Jon Ward captures the sound and the fury of this struggle [between Jimmy Carter and Edward Kennedy for the 1980 Presidential nomination] in Camelot’s End, a fast-paced, even-handed look at Kennedy’s doomed challenge to a doomed president at a time of doom and gloom ... Ward’s achievement is in showing—better than any of his predecessors—how the two circled each other warily before their public confrontation during the presidential campaign ... this is a breezy, pleasant read, a nostalgic window on a time long ago for those of us who lived (and covered) it, an instructive volume for those too young to have witnessed one of the more fascinating passages in American political life. It also provides an enduring lesson.
[Ward] purées his narrative mostly from the accounts of others and does a professional job of it. But he quotes so profligately from the authors of the 82 books and eight magazine articles in his source list that it’s hard to find any of his own prose worth citing ... Inescapably, the book takes the reader back to one of the more dispiriting periods of modern American politics—Mr. Carter’s post-Watergate presidency of combined high inflation, high interest rates and high unemployment, gas-shortage riots, and the Iranian hostage crisis, among other miseries.
Ward provides a thorough and readable chronicle of how the bitter primary fight between Carter and Ted Kennedy and the Democrats’ misplaced nostalgia for the past sabotaged their future and how their division eerily foreshadowed the Republicans’ own civil war in 2016 that put Donald Trump in the White House.
Ward may exaggerate the 'civil war' within the Democratic Party; indeed, the national electoral map had been shifting well before the Carter-Kennedy duel. Still, this is a well-researched and valuable look back at a period of intense political turmoil that helped shape our current environment.
Ward deftly traces the political histories of [Kennedy and Carter] leading up to that eventful primary in 1980 ... Ward offers an insightful look at Carter’s rise through local Georgia politics ... Camelot's End thoroughly examines not just the primary campaigns of Carter and Kennedy, but also the human frailties that combined with events to wreck both men’s chances in 1980. That, and a Republican juggernaut named Ronald Reagan.
... among the many feats of Jon Ward’s deft Camelot’s End is its retrieval of Carter, the 39th US president, from sainthood ... Camelot’s End cuts through the mythology ... For all its demythologising, Camelot’s End narrates a rich drama.
Ward's book is a capable account of the ultimately quixotic effort by the last of the Kennedy brothers to fulfill his family's destiny and achieve personal redemption ... For all of Ward's skill in bringing to life the events of the nomination contest, he's less effective in advancing his thesis that Kennedy's challenge 'broke' the Democratic Party and, ultimately, accounted for Carter's defeat ... [in 2020,] Camelot's End will be a useful book to pull down from the shelf.
Captivating ... The book moves at a steady clip, but not by sacrificing scholarship—Ward draws on journalism of the day, previous biographies, histories, memoirs, and new interviews with some of the players. He engages fully with the complexities and contradictions of both men ... Ward’s recounting of the seesaw of public opinion in 1980 makes for enthralling reading.
Ward provides deep insight into American politics in the past five decades. He writes fluidly and demonstrates a firm grasp of how politics work. It is also interesting that he writes in a time when there are increasing whispers that a sitting president might face an internal challenge to his renomination ... A useful reminder of a past era that resonates with contemporary politics.