- Hardcover: 595 pages
- Publisher: Thorndike Press; 1 edition (August 23, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786268158
- ISBN-13: 978-0786268153
- Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,922,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Last year, Boston Globe reporters working on a multipart series uncovered the stunning news that John Kerry's paternal grandfather was Jewish. This book, an expansion of that series, doesn't find any smoking guns about the presumptive Democratic candidate for president. But it does offer a detailed and at times critical biography of the Massachusetts senator. Relying on years of reporting, the authors trace Kerry's itinerant boyhood as the son of a Foreign Service officer and his later years at prestigious St. Paul's, where early on he demonstrated intellectual seriousness and ambition. This ambition is one of the themes of Kerry's life as presented here. The biography shows Kerry's somewhat bumpy ride as a politician and his strength more as an investigator-on Iran-Contra-than as a legislator. The book, written in the lucid, straightforward prose one expects from a newspaper writing team, is especially strong on Kerry's college and Vietnam years, detailing the sense of service felt by Kerry and his fellow Skull-and-Bonesmen at Yale, and Kerry's doubts about the Vietnam War even before he went over to serve. The authors take critical issues head-on: they explore questions over Kerry's first Purple Heart and his leaving Vietnam before his service was over, as well as the Nixon administration's targeting him as an enemy. Kerry supporters may find the tone a bit harsh, but all who are interested in the 2004 election will benefit from this major serious examination of a man who would be president. 27 photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"All who are interested in the 2004 election will benefit from this major serious examination of a man who would be president."
-- Publishers Weekly (Publisher's Weekly )
Top customer reviews
In any case this is definitely a well researched and written biography by three reporters from his home state - reporters from the Boston Globe. They claim to have double and triple checker their sources. According to the preface, the story started off as a series of seven installments in the Globe in the summer of 2003. The paper, being located in Kerry's home state, wanted to publish a comprehensive series of stories on Kerry. According to Martin Baron, the Editor of the Boston Globe who has written the preface, the stories were immediately attacked by the Kerry Campaign. Later the campaign acknowledged that it was largely an accurate portrayal. That series has been expanded by the three writers into this present book. All three had covered Kerry (Mooney since 1977) and had previously written detailed stories on the candidate even back to the time when he was an assistant DA in Middlesex County. So by any reasonable standard the authors are well qualified and it shows in the book. Kerry did not help with the writing of the book and declined recent interviews. Overall I would call the book neutral in tone - just good reporting and writing. In addition to the roughly 400 pages of text there are 30 pages of notes.
As a book I found it to be engrossing and I was able to quickly run through the 400 pages. My attention was continually held. It is a page turner but not strongly so.
Kerry comes from an interesting background where his father's side of the family is second generation from Austria while his mother is related to the Forbes and Winthrops, the latter having a history dating back to almost the start of the Massachusetts colony (John Forbes Kerry). There is a family tree in the book going back three generations. His father was in the foreign service and has in fact acted as a sort of consultant to John Kerry; he did not pass away until 2000. Because of various foreign service postings such as Berlin, Norway, etc. by his father, Kerry traveled around Europe as a child and attended a school in Switzerland. There he was exposed to more European languages and culture than the average young American boy. But other than that he seemed to live a relatively normal youth including playing in a rock band. He did not inherit large amounts of money or a large trust. In fact one relative paid for his tuition at St.Paul's prep school near Boston.
The book covers his youth, education at Yale, his marriages (not much time spent on his personal life), the swift boats in Vietnam, his medals in Vietnam, and then his career back in the US after Vietnam. From there we follow his race for Lieutenant Governor, Senator, his fight for re-election against Governor Weld in 1996. The latter was a very difficult campaign that Kerry managed to win only by 7% riding on the coattails of Bill Clinton, but he did win against a very tough opponent.
Without trying to show bias one way or the other, Kerry comes across as a strong individual that has faced death many times serving his country with honor in Vietnam, a war that killed some of his friends. In politics he made many strong political alliances in the past to win elections - such as with Mayor Flynn of Boston. In the senate he took on unpopular issues such as Nicaragua and was partially responsible for directing investigators to look into the illegal activities of Ollie North and others. For that he was vilified as being somehow weak or soft on communism in the press, but eventually he was proven to be correct. Kerry does not come across in the book as an elitist or someone with a personality problem. He is ambitious and has been interested in politics since his youth - but I think that would be expected from a US Senator. In any case this book gives a lot of information on Kerry in an entertaining and a compelling read. You will not be disappointed.
Excellent book that is well researched and written. Five stars.
On the whole the book left me with a favorable impression of Kerry. He has the negative attributes we associate with politicians, but what candidate doesn't? He also comes across as bright, patriotic and driven. I'm more comfortable with the thought of him as President after reading this book.
The Globe series pulls no punches in presenting Kerry's career, warts and all. It does a particularly good job at examining the controversies in Kerry's biography and sorting out the facts from the innuendo, the verifiable from the speciously speculative. Vietnam medals, his conservative role in the radical Vietnam Veterans Against the War, his controversial first stabs at elected office, and the basis of his at-times confusing stances on the Iraq and Gulf Wars are all covered from "both sides" with analysis limited only to a reasonable calculus of what version of disputed events is most likely to be true.
As a political biography, this book distinctly has no point of view. Very little in the way of historical context, as might be expected in a more erudite biography, intrudes upon the basic narrative of Kerry's public life. Supporters and detractors of Kerry will find plenty to grab onto within its pages. At the same time, the book should raise questions about Kerry to his partisans as well as underscore his strengths of character, intelllect, and executive abilities to his opponents. The book does a fairly good job at getting at the complexity of Kerry's manner of thinking and public stances, which both explains the allegation of "flip-flopping" in its nuanced contexts and reveals the essentially political nature of Kerry's character.
Those looking into insights into John Kerry's character will find plenty of revealing instances, although this is no "up close and personal" celebrity portrait. Kerry's alleged aloofness comes across more as a person uninterested in wearing his inner psychology on his coat sleeves than as indicative of a person truly cold and removed. It's very difficult to imagine Kerry engaging in, say, Bill Clinton-like sharing of the deep recesses of the soul which so endeared the latter to the electorate; at the same time it's abundantly clear Kerry is the type of person highly unlikely to fall into personal pecadilloes like those which dogged Clinton.
Particularly enlightening is the coverage of Kerry's youth and student days: we see the emergence of a careful thinker, ambitious and sometimes ego-driven from the earliest. Kerry's closest relationships are barely covered, however. We learn he was unhappy and morose following his divorce, but learn little of the nature of his relationship with his first wife. We learn of the pain he felt at having five friends killed in Vietnam, including one of his closest (Dick Pershing, grandson of the General, "Blackjack" Pershing), but the direct way it affected his character and motivations is less clear.
The book spends a bit too much time and space on Kerry's grandfather's Jewish-Austrian roots and death by suicide, given that Kerry himself had no knowledge of this part of his ancestral story until the Globe itself informed him of what it had uncovered. It's an interesting twist, but one which hardly illuminates his half-patrician, half-immigrant rags-to-riches family tree in a way which might've affected the formation of his character.
The tone of the book is uneven, as one might expect from an assemblage of articles written by different journalists, and there are occasional abrupt gaps in the narrative sequence. The notes on sources are usefully quoted with the exact phrase, but do not have enough detail to provide much help for those wishing to research further.
All in all, I'd recommend this as a very good start for those with the time and interest to delve more deeply into Kerry. It certainly compares extremely favorably with the sparse material available on President Bush immediately prior to his election in 2000. Readers strapped for time may wish to concentrate on the story of the young Kerry and the Vietnam-era Kerry, which is a riveting portrait in the trials of character and reads more breezily than the drier details of his Senate career. The definitive portrait of Kerry, of course, awaits at least one or two more chapters as yet unwritten.
Skip the self-congratulatory preface, by the way: the Globe editors being smug and self-righteous about their objectivity does not illuminate the subject of the book to any additional degree.