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Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography Paperback – October 24, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (October 24, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060957875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060957872
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,544,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Adam Clymer, in his lengthy biography of Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, understands that his subject is simultaneously one of the most loved and most hated figures in American politics. Clymer nevertheless pours on the praise, calling the Massachusetts Democrat "a lawmaker of skill, experience, and purpose rarely surpassed since 1789." Clymer, Washington editor for The New York Times, also recognizes that Kennedy has never fulfilled his great ambition--to become president--because he stood far to the left of the public as much as because of personal controversy. Yet Jack and Bobby's kid brother has forged a remarkable career in the Senate, where he has become one of its longest-serving members and arguably the most influential senator of the 20th century. Even Kennedy's conservative enemies don't question his dogged persistence and ability to advance his goals through slow-paced reform. He is maddeningly effective, especially when it comes to "finding Republicans to work with and sharing the credit, or even letting them have it all." Clymer's book is engrossing, although it occasionally gets bogged down in legislative intricacies (chapter titles: "Creating Disability Rights" and "More Incremental Health Care Progress"). It's a compelling study of a man whose enormous political skills are routinely overshadowed by his own foibles. In the end, however, Clymer grows positively rhapsodic: "He deserves recognition not just as the leading Senator of his time, but as one of the greats in history." --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Few people are given the chance to live a productive life after they have become legends in their own time. Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy is one of them, and Clymer, Washington editor of the New York Times, does an excellent job of narrating how Kennedy navigated a burdensome family legacy to become, in Clymer's view, one of the most effective lawmakers in American history. By the end of the book, most readers will believe that Clymer has made his case. But this is no hagiography. Clymer started covering Congress as a newspaper reporter in 1963, the year after Kennedy's election to the Senate, when John Kennedy was president and Robert Kennedy was attorney general. He has observed Senator Kennedy at more or less close range for 36 years, a level of intimacy that mitigates against rose-tinted glasses. Indeed, Clymer explores Kennedy's legislative, political and personal failures as well as the successes. No serious discussion of Kennedy as a legislator, party politician, husband, father or friend can proceed very far without a re-evaluation of Chappaquiddick. Clymer's assessment takes only a few pages, but it is solid and insightful, putting the episode in proper perspective and allowing it to resonate subtly through the rest of the book without treating it as the defining moment of Kennedy's life. Clymer's deft explanations of complex congressional maneuverings are models of good political reportage, and his judgments of Kennedy's character are even-handed. This is an old-fashioned, balanced, well-organized biography that does justice to both the virtues and flaws, public and private, of Senator Kennedy. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Calvin93 on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
THIS is the way high school history texts should be written. You read Clymer's bio on EMK (Edwardd M Kennedy) and, without realizing it, come away with a world of knowledge about Ted Kennedy, his brothers John and Robert, as well as almost every other relevant figure in U.S. and world history since the 1940s. By recounting the political history of the Kennedy family, and EMKs initially minor, but overall dominant, role in it, we learn about the political history of the United States in the past 50 years, and come to realize - astonishingly - that TED Kennedy is responsible for so many more accomplishments than either of his more famous brothers. More importantly, the text is a fair, objective assessment of EMK. Clymer does not shy away from the scandals like his expulsion form Harvard, the tragedy at Chappaquiddick and the rape trial of EMKs nephew in 1991. He deals with these issues head on, in detail, and lets the reader decide how to judge Kennedy - framing the paradox that IS Ted Kennedy - a man who has deal with more personal tragedy than most Shakespearean characters and sporadic personal failings, but who has spent 5 decades shaping US policy on domestic and international issues. There are so many great details in this book about JFKs early campaigns, the 1960 presidential election, Ted's Senate races in '62 and '64, the 1968 presidential election, Ted's work in the Senate in the 70s and international human rights efforts in Poland, Soviet Union, and South Africa, the 1979-80 presidential campaign, the Bork and Thomas Supreme Court nominations, and his work under Reagan, Bush and Clinton. You learn so much about the different presidencies and the leaders in Congress and US history that you cannot help but feel edified. This book is not a cheering section for EMK, but an articulate, thoughtful, objective history with just the perfect blend of detail, inertia and humor. Should be the standard for political biographies.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By "petertare" on November 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Finally a work on Teddy Kennedy that is not worshipful or hateful. It is a fascinating and objective look at a man who has shaped American domestic politics for the past 40 years. JFK and RFK may be the martyrs but EMK is the one who has had the most impact!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Picking up this dense portrait of the senior senator from Massachusetts, many readers would be tempted to turn straight to Chapter 12: Chappaquiddick. But that would be missing the point. Clymer, a veteran New York Times correspondent, does present a detailed account of the 1969 Martha's Vineyard accident that left Mary Jo Kopechne dead.
And the book includes key lowlights such as Kennedy's expulsion from Harvard for cheating and the night in 1991 when he rousted two young nephews out of bed for a night of drinking that led to rape charges against one of them, William Kennedy Smith (who was later acquitted).
What is remarkable is that despite these foibles and his family's tragedies, Kennedy has emerged as one of the era's most effective lawmakers, a champion of causes such as health care and civil rights.
Though Clymer occasionally gets bogged down in minutiae, he nevertheless gives us a readable and worthy account of a flawed and fascinating politician.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on November 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Don't believe the hype generated by the right wing, Kennedy is a superb legislator and should rank as one of the nation's great patriots.
As an unflinching voice for the underserved and underepresented, Kennedy is the epitomy of compassion at a time when members of his own party (the New Democrats)have appropriated some (but not all!) of the GOP's reactionary social polices. More than anybody, Kennedy deserves credit for staving off Newt and Trent's assuault on America and working to expand existing civil rights statues.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John B. Maggiore on April 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've often found that biographies are best written after the subject's career has finished. Since Ted Kennedy's career has no end in sight, that poses a problem for anyone wanting to paint this work in progress. Adam Clymer succeeds. First, he focuses on Kennedy's substantive accomplishments rather than the gossip that more interests writers like Joe McGinniss (The Last Brother) or Richard Burke (The Senator). Second, he isolates aspects of Kennedy's legislative style, such as giving credit to others and working across party lines, that serve as generalizable lessons. Third, though the book is fairly long, it moves quickly. Ted Kennedy already has a much longer public life than most, so there is much more to write about. Clymer doesn't make the mistake of wallowing in unnecessary details just to show us all how much research he did. Fourth, although Clymer does not gloss over Kennedy's shortcomings, he is also open in his admiration of Kennedy's accomplishments. The last several pages compare both, and then the whole package against other accomplishments of great senators. The message is clear that Ted Kennedy is a titan. The evidence is hard to refute. Critics of Kennedy differ on issues of fundamental value rather than issues of effectiveness or sheer impact. Ted Kennedy deserves a biography like this, and those of us interested in his long career deserve to read it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By michael b sachs on December 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Teddy Kennedy is one of the most fascinating American political characters in the last half-century, yet Clymer's book somehow succeeds in making him boring and dry. It's not that I objected to a bland description of Kennedy's legislative accomplishments over the last thirty years (which is what three-fourths of this book is); it's just that I gained no extra insight into the man and what drives him. I have great respect for Clymer's reporting skills with the New York Times, yet it seemed as if this book were written simply by merging a couple hundred memorable quotes from Kennedy's career with stale recitations of Senate bills, cloture votes, and parliamentary maneuvers. It would have been nice to learn a little more about the behind-the-scenes activities behind some of these great public debates, such as Bork, Thomas, Ireland and of course, the Kennedy campaign in 1980. Instead, each is treated like a very, very long newspaper article that doesn't ever end. I had high expectations for this book because I like Clymer's reporting, but I agree with another reviewer that the great Kennedy biography has yet to be written . . .
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