Published by: Penguin Press
Release Date: November 7th 2017
Genre: Coming Soon - Nonfiction
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From the celebrated host of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, an important and enthralling new account of the presidential election that changed everything, and created American politics as we know it today.
Long before Lawrence O'Donnell was the anchor of his own political talk show, he was the Harvard Law-trained political aide to Senator Patrick Moynihan, one of postwar America's wisest political minds. The 1968 election was O'Donnell's own political coming of age, and Playing With Fire represents his master class in American electioneering, as well as an extraordinary human drama that captures a system, and a country, coming apart at the seams in real time.
Nothing went to script. LBJ was confident he'd dispatch with Nixon, the GOP frontrunner; Johnson's greatest fear and real nemesis was RFK. But Kennedy and his team, despite their loathing of the president, weren't prepared to challenge their own party's incumbent. Then, out of nowhere, Eugene McCarthy shocked everyone with his disloyalty and threw his hat in the ring. A revolution seemed to be taking place, and LBJ, humiliated and bitter, began to look mortal. Then RFK leapt in, and all hell broke loose. Two assassinations and a week of bloody riots in Chicago around the Democratic Convention later, and the old Democratic Party was a smoldering ruin, and, in the last triumph of old machine politics, Hubert Humphrey stood alone in the wreckage.
Suddenly Nixon was the frontrunner, having masterfully maintained a smooth facade behind which he feverishly held his party's right and left wings in the fold through a succession of ruthless maneuvers to see off George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan, and the great outside threat to his new Southern Strategy, the arch-segregationist George Wallace. But then, amazingly, Humphrey began to close, and so, in late October, Nixon pulled off one of the greatest dirty tricks in American political history, an act that may well meet the statutory definition of treason. The tone was set for Watergate and all else that was to follow, all the way through to today.