The New York Times
John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Bestby Michael Kranish, Brian Mooney, Nina J. Easton
This will be the only complete biography available for voters who want a thorough and objective look at the current frontrunner in the Democratic race for the presidencySee more details below
This will be the only complete biography available for voters who want a thorough and objective look at the current frontrunner in the Democratic race for the presidency
The New York Times
Post-Intelligencer, July 26, 2004
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JOHN F. KERRYThe Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best
By MICHAEL KRANISH BRIAN C. MOONEY NINA J. EASTON
Chapter OneFrom 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.
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