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Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedyby Peter Canellos
Synopses & Reviews
No figure in American public life has had such great expectations thrust upon him, or has responded so poorly. But Ted Kennedy — the youngest of the Kennedy children and the son who felt the least pressure to satisfy his father's enormous ambitions — would go on to live a life that no one could have predicted: dismissed as a spent force in politics by the time he reached middle age, Ted became the most powerful senator of the last half century and the nation's keeper of traditional liberalism.
As Peter S. Canellos and his team of Boston Globe reporters show in this revealing and intimate biography, the gregarious, pudgy, and least academically successful of the Kennedy boys has witnessed greater tragedy and suffered greater pressure than any of his siblings. At the age of thirty-six, Ted Kennedy found himself the last brother, the champion of a generation's dreams and ambitions. He would be expected to give the nation the confidence to confront its problems and to build a fairer society at home and abroad.
He quickly failed in spectacular fashion. Late one night in the summer of 1969, he left the scene of a fatal automobile accident on Chappaquiddick Island. The death there of a young woman from his brother's campaign would haunt and ultimately doom his presidential ambitions. Political rivals turned his all-too-human failings — drinking, philandering, and divorce — into a condemnation of his liberal politics.
But as the presidency eluded his grasp, Kennedy was finally liberated from the expectations of others, free to become his own man. Once a symbol of youthful folly and nepotism, he transformed himself in his later years into a symbol of wisdom and perseverance. He built a deeply loving marriage with his second wife, Victoria Reggie. He embraced his role as the family patriarch. And as his health failed, he anointed the young and ambitious presidential candidate Barack Obama, whom many commentators compared to his brother Jack. The Kennedy brand of liberalism was rediscovered by a new generation of Americans.
Perceptive and carefully reported, drawing heavily from candid interviews with the Kennedy family and inner circle, Last Lion captures magnificently the life and historic achievements of Ted Kennedy, as well as the personal redemption that he found.
After Edward M. Kennedy nearly lost his life in a 1964 plane crash that killed both the pilot and one of the Massachusetts senator's closest aides, President Lyndon Johnson decided that he wanted to stop by and see his friend. Kennedy, strapped flat to a bed with three fractured vertebrae, demurred via an aide. But, when Johnson persisted — as only the cajoling Texan could — Kennedy relented, rallying... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) to spend 20 minutes in the middle of the night swapping stories and jokes, bonding with the leader of the free world. This episode, recounted in "Last Lion," an insightful biography by a team of Boston Globe reporters and editors, exemplifies Kennedy's ability to recover — and often prosper — from misfortune. Over the last half-century, the roly-poly (his sister Jean nicknamed him "Biscuits and Muffins") youngest child of America's "First Family" rebounded from unspeakable tragedies and self-inflicted wounds with a resilience that has become his lasting contribution to the legacy of Camelot. Born in Boston in 1932, Ted Kennedy spent his formative years in the shadow of his brothers Joe Jr. (who died in combat in 1944), Jack and Bobby. In 1957 — three years before Jack was elected president and five years before Ted entered the Senate — the Saturday Evening Post wrote that "fervent admirers" of the Kennedys "confidently look forward to the day when Jack will be in the White House, Bobby will serve in the Cabinet as Attorney General, and Teddy will be the Senator from Massachusetts." The most fervent of those admirers undoubtedly was Joe Kennedy, a self-made millionaire who dominated the lives of his children as only a hyperambitious father can. But of the four boys, Ted seemed least likely to fulfill the family's aspirations. In contrast to Jack's bookishness and Bobby's driven focus, Ted displayed an easy nature and sly sense of humor: at 5, he penned a letter thanking Santa Claus for his presents and adding, "you can give me some more anytime you want to." He was not the early achiever that his older brothers were; he attended Harvard and played on the football team but was kicked out in his freshman year for cheating on a Spanish exam. Nevertheless, Joe Kennedy saw political talent in his youngest son. In 1961, the authors of "Last Lion" note, the patriarch opined that Ted was the most attractive politically of the brothers, the best looking and the best speaker, though not as smart as the rest. (Joe Kennedy was never one to mince words.) Ted's election at age 30 to Jack's former Senate seat appeared to vindicate their father's vision. It wasn't just the meteoric rise of the three brothers, however, that brought America to know and, in some circles, to love Ted Kennedy. Rather, it was his soldiering on through tragedy after tragedy. In November 1963, Ted was the one who told his ailing father that Jack had been shot — "There's been a bad accident. The president has been hurt very badly. In fact, he died," Kennedy sobbed to the old man. In June 1968, Ted flew from Los Angeles to New York with his brother Bobby's casket. And in July 1999, Ted rallied the family following the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in a plane crash. "The enormity of this series of tragedies ... would have put most of us out of commission," John Culver, a friend and fellow senator, is quoted as saying in "Last Lion." Along with great strength in times of crisis, Ted Kennedy also showed glaring weaknesses, the most damaging of which was a tendency to abdicate responsibility. It's a trait on display in his dismissal from Harvard and the unapologetic womanizing that Jackie Kennedy (who knew whereof she spoke) described to his first wife, Joan, as an "addiction." The Kennedy hubris was on display most vividly in the July 1969 car crash on Chappaquiddick Island that left Mary Jo Kopechne dead. Kennedy's explanation — told without skepticism by the book's authors — remains to this day muddled and inconclusive, a jumble of rationalizations that almost certainly cost him the presidency in 1972, dissuaded him from running in 1976 and helped derail his primary challenge to President Jimmy Carter in 1980. In ads paid for by the Carter campaign, voters were shown speaking directly to the camera about Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, insisting "I don't trust him" and "I don't believe him." Yet the end of his presidential aspirations may have come as a relief. "It is my opinion that he didn't want to run," David Burke, Kennedy's first chief of staff, told the Globe authors. And so, freed from the expectations set by his father and lived out by his brothers, Kennedy spent decades carving out his own legacy — one built not on a relentless drive to the White House but as the last line of defense for liberalism during the terms of President Ronald Reagan and the two Presidents Bush. His list of legislative accomplishments is long, particularly on education and health care, and he remains a go-to dealmaker for Senate Democrats and Republicans alike. What, then, ultimately to make of Ted Kennedy? Here is a man born to great privilege and even greater expectations who achieved much but, in the end, saw tragedy and personal shortcomings circumscribe his life. His memoir, tentatively titled "True Compass," is scheduled to come out this autumn, and in it we may learn what helped him persevere and whether he feels loss or satisfaction more sharply. In the meantime, a partial answer may be found in the image of him at sea — a place he sought in good times (he was a regular participant in sailing regattas off Martha's Vineyard) and bad (after Bobby's death, he sailed for days on end with his friend John Tunney by his side), and a metaphor for the crests and troughs he confronted throughout his tumultuous life. Before Vicki Reggie married him in July 1993, her father, a family friend, warned her that she would always trail the Senate and Kennedy's sailboat, Mya, in his affections. It is fitting then that hours after being released from Massachusetts General Hospital last May with a diagnosis of brain cancer, Ted Kennedy took to the waters off his beloved Hyannisport with Vicki for a sail on Mya. Kennedy sat at the helm with a black knit cap pulled over his tousle of white hair, a beaming smile etched on his face. Chris Cillizza is a political reporter for The Washington Post. His online column at washingtonpost.com is "The Fix." Reviewed by Chris Cillizza, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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The complete biography of one of the most powerful men in American politics--Ted Kennedy--and his personal redemption from the disappointing member of a grand dynasty to a sage in the Senate and the patriarch of a broken family.
In the tradition of 102 Minutes and Columbine, the definitive book on the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers, written by reporters fromand#160;The Boston Globeand#160;andand#160;published to coincide with the first anniversary of the tragedy
Long Mile Home will tell the gripping story of the tragic, surreal, and ultimately inspiring week of April 15, 2013: the preparations of the bombers; the glory of the race; the extraordinary emergency response to the explosions; the massive deployment of city, state, and federal law enforcement personnel; and the nationand#8217;s and the worldand#8217;s emotional and humanitarian response before, during, and after the apprehension of the suspects.
The authors, both journalists at The Boston Globe, are backed by that paperand#8217;s deep, relentless, and widely praised coverage of the event. Through the eyes of seven principal characters including the bombers, the wounded, a victim, a cop, and a doctor, Helman and Russell will trace the distinct paths that brought them together. With an unprecedented level of detail and insight, the book will offer revelations, insights, and powerful stories of heroism and humanity.
Long Mile Home will also highlight the bravery, resourcefulness, and resiliency of the Boston community. It will portray the city on its worst day but also at its best.
About the Author
Peter Canellos is the Washington bureau chief for The Boston Globe and oversees all national coverage for the paper, where he has worked since 1988 covering local, state, and national politics.
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