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The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy,
by Peter Canellos
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This book is a full-life biography of Ted Kennedy, opening with his death but tracing his life from birth. Teddy was the last of nine children, 17 years younger than his eldest brother, Joe Jr. His parents were wealthy, and groomed their children for public service. Each had a million-dollar trust fund; the boys were expected to run for public office; the girls were expected to volunteer for social justice organizations. The family motto, "Faith, Family, Country," reflected Joe Sr.'s goal for his children was clear: get elected the first Irish Catholic president.
Joe, Ted's father, was appointed by FDR as the first head of the SEC (the first regulation on Wall Street during the Great Depression), and then as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Teddy was in London when war was declared on Germany. Joe, who had harbored ambitions to run for president himself, lost his chance at public office by recommending the appeasement of Hitler. WWII began "the Kennedy Curse": Joe Jr.'s death in action; JFK's injury on PT109, and sister Rosemary's lobotomy (resulting in her permanent institutionalization).
Father Joe is characterized as a womanizer; mother Rose dealt with his infidelity by "retail therapy." JFK and Ted are also portrayed as womanizers, which Jackie Kennedy described to Ted's wife as an "addiction" endemic to Kennedy men.
Teddy attended Milton Academy, among numerous other schools, and then Harvard, but was never a good student. Teddy was temporarily ejected from Harvard for cheating on an exam, but managed to graduate with a varsity letter in football.
Chappaquiddick was not Ted's first run-in with the law due to motor vehicle breaches: Ted was arrested for reckless driving while a law student at the University of Virginia, in the 1950s.
Ted's 1962 run for Senate is often portrayed as a set-up race, to replace JFK when he was elected to the presidency in 1960. This book portrays it instead as a serious race against serious opponent, both in the primary and the general election. His primary opponent adopted the slogan, "I backed Jack but Teddy isn't ready."
Ted had always loved campaigning -- he worked actively for JFK's Senate and Presidential races -- and campaigned hard for the 1962 race, even before he had formally announced. Ted, however, would have preferred to run for office in New Mexico -- a dream pushed aside by the Kennedy family's obligations imposed upon Ted.
Upon JFK's inauguration, he gave silver boxes to all campaign staff; Ted's was inscribed with the Biblical adage, "And the last shall be first," referring to his "last child" status. JFK proved right, since Ted became the family patriarch eventually.
Ted was presiding over an empty U.S. Senate chamber when the news came of JFK's assassination. The JFK and RFK assassinations became the center of what became known as "The Kennedy Curse": Other incidents include that Ted also suffered a broken back in a plane crash during his 1964 re-election campaign; that back injury would plague him for the rest of his life.
In the US Senate in the 1960s, Ted supported Vietnam early, focusing on refugee issues, but switched to opposing the war when RFK ran for president in 1968. Ted was lobbied heavily to replace RFK after his assassination in 1968, but Ted declined.
The book includes an enormous section on Chappaquiddick -- more detailed than sympathetic. The incident precluded Ted from the presidency, but Kennedy's 1976 primary run precluded Jimmy Carter's re-election (according to Carter's staff).
After he stopped running for President, and in large part because of his second marriage to Vicky Kennedy in the early 1990s, Ted became a master legislator. He routinely teamed up with conservative Republicans to co-author major bipartisan legislation, which would take a couple of steps towards Kennedy's liberal goals (with Bob Dole on the ADA; with George W. Bush on NCLB; with John McCain on immigration reform; with Orrin Hatch on SCHIP and several other bills) .
In our current era of partisanship, Kennedy's legislative successes are what really make him the "Liberal Lion". The term "Last Lion" was coined by Sen. John McCain to describe Ted's role in the U.S. Senate.
The book includes a long section on Ted's terminal illness and another long section on John-John (whose death was yet another marker of the Kennedy Curse). The book concludes with comments by Paul Kirk, Ted's long-time aide and the placeholder Senate appointee after Ted's death.
The theme of the book seems to be: doggedness and patience makes for a good legislator. This book is not hagiography -- it details too much to be considered biased -- but instead is a solid biography that Kennedy fans will love and which Kennedy haters should study.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, May 2013
The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy,
by Peter Canellos. Error processing SSI file
Page last edited: May 31, 2013