Kerry, John


Kerry, John
▪ 2005

      In the election held on Nov. 2, 2004, Democratic candidate John Kerry, senator from Massachusetts, lost his bid for the U.S. presidency to Republican incumbent George W. Bush (q.v. (Bush, George W. )). Kerry won 48% of the popular vote, compared with 51% for Bush, with the vote in the electoral college 251 to 286. Kerry found support principally among voters who disapproved of the U.S. led-Iraq war and among those who said that domestic matters such as the economy and health care were the nation's most serious problems. He fared well in cities, in the Northeast, and on the West Coast. Although most observers agreed that he had outperformed Bush in their debates, much of Kerry's support was thought to be based on anti-Bush sentiment.

      John Forbes Kerry was born on Dec. 11, 1943, at Fitzsimons Army Hospital, in what is now Aurora, Colo., but grew up mostly in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. After graduating from Yale University in 1966 with a B.A. degree in political science, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and volunteered for service in Vietnam. During his second tour of duty, he commanded a river patrol boat, and he was decorated with Silver and Bronze stars and received three Purple Hearts. Following his discharge in 1970, he was active in the antiwar movement and in 1971 testified against the war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The following year he ran unsuccessfully for a Massachusetts congressional seat. Graduating from Boston College Law School in 1976, he worked as an assistant district attorney and then in private practice. In 1982 he was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and in 1984 he won election to the first of four terms to the U.S. Senate. In the Senate he conducted a number of high-profile investigations, including a probe of the Iran-Contra Affair. He was a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and, as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs, worked with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona to account for missing U.S. servicemen in Vietnam. In 1995 Kerry married his second wife, Teresa Heinz (the widow of Republican Sen. John Heinz), who, having changed her party affiliation, actively campaigned for her husband.

      Kerry formally entered the race for the Democratic nomination in September 2003. He won early victories in January 2004 in Iowa and New Hampshire and by March had claimed enough delegates to guarantee the nomination. In July he chose John Edwards (Edwards, John ) (q.v.), senator from North Carolina and his main primary opponent, as his vice presidential running mate. From the beginning Kerry emphasized his military experience, but a group of Vietnam veterans with Republican ties accused him of misrepresenting his record. He also campaigned on a number of domestic issues, particularly criticizing the Bush administration for job losses and for large tax cuts for high-income Americans. As the campaign progressed, Kerry became increasingly critical of the president's handling of the war in Iraq, but Republicans accused him of “flip-flopping” on this and other issues, a charge that stuck with many voters. Kerry retained his Senate seat, with four years remaining in the current term.

Robert Rauch

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▪ United States senator
born December 11, 1943, Denver, Colorado, U.S.
 
 U.S. senator (1985– ) who was the Democratic Party's nominee for president in 2004.

      Kerry was born in a Denver military hospital, the son of Richard Kerry, a World War II pilot and diplomat, and Rosemary Forbes Kerry, a member of the wealthy Forbes family and a descendant of John Winthrop (Winthrop, John), first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Kerry, educated in New England and Switzerland, was a successful student and athlete who nurtured a longtime interest in politics. After graduating from Yale University in 1966, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in the Vietnam War as an officer of a gunboat in the Mekong delta. By the time he returned from Vietnam in 1969, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant and had been honoured with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts.

      Concluding his military service in 1970, he questioned the purpose and execution of the war and was a cofounder of the Vietnam Veterans of America and a spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In this role he gained national attention in 1971 when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The following year he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives and enlisted in the Naval Reserve. In 1976 he graduated from Boston College Law School and became assistant district attorney in Middlesex county, Massachusetts, winning notice for his tough stance on organized crime. From 1979 he practiced law privately for a few years before resuming his political career. In 1982 he was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and in 1984 he won election to the U.S. Senate. He was reelected three times (1990, 1996, and 2002).

      As senator, Kerry fought for campaign finance reform, investment in public education, and deficit reduction. In his freshman term he began an unofficial investigation that persuaded a bipartisan congressional committee to open hearings on the Iran-Contra Affair. He also pursued scandals in banking and, along with Republican Senator John McCain (McCain, John) of Arizona, was known for helping to normalize relations with Vietnam by clearing up the status of American veterans declared POW/MIA (prisoner of war or missing in action). Kerry chaired several committees, most notably the Foreign Relations Committee (2009– ).

      Kerry's first marriage, to Julia Thorne (in 1970), ended in divorce in 1988. In 1995 he married Teresa Heinz, widow of John Heinz (a Republican senator from Pennsylvania) and heiress to the Heinz Company fortune.

      After securing the Democratic nomination, Kerry chose as his running mate John Edwards (Edwards, John), a U.S. senator from North Carolina who had contended ably for the primary nomination. Campaigning in the general election against incumbent President George W. Bush (Bush, George W.), Kerry touted plans to reduce joblessness and the national deficit, increase access to health care, and roll back Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest. Kerry also called for greater diplomacy in foreign affairs and pointed to the administration's failure to capture terrorist Osama bin Laden and to achieve peace in Iraq (see Iraq War). In an election with a huge voter turnout, Kerry suffered a narrow defeat.

      Kerry wrote The New War: The Web of Crime That Threatens America's Security (1997) and A Call to Service (2003).

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Universalium. 2010.

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