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John Kerry

From dKosopedia

Daniel Inouye
U.S. Junior Senator, Massachusetts
Party Democratic
Assumed office (class 2)

January 3, 1985
Serving with Edward Kennedy

Preceded by Paul Tsongas
Born December 11, 1943
Spouse Teresa Heinz
Religion Roman Catholic

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John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is an American politician who is currently serving his fourth term as the junior United States Senator from Massachusetts. As the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, he was defeated in the 2004 presidential election by the Republican incumbent President George W. Bush.



Early Years

Kerry was born at the Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, outside Denver, where his father, Richard Kerry, was undergoing treatment for tuberculosis. His father had been serving stateside in Alabama during World War II as a test pilot for the United States Army Air Corps. His family returned to their native state of Massachusetts shortly after John's birth. John was raised as a Roman Catholic, and as a child served as an altar boy.

Kerry has said that his first memory is when, as a 3-year-old, he held his mother's hand while she cried as they walked through the broken glass and rubble of her childhood home in Saint-Briac, France. The memorable visit came just a short period after the United States had liberated Saint-Briac from the Germans on August 14, 1944. The family estate, known as Les Essarts, had been occupied as Nazi headquarters during the war, and when the Germans left Les Essarts, they bombed it and burnt it down. The sprawling estate was rebuilt in 1954. Kerry and his parents would often spend the summer holidays there. Kerry occupied his time there racing his cousins on bicycles and challenging relatives to games of kick the can. During his summers there, he became good friends with his first cousin Brice Lalonde, a future Socialist and Green Party leader in France, who ran for President of France in 1981.

Because Kerry's family moved around a lot, he attended several schools as a child. Many years later, he said that "to my chagrin, and everlasting damnation, I was always moving on and saying goodbye. It kind of had an effect on you. It steeled you. There wasn't a lot of permanence and roots. For kids, [that's] not the greatest thing." He went to a Swiss boarding school at age 11 while his family lived in Berlin. When he visited home, he biked around and saw the rubble of Hitler's bunker, and also sneaked into East Berlin, until his father found out and grounded him. The boy often spent time alone. He biked through France, took a ferry from Norway to England, and even camped alone in Sherwood Forest. While attending the boarding school, Kerry saw the film Scaramouche, which became his favorite movie. He later would name his powerboat after its hero.

While his father was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway, Kerry was sent to Massachusetts to attend boarding school. In 1957, he attended the Fessenden School in West Newton, a village in Newton, Massachusetts. There he met and befriended Richard Pershing, grandson of the famed U.S. Gen. John Joseph Pershing.

The following year, he enrolled at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and graduated from there in 1962. At St. Paul's, Kerry felt like an outsider because he was a Catholic and liberal while most of his fellow students were Republican Episcopalians.

Despite having difficulty fitting in, he made friends and developed his interests. He learned skills in public speaking and he became deeply interested in politics. In his free time, he enjoyed ice hockey and lacrosse, which he played on teams captained by classmate Robert S. Mueller III, the current director of the FBI. Kerry also played electric bass for the prep school's band The Electras, which produced an album in 1961. Only 500 copies were made, and in 2004 one of the copies was auctioned at eBay for $2,551.12.

In 1959 Kerry founded the John Winant Society at St. Paul's to debate the issues of the day; the Society still exists there. In November of 1960, Kerry gave his first political speech, in favor of John F. Kennedy's election to the White House.

Encounters with John F. Kennedy

In 1962, Kerry volunteered to work for Ted Kennedy's first senatorial campaign. Kerry was known to broadcast the words "Kennedy for Senate" from a loudspeaker in his Volkswagen Beetle, adding the words "And Kerry for dogcatcher!" That summer, he began dating Janet Jennings Auchincloss, Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister. Auchincloss invited Kerry to visit her family's estate, Hammersmith Farm in Rhode Island (home to Janet and Jackie's mother Janet Lee Bouvier Auchincloss and her husband Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr.), on Sunday, August 26. It was then that Kerry met president Kennedy for the first time.

When Kerry told Kennedy that he was about to enter Yale University, Kennedy grimaced because he had gone to rival school Harvard University. Kerry later recalled, "He smiled at me, laughed and said, 'Oh, don't worry about it. You know I'm a Yale man too now.'" According to Kerry, "The President uttered that famous comment about how he had the best of two worlds now: a Harvard education and Yale degree," in reference to the fact he had received an honorary degree from Yale a few months prior (June 11, 1962). Later that day, a White House photographer snapped a photo of Kerry sailing with Kennedy and his family in Narragansett Bay. They met again a few weeks later while at the September 1962 America's Cup race off the coast of Rhode Island

Yale Days

In 1962 Kerry entered Yale University, where he majored in Political Science, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1966. To earn money during the summers, he loaded trucks in a grocery warehouse and sold encyclopedias door to door.

During the summer of 1963, Kerry and some classmates drove from Paris to Austria, where they visited an old ski instructor of Kerry's. When they arrived at the Austrian Alps, Kerry insisted on climbing a mountain even though it was only 5 a.m., and then raced his friend down the peak. When they visited London that summer, Kerry delivered an impromptu speech from the famed Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park.

During his time at Yale, Kerry played soccer, hockey and lacrosse. He was also on the fencing team and took flying lessons.

In his sophomore year Kerry became president of the Yale Political Union. His involvement with the Political Union gave him an opportunity to be involved with important issues of the day, such as the civil rights movement and president Kennedy's New Frontier program. Under the guidance of the speaking coach and history professor Rollin Osterweis, Kerry won dozens of debate contests against other college students from across the nation. In March 1965, as the Vietnam War escalated, he won the Ten Eyck prize as the best orator in the junior class for a speech that was critical of U.S. foreign policy. In the speech he said, "It is the specter of Western imperialism that causes more fear among Africans and Asians than communism, and thus it is self-defeating." Because of his public speaking skills, he was chosen to give the class oration at graduation. The speech was hastily rewritten at the last moment, and was a broad criticism of American foreign policy, including the war.

In April 1965, his friend John Shattuck (who would later become CEO of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation) inducted him to Yale's Skull and Bones secret society, three years before George W. Bush joined the same group.

A few weeks before graduating, Kerry and all of the Skull and Bones seniors went on a trip together to the fishing camp owned by the organization on the secluded 50-acre Deer Island, located on the St. Lawrence River. According to an article by Joe Klein for The New Yorker in 2002, David Thorne remembered there was a serious ongoing discussion about Vietnam. He said, "There were four of us [Kerry, Smith, Pershing and Thorne] going to war in a matter of months. That tends to concentrate the mind. This may have been the first time we really seriously began to question Vietnam. It was: 'Hey, what the hell is going on over there? What the hell are we in for'? '

Vietnam Days

After an application for a twelve month deferment to study in Paris was denied, Kerry joined the Navy on February 18, 1966. He was ordered into active duty on October 19, and received his Navy commission on December 16. After completing a year of training, in December 1967 he began his first tour of duty, serving as a Second Lieutenant in the electrical department on the guided-missile frigate USS Gridley (DLG-21).

In February 1968, the Gridley sailed into war to support aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin, but was far removed from combat. Kerry had no contact with the enemy during that time. His ship returned to port in Long Beach, California on June 6, 1968.

For his second tour of duty, Kerry had hoped to keep a relatively safe distance from most of the fighting by obtaining an assignment as commander of a Swift Boat. He commanded his Swift Boat Patrol Craft Fast-94 during several operations, including Operation Sea Lords (raids on the NLF-controlled Cua Long River in the Mekong Delta, and proved an aggressive commander.

Kerry lost five friends in war, including Pershing, who was killed in action on February 17, 1968. The death had a devastating impact on Kerry, who expressed his grief in a letter to his parents.

Kerry was awarded his first Purple Heart for an injury incurred during his first combat experience (on December 2, 1968). He was treated for a small piece of shrapnel in his arm and he immediately returned to duty. On February 20, 1969, he earned a second Purple Heart when his left thigh was hit with shrapnel and, again, he was treated and returned to duty. Eight days later, on February 28, 1969, Kerry's boat was hit by a B-40 rocket. After beaching his boat, Kerry chased down and killed a wounded National Liberation Front guerilla, who had been shot in the leg by a crew-mate and was fleeing with another B-40 rocket. Kerry came back to the boat with the rocket and launcher. He was awarded the Silver Star medal for his actions. On March 13, 1969, Kerry's boat detonated a mine (as his position took heavy fire) and his arm was wounded. For his injury and rescuing U.S. Army Green Beret James Rassmann on the same occasion, Kerry was awarded a third Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with Combat V. The last of his three injuries included a bruised arm and shrapnel in his posterior which, according to Kerry, cost him about two days of active service.

Due to questions regarding the nature of his wounds, the Kerry Campaign released his military records.

Within a week of his receiving his third purple heart, Kerry requested reassignment to the U.S. He was entitled to an early departure from Vietnam, subject to approval by the Bureau of Naval Personnel, according to then current regulations which said those who are wounded "three times, regardless of the nature of the wound or treatment required ... will not be ordered to serve in Vietnam and contiguous waters or to duty with ships or units which have been alerted for movement to that area."

On March 17, 1969, Commodore Charles Horne, an administrative official and commander of the coastal squadron in which Kerry served, filled out a document that said Kerry "has been thrice wounded in action while on duty incountry Vietnam. Reassignment is requested as a personal aide in Boston, New York, or Washington, D.C., area." Kerry ended his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969 after 11 months in-country. He remained on active duty for one more year with the Military Sea Transportation Service, Atlantic based in Brooklyn, New York. All told, he was on active duty for four years, from 1966 until 1970. He was transferred to the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1970 and to the Standby (inactive) Reserve in 1972. He received his honorable discharge in 1978.

Political Career

Upon returning from war, Kerry became one of the leaders of the anti-war movement. As a veteran against the war, he achieved nationwide fame when he declared before a committee in Congress, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" In the early seventies, seeking a career in politics, he shopped for a Congressional district in Massachusetts. In 1972, he ran for Congress in a district near Lowell, Massachusetts. The race was brutal and marked by mudslinging. Kerry faced off against Republican Paul Cronin, and a third-party candidate, Roger Durkin. A few days before the election, Durkin dropped out of the race and endorsed Cronin, who went on to defeat Kerry. Kerry stepped aside for a decade or so, instead becoming an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, Mass. Finally in 1982, he took another shot, running for and winning the post of Lieutenant Governor. He served as the LG under Michael Dukakis for two years. Then, in 1984, Sen. Paul Tsongas decided to retire because he had been diagnosed with lymphoma. Kerry ran to replace him, and in 1985, was inaugurated as the new Senator from Massachusetts.

He was re-elected in 1990, and again in 1996, defeating popular Mass. Gov. William Weld in a tough race. In 2002, he was re-elected with more than 80 percent of the vote when the Republicans failed to field a candidate against him.

Kerry entered a crowded Democratic primary in 2003, and for a while was lost in the crowd. In one poll in the fall of 2003, he fell behind Al Sharpton. After reorganizing his staff, he roared back, winning the Iowa caucuses with 39 percent of the vote in a four-way contest. He followed that up with a similar percentage in New Hampshire, defeating fellow New Englander Howard Dean. On Super Tuesday, he won all states but Vermont, which cast its vote for Dean even though he had dropped out of the race. Kerry was officially nominated on July 29, 2004, in Boston, Mass.

Kerry's Rise as the Democrats Presidential Nominee

John Kerry started the 2004 Democratic primary as the media-dubbed front-runner. He had money, experience, and home-court advantage in New Hampshire. But he quickly fell back as Howard Dean's popularity grew and Kerry's position on the war became a political liablity amongst the increasingly anti-war rank and file members of the Democratic Party. After a campaign staff shake-up and disappointing fundraising numbers, Kerry seemed dead in the water at the end of 2003. Kerry proved himself to be a fighter, even mortgaging his own home to fund the campaign at one point. As the Iowa primary approcached, Kerry caught fire. He won the Iowa primary handily and never looked back. John Kerry became the Democratic Party nominee for President in 2004.



Official Position

A Strategy for Success in Iraq To establish security and move forward with the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, the President must show true leadership in going to the major powers to secure their support of Lakhdar Brahimi’s mission, the establishment of a high commissioner for governance and reconstruction, and the creation of a NATO mission for Iraq. These steps are critical to creating a stable Iraq with a representative government and secure in its borders. Meeting this objective is in the interests of NATO member states, Iraq’s neighbors and all members of the international community. True leadership means sharing authority and responsibility for Iraq with others who have an interest in Iraq’s success. Sharing responsibility is the only way to gain new military and financial commitments, allowing America to truly share the burden and the risk.

I. Make Iraq a Part of NATO’s Global Mission

NATO is now a global security organization and creating a stable and secure environment in Iraq must be one of its global missions. Every member of NATO has a huge stake in Iraq’s future. NATO agreement to take on this mission should be reached no later than the NATO summit in late June. NATO can take on this mission in phases, beginning with taking control of Iraq’s border security, and taking over responsibility for northern Iraq and/or the Polish sector, and the training of Iraqi security forces. This would free up as many as 20,000 American troops, open the door to participation by non-NATO countries like India and Pakistan, and send an important message to the American people that we are not bearing the security burden in Iraq virtually alone.

II. Authorize a High Commissioner for Governance and Reconstruction

An international High Commissioner should be authorized by the UN Security Council to organize the political transition to Iraqi sovereignty and the reconstruction of Iraq in conjunction with the new Iraqi government. Backed by a newly broadened security coalition, the High Commissioner will organize elections and the drafting of a constitution, and coordinate reconstruction. The High Commissioner should be an individual who is highly regarded by the international community and who has the credibility and capacity to talk to all the Iraqi people. The High Commissioner should be directed to work with Iraq’s interim government, the new US Ambassador, and the international community after June 30 to ensure a process that continues to move forward on the path toward sovereignty, while focusing on the immediate needs of the Iraqi people. While the process of establishing the High Commissioner is underway, we must fully support the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi to set-up an Iraqi interim entity.

III. Launch a Massive Effort to Build an Iraqi Security Force

We need a massive training effort to build an Iraqi security force that can actually provide security for the Iraqi people. We must accept that the effort to date has failed and must be rethought and reformed. Training must be done in the field, on the job as well as in the classroom. This key task should be part of the NATO mission, and units should be put on the street with backup from international security forces. The creation of viable Iraqi security forces – military and police – is crucial to a successful exit for us and other international forces.

source: </div>

Recent speeches & writings July 4, 2004 WaPo Op-ed


John Kerry voted for the Iraq War Resolution which authorized Bush to use force in Iraq, after receiving assurance from Bush that all possible diplomatic avenues would be exhausted before resorting to military force (a promise that was subsequently broken).

Kerry also voted for the Durbin Amendment (S.Amdt.4865) to the Senate version of the bill (S.J.Res.45), which would have changed the justification from "the continuing threat posed by Iraq" to "an imminent threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction"; many other leading Democrats who voted for the IWR voted against the Durbin amendment.

Kerry's explanation to a group of journalists on why he voted for IWR, reported by Will Pitt on December 10, 2003:

This was the hardest vote I have ever had to cast in my entire career," Kerry said. "I voted for the resolution to get the inspectors in there, period. Remember, for seven and a half years we were destroying weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In fact, we found more stuff there than we thought we would. After that came those four years when there was no intelligence available about what was happening over there. I believed we needed to get the weapons inspectors back in. I believed Bush needed this resolution in order to get the U.N. to put the inspectors back in there. The only way to get the inspectors back in was to present Bush with the ability to threaten force legitimately. That's what I voted for.
The way Powell, Eagleberger, Scowcroft, and the others were talking at the time," continued Kerry, "I felt confident that Bush would work with the international community. I took the President at his word. We were told that any course would lead through the United Nations, and that war would be an absolute last resort. Many people I am close with, both Democrats and Republicans, who are also close to Bush told me unequivocally that no decisions had been made about the course of action. Bush hadn't yet been hijacked by Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney and that whole crew. Did I think Bush was going to charge unilaterally into war? No. Did I think he would make such an incredible mess of the situation? No. Am I angry about it? You're God damned right I am. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake.

During the 2004 Presidential primary race, Kerry became a vocal critic of the bungled occupation. He voted against the final version of the 87 billion dollar appropriations bill for Iraq, although he first attempted to amend the bill so that it would be funded by a partial rollback of tax cuts in the highest income brackets, rather than increasing the deficit.

On September 20, 2004, Kerry laid out his plan for Iraq in a speech in New York. His speech included the following statement of the potential for troop withdrawal, based on the four point plan that he presented:

"If the president would move in this direction, if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and to train the Iraqis to provide their own security and to develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people, and take the steps necessary to hold elections next year, if all of that happened, we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring our troops home within the next four years."

Health Care

Kerry's Health Care plan (pdf)


At the center of Kerry's ideas is his proposal to have the federal government reimburse employers 75 percent of medical bills over $50,000 that a worker runs up in a year. The reimbursement would, in effect, make the government a secondary insurer and ease costs for employers, workers and private insurers.

In exchange for the benefit, Kerry would require employers to offer insurance to every worker and to provide health programs that detect and manage chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure early enough to prevent the diseases from worsening.



Kerry has consistently received high marks from the League of Conservation Voters, except in 2003 and 2004 where his scores were low due to votes missed while campaigning for the 2004 Presidential Election.

Satement from John Kerry's Senate website:

Fought to Protect America's Environment</b>. John Kerry has been described by the League of Conservation Voters as an "environmental champion." He introduced legislation to improve standards for clean air and establish a fund to finance emissions reductions. He secured millions of dollars in funding to clean America's waterways, harbors, and drinking water, worked to strengthen the Safe Drinking Water Act, and introduced legislation in 1996 to ensure "protection in the quality of our water." He sponsored legislation that extended and strengthened laws protecting marine mammals from commercial fishing. He helped protect America's National Parks and National Forests from pollution, excessive logging, and overdevelopment while ensuring that endangered species are preserved for all Americans to experience. He has opposed opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for over a decade, ensuring that future generations can experience this national treasure. He strongly advocated for U.S. participation in the Kyoto accords and other international environmental initiatives, and personally participated in many major world environmental summits, including conferences at Rio di Janiero, Kyoto and the Hague.

Families and Workers


Foreign Policy and Trade

Much of the following is summarized from the profile of John Kerry at

excerpt from

In 1989, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations, Kerry oversaw the publication of a 1,166-page report titled “Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy,” which faulted U.S. government officials for turning a blind eye to the narcotics-trafficking activities of the Nicaraguan contras. 1991: with 44 other Senate Democrats, voted against the 1991 resolution on the Use of Force Against Iraq. He argued that economic sanctions should be given more time to work. 1997: supported granting the president fast-track trade negotiating authority. 1999: with 47 other senators, supported the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 2000: voted in favor of permanent normal trade relations with China. 2000: Kerry mediated negotiations in Cambodia to establish a tribunal to prosecute surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. 2002: voted for the Iraq War Resolution, based on assurance from Bush that all diplomatic efforts would be exhausted before using military force - as stated in the bill itself, but not adhered to by the Bush Administration.

Health Care



John Kerry was among the earliest supporters of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, which today is the largest discretionary federal investment in treatment and support services for individuals and families living with HIV or AIDS. Today, 533,000 Americans with HIV/AIDS receive better treatment through this program. - Kerry Senate website

John Kerry was one of the original co-chairs of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Task Force on Strengthening U.S. Leadership on HIV/AIDS, and "continues as an honorary chairman of the task force."

2000: He "cosponsored legislation to facilitate the creation of a “trust fund” by the World Bank to raise money from governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations as part of the global effort to prevent the spread of AIDS." -

2000: He authored major elements of the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000, legislation which at the time provided the most money ever for fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world. - Kerry Senate website

2002: He sponsored the bipartisan U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2002, comprehensive legislation that was unanimously approved by the Senate and became the foundation of the global AIDS legislation that was passed by congress and signed by President Bush. - Kerry Senate website

Small Business

(source - Kerry Senate website)

Controversial positions

Chavez and Venezuela

Kerry's spring 2004 statements on the Hugo Chavez administration in Venezuela demonstrated an approach more consistent with a conservative policy than a liberal/progressive one. Relevant dKos Diary entry. At this time (spring 2004) it appears that Sandy Berger, Richard Holbrooke, and Rand Beers are the influences that are pushing Kerry in an overly conservative direction on this and other foreign policy issues (See Drug Policy below as well) The statements issued so far are even more extreme than necessary to mollify and/or at least not antagonize the right-wing Florida Cuban expatriate community.

Drug Policy

While Kerry's stance on marijuana is more relaxed than has been the usual case with presidential candidates, it appears that his overall drug policy approach is tending towards conservative rather than liberal/progressive/libertarian approaches that characterize sophisticated thought on the subject today. According to Kerry and the War on Drugs, Rand Beers was involved, under Clinton and Bush, in the counter-productive policies of fumigation of drug crops.


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(Portions of this article are based on the article John Kerry from Wikipedia, and are copied in accordance with The GNU FDL. For a list of previous authors that contributed to the original work, see John Kerry History from Wikipedia and the history of this article.)

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This page was last modified 14:36, 24 February 2008 by dKosopedia user DrDebug. Based on work by Chad Lupkes, Dick Hertz, Andrew Oh-Willeke and Jeff Wegerson and dKosopedia user(s) Puckle74, MH in PA, Roger, Centerfielder, Heurisdick, Rory096, Curps, Jbet777, BartFraden, Allamakee Democrat, Corncam, PatriotismOverProfits, DaveOinSF, Bugmenow, Daniel, Remudoctorlak, DRolfe, Howard Dean, Punishinglemur, Peabo, Lestatdelc, BaltimoreDem, HPoole, Jumbo, Ikswazi af Fahr, A Texan in Maryland, Maxomai, Power and SF Bay. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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