If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History


Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, journalist, speechwriter and political savant Greenfield has decided to write an alternate history – a “what if” had Kennedy not been killed on that fateful day. Greenfield’s premise is fairly pedestrian. If it had continued to rain on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, the limousine top would have been on the car. Greenfield’s philosophy of alternate history is that the alteration has to be plausible, even probable. As someone who lived through that tragedy and recall every minute of it, I found it painful.

So, in Greenfield’s alternate universe, Kennedy is shot – grievously but not mortally – and survives to live out not one term but a second. Knowing his history (and his Kennedy), Greenfield’s research and extensive interviews, highlighted in an afterword worth the read, show us what life might have been like had the President survived. Fascinatingly, the image of Camelot comes away more humanized, more tarnished. Kennedy has flaws. There are drugs and there is adultery. Because of the power of the Southern Democrats, Kennedy is wishy-washy on civil rights. There are scandals. But perhaps Vietnam would not have been what Vietnam became.

Ultimately, America would have been different, and I think that is Greenfield’s point. Likely, America would have had another set of problems. But no one will ever know.

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