John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best

John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best

by Michael Kranish, Brian Mooney, Nina J. Easton

View All Available Formats & Editions

On Jan. 27, 2004, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts accomplished one of the most spectacular turnarounds in modern American politics when he capped a surprise win in the Iowa caucus with a victory in the New Hampshire primary. The 2004 Democratic presidential nomination is now (in the words of Robert Novak) "John Kerry's to lose." Who is the man


On Jan. 27, 2004, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts accomplished one of the most spectacular turnarounds in modern American politics when he capped a surprise win in the Iowa caucus with a victory in the New Hampshire primary. The 2004 Democratic presidential nomination is now (in the words of Robert Novak) "John Kerry's to lose." Who is the man leading in the race to become the Democratic Party's nominee for president in 2004? And what kind of political leader is he?

The outlines of John Kerry's life are familiar: A decorated Vietnam veteran who became an influential, if unlikely, anti-war protester. A lanky 60-year-old who quenches his thirst for danger with high-speed kiteboarding, windsurfing, piloting, motorcycling, and, in some cases, driving. A senator with a reputation as an investigator and foreign policy expert. A man married to one of the richest women in America. But beyond this broad picture, Kerry is something of a mystery to the public, largely because of a complex yet riveting personal and professional history outlined in this book.

John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography, the first full and in-depth book about the candidate's life, is based on a highly regarded series on Kerry published in the Boston Globe, plus years of additional reporting. It will explore his background, his service in the military (including significant experiences omitted from Douglas Brinkley's bestselling Tour of Duty), his early legal and political career, his legislative record and the remarkable turnaround in his political fortunes during the 2004 election cycle. This incisive, frank look at Kerry's life, and at his strengths and liabilities, is important reading for anyone interested in the presidential campaign.

Editorial Reviews

Seattle Times
An authoritative source that will get readers thoroughly acquainted with the senator from Massachusetts.
Post-Intelligencer, July 26, 2004
The Washington Post
The conscientious research in this book reveals that reporters Michael Kranish and Brian C. Mooney and deputy Washington bureau chief Nina J. Easton were out to get the facts, not to "get" Kerry. But they don't give him the benefit of any doubts.—David Kusnet
Michiko Kakutani
While the later sections of this volume (detailing the candidate's views on the war against Iraq and his tough primary run) will be largely familiar to anyone who has been following the presidential campaign, the rest of the book energetically fleshes out the details of Mr. Kerry's life and career. The book provides the out-of-state reader with a visceral sense of the Massachusetts political world in which Mr. Kerry came of age, as well as an understanding of how he slowly evolved from a tone-deaf neophyte into a more practiced, if still stilted, politician.
The New York Times
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. (Apr. 27) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Campaign biographies should always be accompanied by a warning label. Those by campaign insiders are usually little more than fawning propaganda; those by independent authors may have hidden motives. This book about John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for President, is an exception noteworthy for its balance and thoroughness and for addressing both the positive and the negative aspects of its subject. On the negative side is Kerry's tendency to come off as a political opportunist and self-promoter; on the positive side are his intelligence, personal courage, and heroic war record. Those unfamiliar with Kerry will find his personal journey illuminating-especially the courage he displayed in Vietnam. And while there are few big surprises here, many will be fascinated by the Nixon administration's newly revealed efforts to destroy Kerry when he became leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Most striking is what the authors leave unsaid: the inevitable comparison between the life stories of Kerry and George W. Bush. This excellent and thoroughly researched book by Globe reporters Kranish, Brian C. Mooney, and Nina J. Easton, who have known Kerry long term, is likely to become one of the most authoritative sources on the candidate and should be read by a wide audience. Recommended for all libraries.-Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Publication date:
PublicAffairs Reports
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best


ISBN: 1-58648-273-4

Chapter One

From the Boston Globe series:

John Forbes Kerry swerved his two-seat plane across San Francisco Bay, heading straight toward the Golden Gate. "Let's fly under the bridge." Kerry shouted to his sole passenger and close friend, David Thorne. Thorne tried not to panic as the tiny craft buzzed low across the swells.

Most students who had graduated from Yale with Kerry the previous year knew him as the ultimate Brahmin, the studious and serious class orator who longed to run for president someday. But Thorne and other members of the university's elite Skull and Bones society knew another side of Kerry: He was a young man drawn to danger. During his senior year he "majored in flying," as Kerry put it, learning aerobatics and performing loop-de-loops instead of focusing on his studies.

Thorne also knew that Kerry had been fascinated with the legend of a Yale professor who once looped a bridge, pulling a 360 around the span. It was a summer day in 1967. The sky was clear as the Golden Gate Bridge came into view. Kerry clung to the controls of the rented T-34, similar to those used for military training, and the two young Naval officers headed toward the famous span.


The plane jerked and veered. Out on the wing, the feet of an unfortunate seagull stuck out like a scene from a cartoon. Seconds later the scene flipped from Looney Tunes to Alfred Hitchcock, as more birds appeared in front of them. Suck one into an engine and a young pilot's life story could conclude right there: Yale aviator, dreamed of being president, killed on joyride.

Kerry, the son of a World War II test pilot, pulled up the nose of his small plane, ascending beyond the dangerous flock of birds.

"We were worried the wing would come off," Thorne recalled. Instead, Kerry steered the aircraft away from the bridge and toward a nearby airfield, leaving behind whatever stunts were lurking inside his 23-year-old brain.

In the coming years Kerry would take countless risks, most of them more calculated than flying a plane toward the Golden Gate Bridge. But the episode underscores a life lived on the edge, foolhardy daring matched by controlled focus. He is, too, a man defined by inner conflicts: The gung-ho Vietnam hero turned articulate antiwar protester; the shaggy-haired liberal rebel turned feisty prosecutor; a politician whose core beliefs included a skeptical view of government as a result of his combat experience.

The rap on John Kerry is that he is an aloof politician who lacks a core. Part of his personal story feeds the image: Kerry is a man without geographic roots; his youth stretched through a dozen towns across two continents. He enjoyed the cachet of illustrious family names but not always the bonds of a household. By the time he was 10 years old, he was shipped off for an eight-year odyssey at boarding schools in Switzerland and New England, where "home" was a dormitory or an aunt's estate.

More than any one place, his ties were to a social milieu-that rarefied world of wealth and privilege where the French is fluent and the manners impeccable. As a young man, Bill Clinton got a chance to shake JFK's hand on a Boys Nation outing; young John Kerry dated Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister and once sailed Narragansett Bay with JFK at the helm.

But Kerry did not fully belong to this elite world, either. His father's government salary, combined with his own struggles with money, left him planted further on the outskirts of New England's ruling class than many realized. The boy who was educated at patrician prep schools grew into a gentleman without significant means, part of a landless aristocracy that one might find in a Jane Austen novel. He married wealthy wives whose net worth dwarfed his own.

There is a boldness, and brashness, about Kerry that can breed resentment, but it has also served him well in political life. After winning medals for his courage in combat, he became such an eloquent critic of the war that President Nixon and his staff secretly plotted to undermine him. In Massachusetts as a prosecutor and in Washington as a senator, Kerry often proved himself to be a crusading and articulate investigator and lawmaker willing to stand up to prevailing political winds.

Now the young man in a hurry is a 59-year-old senator determined to turn a boyhood dream of following in JFK's footsteps into the reality of a Democratic primary win-and, ultimately, a victory over George W. Bush.


Excerpted from JOHN F. KERRY by MICHAEL KRANISH BRIAN C. MOONEY NINA J. EASTON Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

The Indianapolis Star
fills out [Kerry¹s] Š personal life, his family, faith, and failed first marriage, his early lawyering Š his marriage to Teresa.
July 2, 2004

Meet the Author

Michael Kranish, has worked for The Boston Globe for 20 years, including the last 16 in the newspaper's Washington Bureau. He was the White House reporter during the last two years of the presidency of George H.W. Bush and the first two years of Bill Clinton. He was the paper's national political reporter during the 1996 and 2000 campaigns. During the 2004 cycle, his work included a series of biographical stories about the candidates, including one on the life of Senator John F. Kerry. His other assignments with the Globe have included congressional reporter, New England reporter, and business writer. He previously worked for The Miami Herald and The Lakeland Ledger. A graduate of Syracuse University, he lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife, Sylvia, and two daughters, Jessica and Laura.

Brian C. Mooney has been a reporter for newspapers in and around Boston for the past thirty-one years, the last sixteen at The Boston Globe. Prior to that, he wrote for The Boston Herald, The Sun of Lowell, and The Medford Daily Mercury. At the Globe, he has been city hall bureau chief, a member of the newspaper's award-winning Spotlight Team, and a political columnist. A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, he resides with his wife, Rosemary Lappin, a local television news producer, in Andover, Mass., with their daughter.

Nina J. Easton, deputy chief of the Boston Globe's Washington bureau, is author of the critically acclaimed Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Ascendancy, which chronicles the rise to power of today's conservative movement. The Washington Post praised the book for telling the story of post-Reagan conservatism "more inventively, exhaustively, and entertainingly than anyone else." Easton's career also includes a decade at the Los Angeles Times, where her Sunday Magazine stories on issues ranging from poverty to politics earned a number of national awards. In addition, she is co-author of the 1982 best-selling book Reagan's Ruling Class: Portraits of the President's Top 100 Officials.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >