The 1968 U.S. presidential election fundamentally shaped modern American politics, and it was a transformative event in the life of a young Lawrence O’Donnell. Nothing went according to plan: Incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson believed he would easily defeat Richard Nixon, former Republican vice president and California senator, until anti-war protests forced his withdrawal. The upstart Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy quickly secured the national spotlight, only to be tragically assassinated in Los Angeles that June.

While Nixon remained the front-runner, Hubert Humphrey, the last remaining cog of the Democratic political machine, was closing in. To defeat him, Nixon pulled off one of the greatest dirty tricks in American political history. 1968 set the tone for Watergate and all else that has followed in the new era of modern politics.

For decades, O’Donnell has been a pioneer in the field of political commentary and entertainment. As both a producer of The West Wing and as the host of his own MSNBC show, “The Last Word,” he has served as a voice of wisdom and integrity throughout the evolution of our political sphere. His new book, Playing With Fire, tells the story of a country coming apart at the seams in real time; it is a master class in the electioneering that took advantage of the chaos.

Image - O’Donnell
Lawrence O’Donnell
Host, "The Last Word" on MSNBC; Author, Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics
John Diaz
Editorial Page Editor, San Francisco Chronicle