kennedy acted to shield her husband’s public legacy. She commissioned author William Manchester to write about the assassination, with the proviso that she would review the final manuscript. Robert Kennedy operative Paul Corbin undertook a more immediate claim on the JFK legacy. He secretly promoted a vice-presidential write-in campaign for the attorney general in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. “You always had some of the Kennedy supporters who thought it wasn’t legitimate