Cover image for Edward M. Kennedy : a biography
Edward M. Kennedy : a biography
Clymer, Adam.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 692 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E840.8.K35 C59 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Edward M. Kennedy is one of the most influential senators in Congress. For the last 35 years, he′s played a major role in events ranging from the Vietnam War to Supreme Court confirmations. He′s also been closely associated with issues such as health care, civil rights and campaign finance reform. More than the foremost lawmaker and best orator in the Senate, he′s enthralled (and disappointed) a generation who saw him as the keeper of his famous brothers′ flame. He′s seen America -- and her politics -- change in drastic ways. In this definitive biography, New York Times Washington Editor Adam Clymer draws an in-depth portrait of this complex man. Through interviews with Kennedy, and the people close to him, he places Kennedy′s career in a historical perspective, and observes how Kennedy′s personal life has affected his political performance. The Senator has dealt with his infamous legacy, struggled to overcome the Chappaquiddick incident, and handled spectacular failures as well as many truimphs. He′s one of the few old-fashioned liberals who has held the Democratic Party to its principles, and is a hero to many. This is a unique, enormously readable chronicle of one of the most fascinating political figures of our time.

Author Notes

Adam Clymer was born in New York City on April 27, 1937. While at Harvard University he was the president of the student newspaper The Crimson and covered college games as a part-time correspondent for The New York Times. He graduated in 1958. After returning from a fellowship at the University of Cape Town, he covered police news for The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Virginia and served in the Army.

He was hired by The Baltimore Sun in 1963. After a brief stint at The Daily News in New York, he joined The New York Times in 1977 and worked there until his retirement in 2003. He covered Congress, eight presidential campaigns, and the downfall of both Nikita S. Khrushchev and Richard M. Nixon. Clymer received the National Press Foundation's Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for distinguished congressional reporting in 1993 and the American Political Science Association's Carey McWilliams Award for political reporting in 2003.

After his retirement, he was political director of the National Annenberg Election Survey and taught journalism at George Washington University. He wrote several books Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography, Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: The Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right, and the novel Escape From 9/11. He died from pancreatic cancer on September 10, 2018 at the age of 81.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Clymer, the New York Times' Washington editor, has been covering Congress since 1963 (first for the Baltimore Sun, then for the Times). He's covered Kennedy since the senior senator from Massachusetts was playing football for Harvard. But Clymer doesn't rely simply on his own memory; he spent seven years digging through archives and conducting some 400 interviews, including nearly 24 with his subject. (Kennedy declined to talk about Chappaquiddick but was forthcoming on other subjects.) The result is a thoughtful and thorough survey of the career of a notably effective legislator and the life of a politician about whom tabloid journalists have always loved to gossip. Clymer divides his biography into three sections: part 1 covers Kennedy's youth and early years in politics to Bobby Kennedy's assassination in 1968; part 2 handles the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and early Reagan years to 1984; and part 3 brings the story up to the present. Clymer covers the obvious scandals and successes, but readers who haven't followed Kennedy's years in Congress closely may be surprised to learn how active he has been on foreign policy issues, from Vietnam to South Africa and Russia. A nuanced portrait of a politician and legislator more complex than most Americans, fans or foes, have realized. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Few people are given the chance to live a productive life after they have become legends in their own time. Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy is one of them, and Clymer, Washington editor of the New York Times, does an excellent job of narrating how Kennedy navigated a burdensome family legacy to become, in Clymer's view, one of the most effective lawmakers in American history. By the end of the book, most readers will believe that Clymer has made his case. But this is no hagiography. Clymer started covering Congress as a newspaper reporter in 1963, the year after Kennedy's election to the Senate, when John Kennedy was president and Robert Kennedy was attorney general. He has observed Senator Kennedy at more or less close range for 36 years, a level of intimacy that mitigates against rose-tinted glasses. Indeed, Clymer explores Kennedy's legislative, political and personal failures as well as the successes. No serious discussion of Kennedy as a legislator, party politician, husband, father or friend can proceed very far without a re-evaluation of Chappaquiddick. Clymer's assessment takes only a few pages, but it is solid and insightful, putting the episode in proper perspective and allowing it to resonate subtly through the rest of the book without treating it as the defining moment of Kennedy's life. Clymer's deft explanations of complex congressional maneuverings are models of good political reportage, and his judgments of Kennedy's character are even-handed. This is an old-fashioned, balanced, well-organized biography that does justice to both the virtues and flaws, public and private, of Senator Kennedy. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy are remembered as the icons of modern American liberalism, but younger brother Senator Ted Kennedy has become the executor of their unfulfilled goals. Clymer has covered Congress for the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun since 1963 (one year less than Kennedy has been in office) and spent seven years writing this detailed workÄappraisal more of Kennedy the legislator than of Kennedy the man. Drawing on more than 400 interviews, including 21 with Kennedy, he portrays the senator as a great statesman who effectively works both sides of the aisle with such unlikely partners as Orrin Hatch, the conservative Utah senator. Clymer acknowledges Kennedy's drinking and womanizing, which ultimately prevented any successful run at the presidency, but does not wallow in Chappaquidick and the notorious 1991 Palm Beach rape accusation of William Kennedy Smith. Although the writing at times becomes bogged down in detail when complex issues such as healthcare are discussed, this is likely to remain the authoritative investigation of Kennedy's impressive legislative record, surpassing Burton Hersh's The Shadow President (LJ 5/15/97). Strongly recommended for larger public and academic collections and recommended for most other public libraries.ÄKarl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Part 1
1. A Decision for 1984p. 3
2. Born to a Dynastyp. 9
3. The Apprenticep. 25
4. The President's Brotherp. 43
5. Crashp. 56
6. The Lawmakerp. 65
7. To Vietnam--and Backp. 78
8. Alliances and Coalitionsp. 92
9. The Last Brotherp. 103
Part 2
10. A Summer of Entreatiesp. 117
11. A Leader with Robert's Causesp. 127
12. Chappaquiddickp. 143
13. A Staff to Lean Onp. 155
14. Victory and Defeatp. 167
15. Investigations by and of Nixonp. 180
16. A Crisis at Homep. 195
17. No Campaign in 1976p. 209
18. Unconventional Wisdomp. 227
19. Crime and Taxesp. 240
20. Strains with Carter, Strains on Joanp. 252
21. Beijing and Moscowp. 261
22. Against the Windp. 276
23. Losingp. 292
24. In the Minority, Leadingp. 321
Part 3
25. Little Mud and Central Americap. 345
26. A Pilgrimage to South Africap. 363
27. An Advocate for Arms Controlp. 387
28. Defeating Borkp. 406
29. Picking Up His Brothers' Mantlep. 429
30. Rights for the Disabledp. 445
31. Battles in the Senate--and the Gulfp. 475
32. The Turning Pointp. 486
33. A President and an Allyp. 506
34. Still Campaigningp. 533
35. The Counterrevolutionp. 559
36. Health Care, Bit by Bitp. 585
37. The Job You Asked the People Forp. 600
Notesp. 611
Bibliographyp. 663
Indexp. 668