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John Kerry
68th United States Secretary of State
Assumed office
February 1, 2013
President Barack Obama
Deputy William Joseph Burns
Preceded by Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Senator
from Massachusetts

In office
January 3, 1985 – February 1, 2013
Preceded by Paul Tsongas
Succeeded by Mo Cowan
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

In office
January 6, 2009 – February 1, 2013
Preceded by Joe Biden
Succeeded by Bob Menendez
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

In office
January 4, 2007 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by Olympia Snowe
Succeeded by Mary Landrieu

In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Kit Bond
Succeeded by Olympia Snowe

In office
January 3, 2001 – January 20, 2001
Preceded by Kit Bond
Succeeded by Kit Bond
66th Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts

In office
March 6, 1983 – January 2, 1985
Governor Michael Dukakis
Preceded by Thomas O'Neill
Succeeded by Evelyn Murphy
Personal details
Born John Forbes Kerry
December 11, 1943(1943-12-11) (age 79)
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Julia Thorne (1970–1988)
Teresa Heinz (1995–present)
Children Alexandra
John (Stepson)
André (Stepson)
Christopher (Stepson)
Alma mater Yale University (B.A.)
Boston College (J.D.)
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1966–1978
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Lieutenant
Unit USS Gridley (DLG-21)
Coastal Squadron 1
Commands PCF-44
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart (3)

John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is an American politician who is the 68th and current United States Secretary of State. He served as a United States Senator from Massachusetts from 1985 to 2013, and was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election but lost to incumbent George W. Bush.

The son of an Army Air Corps veteran, Kerry was born in Aurora, Colorado. He attended boarding school in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and went on to graduate from Yale University class of 1966, where he majored in political science and became a member of the Skull and Bones secret society. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1966, and during 1968–1969 served an abbreviated four-month tour of duty in South Vietnam as officer-in-charge (OIC) of a Swift Boat. For that service, he was awarded combat medals that include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Securing an early return to the United States, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War in which he served as a nationally recognized spokesman and as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. He appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs where he deemed United States war policy in Vietnam to be the cause of "war crimes."

After receiving his J.D. from Boston College Law School, Kerry worked as an Assistant District Attorney and co-founded a private firm. He served as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts under Michael Dukakis from 1983 to 1985, where he worked on an early forerunner to the national Clean Air Act. He won a tight Democratic primary in 1984 for the U.S. Senate and was sworn in the following January. On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he led a series of hearings from 1987 to 1989 which were a precursor to the Iran–Contra affair. Kerry was reelected to additional terms in 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008.

In 2002, Kerry voted to authorize the President "to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein", but warned that the administration should exhaust its diplomatic avenues before launching war. Kerry based his 2004 presidential campaign on opposition to the Iraq War. He and his running mate Senator John Edwards lost the race, finishing 35 electoral votes behind the Republican ticket headed by President George W. Bush (just 19 short of the 270 required for election). Subsequently, he established the Keeping America's Promise PAC.

Kerry became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009, and in 2011 he was appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Having been nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 94–3 on January 29, 2013, Kerry assumed the office on February 1, 2013.

Personal life and background

Kerry is the child of Richard Kerry (1915–2000), a Foreign Service Officer and an attorney for the Bureau of United Nations Affairs, and Rosemary Isabel (Forbes) Kerry (1913–2002), a World War II nurse and member of the wealthy Forbes family. Rosemary was born in Paris, France, to American parents. Kerry has three siblings: two sisters, Diana (born in 1947) and Margerie (aka Peggy; born in 1941), and a brother, Cameron Kerry (born in 1950), Cameron Kerry is the General Counsel of the US Department of Commerce.[1] One of Kerry's maternal great-great-grandfathers was Robert Charles Winthrop, the 22nd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony John Winthrop is a direct Kerry forebear.[2] Kerry is also a descendant of other prominent American colonial ancestors, including Thomas Cornell (settler) and Joris/George Woolsey.[3]

Kerry was raised as a Roman Catholic by his Catholic father and Episcopalian mother.[4] As a child, Kerry served as an altar boy. Although the extended family enjoyed a great fortune, Kerry's parents themselves were upper-middle class; a wealthy great aunt paid for Kerry to attend elite schools in Europe and New England. Kerry spent his summers at the Forbes family estate in Brittany, and there, he enjoyed a more opulent lifestyle than he had previously known in Massachusetts.

It was discovered in 2003 by Felix Gundacker, a genealogist[5] working with The Boston Globe, that Kerry's paternal grandparents, who had been born Jewish, as "Fritz Kohn" and "Ida Löwe", in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, changed their names to "Frederick and Ida Kerry" in 1900 and converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism in 1901[6][7] or 1902.[8] Fritz' elder brother Otto had earlier, in 1887[7] or 1896,[5] also embraced Catholicism. The "Kerry" name, widely misinterpreted as indicative of Irish heritage, was reputedly selected arbitrarily: "According to family legend, Fritz and another family member opened an atlas at random and dropped a pencil on a map. It fell on County Kerry in Ireland, and thus a name was chosen."[6][8] Leaving their hometown Mödling, a suburb of Vienna where they had lived since 1896, Fred and Ida, together with their son Eric, emigrated to the United States in 1905, living at first in Chicago and eventually moving to Brookline, Massachusetts, by 1915.[6]

The village where Fritz Kohn was born in 1873 was at that time known as Bennisch and was a part of Silesia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is today known as Horní Benešov in the Czech Republic.[7] After learning of his ancestral connection with their village, the mayor and citizens sent congratulatory correspondence to John Kerry with regard to his political pursuits.[7]

For a time, Fred Kerry was a prosperous and successful shoe merchant, and Ida and two of the children — Richard (who would become the father of John Kerry) and Mildred — were able to afford to travel to Europe in the autumn of 1921, returning on October 21.[6] A few weeks later, on November 15, Fred Kerry filed a will leaving everything to Ida and then, on November 23, walked into a washroom of the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a handgun.[6] The suicide was front-page news in all of the Boston newspapers, reporting at the time that the motive was severe asthma and related health problems, but modern reports cite family sources saying that the motive was financial trouble: "He had made three fortunes and when he had lost the third fortune, he couldn't face it anymore", according to granddaughter Nancy Stockslager.[6]

John Kerry has said that although he knew his paternal grandfather had come from Austria, he did not know until informed by The Boston Globe on the basis of their genealogical research that Fred Kerry had changed his name from "Fritz Kohn" and had been born Jewish,[8] nor that his great-uncle and great-aunt, Ida Kerry's brother Otto and sister Jenni, died in Nazi concentration camps.[5]

On his mother's side, the Forbes name can be traced back to Thomas Dudley of the Dudley-Winthrop family who landed in Salem, Massachusetts, on June 14, 1630, with his daughter, poet Anne Dudley Bradstreet, and others aboard the Arbella.

Kerry is 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall,[9] enjoys surfing and windsurfing, as well as ice hockey, hunting and playing bass guitar. According to an interview he gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 2004, Kerry's favorite album is Abbey Road and he is a fan of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, as well as of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Buffett. He never liked heavy metal.[10] During his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry used Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" as one of his campaign songs. Later he would adopt U2's "Beautiful Day" as his official campaign song.

Kerry is described by Sports Illustrated, among others, as an "avid cyclist",[11][12] primarily riding on a road bike. Prior to his presidential bid, Kerry was known to have participated in several long-distance rides (centuries). Even during his many campaigns, he was reported to have visited bicycle stores in both his home state and elsewhere. His staff requested recumbent stationary bikes for his hotel rooms.[13]

Kerry appeared in a cameo as himself on the April 30, 1992, episode of the hit television sitcom Cheers, in the episode, "Bar Wars VI: This Time It's For Real."

In 2003, Kerry was diagnosed with and successfully treated for prostate cancer.[14]

During the 2012 Obama reelection campaign, Kerry participated in one-on-one debate prep with the president, impersonating the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.[15]


Kerry's daughter Vanessa and grandson Alexander

Kerry was married to Julia Thorne in 1970, and they had two daughters together: Alexandra and Vanessa. Alexandra was born on September 5, 1973, days before Kerry began law school. A graduate of Milton Academy and Brown University, she received her M.F.A. in June 2004 from the AFI Conservatory. She is a documentary filmmaker. Vanessa was born on December 31, 1976. She is a graduate of Phillips Academy and Yale University, and attended Harvard Medical School and a master's program in health policy at the London School of Economics. Both daughters were active in their father's 2004 presidential campaign.

In 1982, Thorne, who was suffering from severe depression, asked Kerry for a separation.[16] They were divorced on July 25, 1988, and the marriage was formally annulled in 1997. "After 14 years as a political wife, I associated politics only with anger, fear and loneliness" she wrote in A Change of Heart, her book about depression. Thorne later married Richard Charlesworth, an architect, and moved to Bozeman, Montana, where she became active in local environmental groups such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Thorne supported Kerry's 2004 presidential run. She died of cancer on April 27, 2006.

Kerry and his second wife, Mozambique-born Teresa Simões-Ferreira Heinz, the widow of Pennsylvania Senator H. John Heinz III, a Republican, and former United Nations interpreter, were introduced to each other by John Heinz at an Earth Day rally in 1990. They did not meet again until after John Heinz's death, at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. They married on May 26, 1995, in Nantucket. John Kerry's stepsons – Teresa's three sons from her previous marriage – are H. John Heinz IV, André Heinz and Christopher Heinz.

The Forbes 400 survey estimated in 2004 that Teresa Heinz Kerry had a net worth of $750 million. However, estimates have frequently varied, ranging from around $165 million to as high as $3.2 billion, according to a study in the Los Angeles Times. Regardless of which figure is correct, Kerry was the wealthiest U.S. Senator whilst serving in the Senate. Kerry is wealthy in his own name, and is the beneficiary of at least four trusts inherited from Forbes family members, including his mother, who died in 2002. Forbes magazine (a major business magazine named for an unrelated Forbes family) estimated that if elected, Kerry would have been the third-richest U.S. President in history when adjusted for inflation.[17] This assessment was based on the couple's combined assets, but Kerry and Heinz signed a prenuptial agreement that keeps their assets separate.[18] Kerry's financial disclosure form for 2011 put his personal assets in the range of $230,000,000 to $320,000,000,[19] including the assets of his spouse and any dependent children. This included slightly more than three million dollars worth of H. J. Heinz Company assets, which increased in value by over six hundred thousand dollars in 2013 due to Berkshire Hathaway announcing they would purchase the company.[20]

Religious beliefs

Congressional portrait with U.S. flag in the background

A Roman Catholic, Kerry was said to carry a rosary, a prayer book, and a St. Christopher medal (the patron saint of travelers) when he campaigned. However, while Kerry is personally against abortion, he supports a woman's legal right to have one, which puts him at odds with the Catholic Church. Discussing his faith, Kerry said, "I thought of being a priest. I was very religious while at school in Switzerland. I was an altar boy and prayed all the time. I was very centered around the Mass and the church." He also said that the Letters of Paul moved him the most, stating that they taught him to "not feel sorry for myself."[21]

In an interview with Christianity Today, Kerry said of his faith: "I'm a Catholic and I practice, but at the same time I have an open-mindedness to many other expressions of spirituality that come through different religions. ... I've spent some time reading and thinking about religion and trying to study it, and I've arrived at not so much a sense of the differences, but a sense of the similarities in so many ways." He said that he believed that the Torah, the Qur'an, and the Bible all share a fundamental story which connects with readers.[22]

Since his time in Switzerland, he is fluent in German and French.[23]

Early years (1943–1966)


Kerry was born in Aurora, Colorado, at Fitzsimons Army Hospital on December 11, 1943; his father was a member of the Army Air Corps at the time.[24]

Kerry has said that his first memory is from when he was three years old, of holding his crying mother's hand while they walked through the broken glass and rubble of her childhood home in Saint-Briac, France. This visit came two and a half years after the United States had liberated Saint-Briac from the Nazis on August 14, 1944. The family estate, known as Les Essarts, had been occupied and used as a Nazi headquarters during the war. When the Germans abandoned it, they bombed Les Essarts and burned it down.

The sprawling estate was rebuilt in 1954. Kerry and his parents would often spend the summer holidays there. During these summers, 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.

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. The Fessenden School is the oldest all-boys independent junior boarding school in the country. There he met and became friends with Richard Pershing, grandson of World War I U.S. Gen. John Joseph Pershing. Former Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy also attended the Fessenden School, although several years prior to Kerry.

The following year, he enrolled at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and graduated from there in 1962. Kerry learned skills in public speaking and began developing an interest in politics. In his free time, he enjoyed ice hockey and lacrosse, which he played on teams captained by classmate Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the . Kerry also played bass guitar for the prep school's band The Electras, which produced an album in 1961. Only 500 copies were made, one of which was auctioned on eBay in 2004 for $2,551.

In 1959, Kerry founded the John Winant Society at St. Paul's to debate the issues of the day; the Society still exists there.[25][26] In November 1960, Kerry gave his first political speech, in favor of John F. Kennedy's election to the White House.

In 1962, Kerry was a volunteer for Ted Kennedy's first Senatorial campaign. The summer after his graduation from St. Paul's, he dated Janet Jennings Auchincloss, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister. Auchincloss invited Kerry to visit her family's estate, Hammersmith Farm, in Rhode Island, where Kerry met President John F. Kennedy for the first time.

According to Kerry, when he told the president he was about to enter Yale University, Kennedy grimaced, because he had gone to rival 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 honorary degree he had received from Yale a few months earlier. Later that day, a White House photographer snapped a photo of Kerry sailing with Kennedy and his family in Narragansett Bay.

Yale University

In 1962, Kerry entered Yale University, majoring in political science. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966. Kerry played on the soccer, hockey, lacrosse and fencing teams; in addition, he took flying lessons.[26]

In his sophomore year, Kerry became the Chairman of the Liberal Party of the Yale Political Union, and a year later he served as President of the Union. Amongst his influential teachers in this period was Professor H. Bradford Westerfield, who was himself a former President of the Political Union.[27] 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 Kennedy's New Frontier program. He also became a member of the secretive Skull and Bones Society. He also traveled to Switzerland[28] through AIESEC Yale.[29][30]

Under the guidance of the speaking coach and history professor Rollin Osterweis, Kerry won many debates against other college students from across the nation.[31] 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 spectre of Western imperialism that causes more fear among Africans and Asians than communism and thus, it is self-defeating."[32]

Kerry, viewed as a capable speaker, was chosen to give the class oration at graduation. His speech was a broad criticism of American foreign policy, including the Vietnam War, in which he would soon participate.

Military service (1966–1970)

Duty on the USS Gridley

On February 18, 1966, Kerry enlisted in the Naval Reserve.[33] He began his active duty military service on August 19, 1966. After completing 16 weeks of Officer Candidate School at the U.S. Naval Training Center in Newport, Rhode Island, Kerry received his officer's commission on December 16, 1966. During the 2004 election, Kerry posted his military records at his website, and permitted reporters to inspect his medical records. In 2005, Kerry released his military and medical records to the representatives of three news organizations, but has not authorized full public access to those records.[34][35]

Kerry's first tour of duty was as an ensign on the guided missile frigate USS Gridley in 1968. The executive officer of the Gridley described the deployment: "We deployed from San Diego to the Vietnam theatre in early 1968 after only a six-month turnaround, and spent most of a four month deployment on rescue station in the Gulf of Tonkin, standing by to pick up downed aviators."

During his tour on the Gridley, Kerry requested duty in Vietnam, listing as his first preference a position as the commander of a Fast Patrol Craft (PCF), also known as a "Swift boat."[36] These 50-foot (15 m) boats have aluminum hulls and have little or no armor, but are heavily armed and rely on speed. "I didn't really want to get involved in the war", Kerry said in a book of Vietnam reminiscences published in 1986. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that's what I thought I was going to be doing."[37] However, his second choice of billet was on a river patrol boat, or "PBR", which at the time was serving a more dangerous duty on the rivers of Vietnam.[36]

On June 16, 1968, Kerry was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, junior grade. On June 20, 1968, he left the Gridley for Swift boat training at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado.

Swift boat duty

On November 17, 1968, Kerry reported for duty at Coastal Squadron 1 in Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam. In his role as an officer in charge of Swift boats, Kerry led five-man crews on a number of patrols into enemy-controlled areas. His first command was Swift boat PCF-44, from December 6, 1968 to January 21, 1969, when the crew was disbanded. They were based at Coastal Division 13 at Cat Lo from December 13, 1968, to January 6, 1969. Otherwise, they were stationed at Coastal Division 11 at An Thoi. On January 30, 1969, Kerry took charge of PCF-94 and its crew, which he led until he departed An Thoi on March 26, 1969, and subsequently the crew was disbanded.

On January 22, 1969, Kerry and several other officers had a meeting in Saigon with Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the commander of U.S. Naval forces in Vietnam, and U.S. Army General Creighton Abrams, the overall commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Kerry and the other officers reported that the "free-fire zone" policy was alienating the Vietnamese and that the Swift boats' actions were not accomplishing their ostensible goal of interdicting Viet Cong supply lines. According to his biographer, Douglas Brinkley, Kerry and the other visiting officers felt their concerns were dismissed with what amounted to a pep talk (Tour of Duty, pp. 254–261).

Military honors

File:Kerry medals.jpg

John Kerry received a medal after the duty in Vietnam

During the night of December 2 and early morning of December 3, 1968, Kerry was in charge of a small boat operating near a peninsula north of Cam Ranh Bay together with a Swift boat (PCF-60). According to Kerry and the two crewmen who accompanied him that night, Patrick Runyon and William Zaladonis, they surprised a group of men unloading sampans at a river crossing, who began running and failed to obey an order to stop. As the men fled, Kerry and his crew opened fire on the sampans and destroyed them, then rapidly left. During this encounter, Kerry received a shrapnel wound in the left arm above the elbow. It was for this injury that Kerry received his first Purple Heart.[38]

Kerry received his second Purple Heart for a wound received in action on the Bo De River on February 20, 1969. The plan had been for the Swift boats to be accompanied by support helicopters. On the way up the Bo De, however, the helicopters were attacked. They returned to their base to refuel and were unable to return to the mission for several hours.

As the Swift boats reached the Cua Lon River, Kerry's boat was hit by a RPG round, and a piece of shrapnel hit Kerry's left leg, wounding him. Thereafter, they had no more trouble, and reached the Gulf of Thailand safely. Kerry still has shrapnel in his left thigh because the doctors tending to him decided to remove the damaged tissue and close the wound with sutures rather than make a wide opening to remove the shrapnel.[39] Kerry received his second Purple Heart for this injury, but like several others wounded earlier that day, he did not lose any time off from duty.[40] pdf</ref>[41]

Eight days later, on February 28, 1969, came the events for which Kerry was awarded his Silver Star. On this occasion, Kerry was in tactical command of his Swift boat and two others in an eight boat formation. Their mission on the Duong Keo river included bringing a demolition team and dozens of South Vietnamese Marines to destroy enemy sampans, structures and bunkers as described in the story The Death Of PCF 43.[42] Running into an ambush, Kerry "directed the boats to turn to the beach and charge the Viet Cong positions" and he "expertly directed" his boat's fire and coordinated the deployment of the South Vietnamese troops, according to the original medal citation (signed by Admiral Zumwalt). Going a short distance farther, Kerry's boat was the target of an RPG round; as the boat hove to and beached, a Viet Cong ("VC") insurgent armed with a rocket launcher emerged from a spider hole and ran. While the boat's gunner opened fire, wounding the VC in the leg, and while the other boats approached and offered cover fire, Kerry jumped from the boat to chase the VC insurgent, subsequently killing him and capturing his loaded rocket launcher.[43][44][45]

Kerry's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander George Elliott, joked to Douglas Brinkley in 2003 that he didn't know whether to court-martial Kerry for beaching the boat without orders or give him a medal for saving the crew. Elliott recommended Kerry for the Silver Star, and Zumwalt flew into An Thoi to personally award medals to Kerry and the rest of the sailors involved in the mission. The Navy's account of Kerry's actions is presented in the original medal citation signed by Zumwalt. The engagement was documented in an after-action report, a press release written on March 1, 1969, and a historical summary dated March 17, 1969.[46]

On March 13, 1969, on the Song Bái Háp (Bay Hap river), five Swift boats were returning to their base after performing an Operation Sealords mission to transport South Vietnamese troops from the garrison at Cái Nước and MIKE Force advisors for a raid on a Vietcong camp located on the Rach Dong Cung canal. Earlier in the day, Kerry received a slight shrapnel wound in the buttocks from blowing up a rice bunker. Debarking some but not all of the passengers at a small village, the boats approached a fishing weir; one group of boats went around to the left of the weir, hugging the shore, and a group with Kerry's PCF-94 boat went around to the right, along the shoreline. A mine was detonated directly beneath the lead boat, PCF-3, as it crossed the weir to the left, lifting PCF-3 "...about 2-3 ft out of water".[47]

James Rassmann, a Green Beret advisor who was aboard PCF-94, was knocked overboard when, according to witnesses and the documentation of the event, a mine or rocket exploded close to the boat. According to the documentation for the event, Kerry's arm was injured when he was thrown against a bulkhead during the explosion. PCF 94 returned to the scene and Kerry rescued Rassmann from the water. Kerry received the Bronze Star for his actions during this incident; he also received his third Purple Heart.[48]

After the crew of PCF-3 had been rescued, and the most seriously wounded sailors evacuated by two of the PCFs, PCF 94 and another boat remained behind and helped salvage the stricken boat together with a damage-control party that had been immediately dispatched to the scene.


With the continuing controversy that had surrounded the military service of George W. Bush since the 2000 Presidential election (when he was accused of having used his father's political influence to gain entrance to the Texas Air National Guard, thereby protecting himself from conscription into the United States Army, and possible service in the Vietnam War), John Kerry's contrasting status as a decorated war hero posed a problem for Bush's re-election campaign, which Republicans sought to counter by calling Kerry's war record into question. As the presidential campaign of 2004 developed, approximately 200 Vietnam veterans formed a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT, later renamed Swift Vets and POWs for Truth) to oppose Kerry's campaign. The group held press conferences, ran ads and endorsed a book questioning Kerry's service record and his military awards. The group included several members of Kerry's unit, such as Larry Thurlow, who commanded a swift boat alongside of Kerry's,[49] and Stephen Gardner, who served on Kerry's boat.[50] The campaign inspired the widely used political pejorative 'swiftboating', to describe an unfair or untrue political attack.[51] Most of Kerry's former crewmates have stated that SBVT's allegations are false.[52][53][54][55]

Return from Vietnam

After Kerry's third qualifying wound, he was entitled per Navy regulations to re-assignment away from combat duties. Kerry's preferred choice for re-assignment was as a military aide in Boston, New York or Washington, D.C.[56] On March 26, 1969, after a final patrol the night before, Kerry was transferred to Cam Ranh Bay to await his orders. He was there for five or six days and left Vietnam in early April.

On April 11, 1969, he reported to the Brooklyn-based Atlantic Military Sea Transportation Service, where he would remain on active duty for the following year as a personal aide to an officer, Rear Admiral Walter Schlech. On January 1, 1970 Kerry was temporarily promoted to full Lieutenant.[57] Kerry had agreed to an extension of his active duty obligation from December 1969 to August 1970 in order to perform Swift Boat duty,[58][59] but in January 1970, he requested early discharge in order to run for Congress the following fall. He was discharged from active duty on March 1, 1970.

John Kerry was on active duty in the United States Navy from August 1966 until January 1970. He continued to serve in the Naval Reserve until February 1978.[60] Kerry lost at least five friends in the war including Yale classmate Richard Pershing, who was killed in action on February 17, 1968.

Anti-war activism (1970–1971)

After returning to the United States, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Then numbering about 20,000,[61] VVAW was considered by some (including the administration of President Richard Nixon) to be an effective, if controversial, component of the antiwar movement.[62] According to Nixon Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, "I didn’t approve of what he did, but I understood the protesters quite well", and he declined two requests from the Navy to court martial Reserve Lieutenant Kerry over his antiwar activity.[63]

File:Kerry Fulbright Commission.jpg

Kerry at the Fulbright Hearings

On April 22, 1971, Kerry became the first Vietnam veteran to testify before Congress about the war, when he appeared before a Senate committee hearing on proposals relating to ending the war. He was still a member of the United States Navy Reserve, holding the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. Wearing green fatigues and service ribbons, he spoke for nearly two hours with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in what has been named the Fulbright Hearings, after the Chairman of the proceedings, Senator J. W. Fulbright. Kerry began with a prepared speech, in which he presented the conclusions of the Winter Soldier Investigation, and then went on to address larger policy issues.

The day after this testimony, Kerry participated in a demonstration with thousands of other veterans in which he and other veterans threw their medals and ribbons over a fence erected at the front steps of the United States Capitol building to dramatize their opposition to the war. Jack Smith, a Marine, read a statement explaining why the veterans were returning their military awards to the government. For more than two hours, almost 1000 angry veterans tossed their medals, ribbons, hats, jackets, and military papers over the fence. Each veteran gave his or her name, hometown, branch of service and a statement. Kerry threw some of his decorations as well as some given to him by other veterans to throw. As Kerry threw his decorations over the fence, his statement was: "I'm not doing this for any violent reasons, but for peace and justice, and to try and make this country wake up once and for all. "[64] The documentary film Sir! No Sir! includes archival footage of Kerry at the demonstration: he is one of several young men seen throwing things over the fence.

Media appearances

Because Kerry was a decorated veteran who took a stand against the government's official position, he was frequently interviewed by broadcast and print media. He was able to use these occasions to bring the themes of his Senate testimony to a wider audience.

For example, Kerry appeared more than once on The Dick Cavett Show on ABC television. On one Cavett program (June 30, 1971), in debating John O'Neill, Kerry argued that some of the policies instituted by the U.S. military leaders in Vietnam, such as free-fire zones and burning noncombatants' houses, were contrary to the laws of war. In the Washington Star newspaper (June 6, 1971), he recounted how he and other Swift boat officers had become disillusioned by the contrast between what the leaders told them and what they saw: "That's when I realized I could never remain silent about the realities of the war in Vietnam."

On NBC's Meet The Press in 1971, Kerry was asked whether he had personally committed atrocities in Vietnam. He responded:

There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50 caliber machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare, all of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this is ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

Operation POW

Kerry's prominence also made him a frequent leader and spokesman at antiwar events around the country in 1971. One of particular note was Operation POW, organized by the VVAW in Massachusetts. The protest got its name from the group's concern that Americans were prisoners of the Vietnam War, as well as to honor American POWs held captive by North Vietnam.

The event sought to tie antiwar activism to patriotic themes. Over the Memorial Day weekend, veterans and other participants marched from Concord to a rally on Boston Common. The plan was to invoke the spirit of the American Revolution and Paul Revere by spending successive nights at the sites of the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill, culminating in a Memorial Day rally with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The second night of the march, May 29, 1971, was the occasion for Kerry's only arrest, when the participants tried to camp on the village green in Lexington. At 2:30 a.m. on May 30, 1971, local and state police awoke and arrested 441 demonstrators, including Kerry, for trespassing. All were given the Miranda Warning and were hauled away on school buses to spend the night at the Lexington Public Works Garage. Kerry and the other protesters later paid a $5 fine, and were released. The mass arrests caused a community backlash and ended up giving positive coverage to the VVAW.[65][66][67]

Kerry eventually quit the organization over differences with its more radical leaders and members. Kerry was later criticized during his political campaigns for his antiwar activities with VVAW.

Early political career (1972–1985)

1972 campaign

In February 1972, after Kerry previously passed on an opportunity to run in another district, his wife, Julia bought a house in Worcester. Residence there would have required Kerry to run for Congress against an incumbent Democrat, Harold D. Donohue. Instead however, the couple rented an apartment in Lowell. The incumbent in that district, F. Bradford Morse, was a Republican who was thought to be retiring.

Counting Kerry, the Democratic primary race in 1972 had 10 candidates. One of these was State Representative Anthony R. DiFruscia of Lawrence. Both Kerry's and DiFuscia's campaign HQs were in the same building. On the eve of the September primary, Kerry's younger brother Cameron and campaign field director Thomas J. Vallely, both then 22 years old, were found by police in the basement of this building, where the telephone lines were located. They were arrested and charged with "breaking and entering with the intent to commit grand larceny", but the case was dismissed about a year later. At the time of the incident, DiFruscia alleged that they were trying to disrupt his get-out-the vote efforts. Vallely and Cameron Kerry maintained that they were only checking their own telephone lines because they had received an anonymous call warning that the Kerry lines would be cut.[68]

Although Kerry's campaign was hurt by the election-day report of the arrest, he still won the primary, narrowly beating state Representative Paul J. Sheehy. DiFruscia placed third. Kerry lost in Lawrence and Lowell, his chief opponents' bases, but placed first in 18 of the district's 22 towns.

In the general election, Kerry was initially favored to defeat the Republican candidate, former state Representative Paul W. Cronin, and an independent, Roger P. Durkin. A major obstacle, however, was the district's leading newspaper, the conservative leaning Sun. The paper editorialized against him. It also ran critical news stories about his out-of-state contributions and his "", because he had moved into the district only in April. Subsequently released "Watergate" Oval Office tape recordings of the Nixon White House showed that defeating Kerry's candidacy had attracted the personal attention of President Nixon.[69]

The final blow came when, four days before the election, Durkin withdrew in favor of Cronin. Cronin won the election, becoming the only Republican to be elected to Congress that November in a district carried by Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.

District Attorney tenure

After Kerry's 1972 defeat, he and his wife bought a house in Lowell. He spent some time working as a fundraiser for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), an international humanitarian organization. In September 1973, he entered Boston College Law School. In July 1974, while attending law school, Kerry was named executive director of Mass Action, a Massachusetts advocacy association.

He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Boston College in 1976. While in law school he had been a student prosecutor in the office of the District Attorney of Middlesex County, John J. Droney. After passing the bar exam and being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1976, he went to work in that office as a full-time prosecutor.

In January 1977, Droney promoted him to First Assistant District Attorney. In that position, Kerry had dual roles. First, he tried cases, winning convictions in a high-profile rape case and a murder. Second, he played a role in administering the office of the district attorney by initiating the creation of special white-collar and organized crime units, creating programs to address the problems of rape and other crime victims and of witnesses, and managing trial calendars to reflect case priorities. It was in this role in 1978 that Kerry announced an investigation into possible criminal charges against then Senator Edward Brooke, regarding "misstatements" in his first divorce trial.[70]

Lieutenant Governor tenure

In 1979, Kerry resigned from the District Attorney's office to set up a private law firm with another former prosecutor. And, although his private law practice was a success, Kerry was still interested in public office. He re-entered electoral politics by running for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and won a narrow victory in the 1982 Democratic primary. The ticket, with Michael Dukakis as the gubernatorial candidate, won the general election without difficulty.

The position of Lieutenant Governor carried few inherent responsibilities. Dukakis, however, delegated additional matters to Kerry. In particular, Kerry's interest in environmental protection led him to become heavily involved in the issue of acid rain. His work contributed to a National Governors Association resolution in 1984 that was a precursor to the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act.

During his campaign, Kerry had argued that nuclear evacuation planning was "a sham intended to deceive Americans into believing they could survive a nuclear war."

Election for U.S. Senate

The junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Paul Tsongas, announced in 1984 that he would be stepping down for health reasons. Kerry decided to run for the seat. As in his 1982 race for Lieutenant Governor, he did not receive the endorsement of the party regulars at the state Democratic convention. Congressman James Shannon (a favorite of House Speaker Tip O'Neill) was the early favorite to win the nomination, and he "won broad establishment support and led in early polling."[71] Again as in 1982, however, Kerry prevailed in a close primary. In his campaign, he promised to mix liberalism with tight budget controls. As the Democratic candidate, he was elected to the Senate despite a nationwide landslide for the re-election of Republican president Ronald Reagan, for whom Massachusetts voted by a narrow margin. In his acceptance speech, Kerry asserted that his win meant that the people of Massachusetts "emphatically reject the politics of selfishness and the notion that women must be treated as second-class citizens." Kerry was sworn in as a U.S. Senator in January 1985.

U.S. Senate tenure (1985–2013)

A Senate portrait of Kerry

Iran–Contra hearings

On April 18, 1985, a few months after taking his Senate seat, Kerry and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa traveled to Nicaragua and met the country's president, Daniel Ortega. Though Ortega was democratically elected, the trip was criticized because Ortega and his leftist Sandinista government had strong ties to Cuba and the USSR. The Sandinista government was opposed by the right-wing CIA-backed rebels known as the Contras. While in Nicaragua, Kerry and Harkin talked to people on both sides of the conflict. Through the senators, Ortega offered a cease-fire agreement in exchange for the US dropping support of the Contras. The offer was denounced by the Reagan administration as a "propaganda initiative" designed to influence a House vote on a $14 million Contra aid package, but Kerry said "I am willing ... to take the risk in the effort to put to test the good faith of the Sandinistas." The House voted down the Contra aid, but Ortega flew to Moscow to accept a $200 million loan the next day, which in part prompted the House to pass a larger $27 million aid package six weeks later.[72]

In April 1986, Kerry and Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, proposed that hearings be conducted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding charges of Contra involvement in cocaine and marijuana trafficking. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Republican chairman of the committee, agreed to conduct the hearings.

Meanwhile, Kerry's staff began their own investigations and, on October 14, issued a report that exposed illegal activities on the part of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who had set up a private network involving the National Security Council and the CIA to deliver military equipment to right-wing Nicaraguan rebels (Contras). In effect, North and certain members of the President's administration were accused by Kerry's report of illegally funding and supplying armed militants without the authorization of Congress. Kerry's staff investigation, based on a year-long inquiry and interviews with fifty unnamed sources, is said to raise "serious questions about whether the United States has abided by the law in its handling of the contras over the past three years."[73]

The Kerry Committee report found that "the Contra drug links included ... payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies."[74] The US State Department paid over $806,000 to known drug traffickers to carry humanitarian assistance to the Contras.[75] Kerry's findings provoked little reaction in the media and official Washington.[76]

The Kerry report was a precursor to the Iran–Contra affair. On May 4, 1989, North was convicted of charges relating to the Iran/Contra controversy, including three felonies. On September 16, 1991, however, North's convictions were overturned on appeal.[77]

George H. W. Bush administration

On November 15, 1988, at a businessmen's breakfast in East Lynn, Massachusetts, Kerry made a joke about then-President-elect George H. W. Bush and his running mate, saying "if Bush is shot, the Secret Service has orders to shoot Dan Quayle." He apologized the following day.[78]

During their investigation of Noriega, Kerry's staff found reason to believe that the Pakistan-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) had facilitated Noriega's drug trafficking and money laundering. This led to a separate inquiry into BCCI, and as a result, banking regulators shut down BCCI in 1991. In December 1992, Kerry and Senator Hank Brown, a Republican from Colorado, released The BCCI Affair, a report on the BCCI scandal. The report showed that the bank was crooked and was working with terrorists, including Abu Nidal. It blasted the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, the Customs Service, the Federal Reserve Bank, as well as influential lobbyists and the CIA.[79]

Kerry was criticized by some Democrats for having pursued his own party members, including former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, although Republicans said he should have pressed against some Democrats even harder. The BCCI scandal was later turned over to the New York County 's office.[80]

Precursors to presidential bid

In 1996, Kerry faced a difficult re-election fight against Governor William Weld, a popular Republican incumbent who had been re-elected in 1994 with 71% of the vote. The race was covered nationwide as one of the most closely watched Senate races that year. Kerry and Weld held several debates and negotiated a campaign spending cap of $6.9 million at Kerry's Beacon Hill townhouse. Both candidates spent more than the cap, with each camp accusing the other of being first to break the agreement.[81] During the campaign, Kerry spoke briefly at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Senator Kerry won re-election with 53 percent to Weld's 45 percent.

In the 2000 presidential election, Kerry found himself close to being chosen as the vice presidential running mate.[82]

A release from the presidential campaign of presumptive Democratic nominee Al Gore listed Kerry on the short list to be selected as the vice-presidential nominee, along with North Carolina Senator John Edwards, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt, New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.[83] Gore eventually selected Lieberman as the nominee, but Kerry continued to campaign on behalf of the Gore-Lieberman campaign through Election Day.

Voting record


Most analyses place Kerry's voting record on the left within the Senate Democratic caucus.[84] During the 2004 presidential election he was portrayed as a staunch liberal by conservative special interest groups and the Bush campaign, who often noted that in 2003 Kerry was rated the National Journal's top Senate liberal. However, that rating was based only upon voting on legislation within that past year. In fact, in terms of career voting records, the National Journal found that Kerry is the 11th most liberal member of the Senate. Most analyses find that Kerry is at least slightly more liberal than the typical Democratic Senator. Kerry has stated that he opposes privatizing Social Security, supports abortion rights for adult women and minors, supports same-sex marriage, opposes capital punishment except for terrorists, supports most gun control laws, and is generally a supporter of trade agreements. Kerry supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and Most Favored Nation status for China, but opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

In July 1997 Kerry joined his Senate colleagues in voting against ratification of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming without greenhouse gas emissions limits on nations deemed developing, including India and China.[85] Since then, Kerry has attacked President Bush, charging him with opposition to international efforts to combat global warming.[86]

On October 1, 2008, Kerry voted for Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, also known as the TARP bailout.[87]


In 1991, during the debate before the Gulf War, Kerry initially opposed the immediate use of military force to expel Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait. The United Nations had imposed sanctions on Iraq, and Kerry argued that the sanctions then in place should be given more time to work.

On December 14, 2001, 3 months after the attacks of 9/11, Kerry said on Larry King Live that "I think we clearly have to keep the pressure on terrorism globally. This doesn't end with Afghanistan by any imagination. And I think the president has made that clear. I think we have made that clear. Terrorism is a global menace. It's a scourge. And it is absolutely vital that we continue against, for instance, Saddam Hussein."

Kerry said on October 9, 2002; "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." Bush relied on that resolution in ordering the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Kerry also gave a January 23, 2003 speech to Georgetown University saying "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator; leading an oppressive regime he presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real." Kerry did, however, warn that the administration should exhaust its diplomatic avenues before launching war: "Mr. President, do not rush to war, take the time to build the coalition, because it's not winning the war that's hard, it's winning the peace that's hard."[88]

Kerry had spoken before the war about the sorts of weapons many believed Saddam Hussein had. On the Senate floor on October 9, 2002, he said that "According to the CIA's report, all U.S. intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons. There is little question that Saddam Hussein wants to develop nuclear weapons."

After the invasion of Iraq, when no weapons of mass destruction were found, Kerry strongly criticized Bush, contending that he had misled the country: "When the President of the United States looks at you and tells you something, there should be some trust."[89]


During his Senate career, Kerry has sponsored or cosponsored dozens of bills. Some of his notable bills have addressed small business concerns, education, terrorism, veterans' and Vietnam War POW/MIA issues, marine resource protection and other topics. Of those bills with his sponsorship, as of December 2004, 11 have been signed into law.

Kerry chaired the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs from 1991 to 1993. The committee's report, which Kerry endorsed, stated there was "no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia."[90] In 1994 the Senate passed a resolution, sponsored by Kerry and fellow Vietnam veteran John McCain, that called for an end to the existing trade embargo against Vietnam; it was intended to pave the way for normalization.[91] In 1995, President Bill Clinton normalized diplomatic relations with the country of Vietnam.[92] His long-time senior Senate staff included Chief of Staff David "Mac" McKean and Legislative Director George Abar.

Kerry was the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 1987 to 1989. He was reelected to the Senate in 1990, 1996 (after winning re-election against the then-Governor of Massachusetts Republican William Weld), 2002, and 2008. In January 2009, Kerry replaced Joe Biden as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.[93]

As a role model for campus leaders across the nation and strong advocate for global development, Kerry was honored by the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) as a Global Generation Award winner in 2011.[94][95]

Committee assignments

During his tenure, Kerry served on four Senate committees and nine subcommittees:

  • Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
    • Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
    • Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet (Chairman)
    • Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion
    • Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
    • Subcommittee on Science and Space
    • Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
  • Committee on Finance
    • Subcommittee on Health Care
    • Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure
    • Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness
  • Committee on Foreign Relations(Chairman)2009-2013
  • Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
  • Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

Caucus memberships

  • Congressional Bicameral High-Speed and Intercity Rail Caucus
  • Congressional Internet Caucus
  • Congressional Vietnam-Era Veterans Caucus (Co-Chair)
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Senate Prosecutors Caucus (Co-Chair)
  • Senate Oceans Caucus


From the beginning of the 113th United States Congress until his resignation, Kerry ranked as the 7th most senior US Senator. Due to the longevity of Ted Kennedy's service, Kerry was the most senior junior Senator in the 111th United States Congress. On Tuesday, August 25, 2009, Kerry became the senior senator from Massachusetts following Ted Kennedy's death.

2004 presidential campaign

Kerry and Teresa Heinz crossing Lake Michigan on the Lake Express during the 2004 campaign


Kerry/Edwards campaign logo

File:Kerry, baby, horizontal.jpg

Kerry on the campaign trail in Rochester, Minnesota

In the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, John Kerry defeated several Democratic rivals, including Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina.), former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and retired Army General Wesley Clark. His victory in the Iowa caucuses is widely believed to be the tipping point where Kerry revived his sagging campaign in New Hampshire and the February 3, 2004, primary states like Arizona, South Carolina and New Mexico. Kerry then went on to win landslide victories in Nevada and Wisconsin. Kerry thus won the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States against incumbent George W. Bush. On July 6, 2004, he announced his selection of John Edwards as his running mate. Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who was Kerry's 2004 campaign adviser, wrote an article in Time magazine claiming that after the election, Kerry had said that he wished he'd never picked Edwards, and that the two have since stopped speaking to each other.[96] In a subsequent appearance on ABC's This Week, Kerry refused to respond to Shrum's allegation, calling it a "ridiculous waste of time."[97]

During his bid to be elected president in 2004, Kerry frequently criticized President George W. Bush for the Iraq War.[98] While Kerry had initially voted in support of authorizing President Bush to use force in dealing with Saddam Hussein, he voted against an $87 billion supplemental appropriations bill to pay for the subsequent war. His statement on March 16, 2004, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” helped the Bush campaign to paint him as a flip-flopper and has been cited as contributing to Kerry’s defeat.[99]

On November 3, 2004, Kerry conceded the race. Kerry won 59.03 million votes, or 48.3 percent of the popular vote; Bush won 62.04 million votes, or 50.7 percent of the popular vote. Kerry carried states with a total of 252 electoral votes. One Kerry elector voted for Kerry's running mate, Edwards, so in the final tally Kerry had 251 electoral votes to Bush's 286. Although, as in the previous election, there were disputes about the voting, no state was as close as Florida had been in 2000 (see 2004 United States presidential election controversy and irregularities).

Post-presidential election activities

2008 presidential election

Immediately after the 2004 election, some Democrats mentioned Kerry as a possible contender for the 2008 Democratic nomination. His brother had said such a campaign was "conceivable", and Kerry himself reportedly said at a farewell party for his 2004 campaign staff, "There's always another four years."[100]

Kerry established a separate political action committee, Keeping America's Promise, which declared as its mandate "A Democratic Congress will restore accountability to Washington and help change a disastrous course in Iraq",[101] and raised money and channeled contributions to Democratic candidates in state and federal races.[102] Through Keeping America's Promise in 2005, Kerry raised over $5.5 million for other Democrats up and down the ballot. Through his campaign account and his political action committee, the Kerry campaign operation generated more than $10 million for various party committees and 179 candidates for the US House, Senate, state and local offices in 42 states focusing on the midterm elections during the 2006 election cycle.[103] "Cumulatively, John Kerry has done as much if not more than any other individual senator", Hassan Nemazee, the national finance chairman of the DSCC said.[104]

Kerry speaks during the third night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

On January 10, 2008, Kerry endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama for president.[105] He was mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate for Senator Obama, although fellow Senator Joe Biden was eventually chosen. After Biden's acceptance of the vice presidential nomination, speculation arose that John Kerry would be a candidate for Secretary of State in the Obama administration.[106] However, Senator Hillary Clinton was offered the position.[107]

"Stuck in Iraq" controversy

On October 30, 2006, Kerry was a headline speaker at a campaign rally being held for Democratic California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. Speaking to an audience composed mainly of college students, Kerry said, "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."[108]

The day after the remarks were made public, leaders from both sides of the political spectrum criticized Kerry's remarks, which he said were a botched joke. Republicans including President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, said that Kerry's comments were insulting to American military forces fighting in Iraq. Democratic Representative Harold Ford, Jr. called on Kerry to apologize.[109]

Kerry initially stated: "Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how. I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy."[110] Kerry also responded to criticism from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.[111]

Kerry said that he had intended the remark as a jab at President Bush, and described the remarks as a "botched joke",[112] having inadvertently left out the key word "us" (which would have been, "If you don't, you get us stuck in Iraq"), as well as leaving the phrase "just ask President Bush" off of the end of the sentence. In Kerry's prepared remarks, which he released during the ensuing media frenzy, the corresponding line was "... you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush." He also said that from the context of the speech which, prior to the "stuck in Iraq" line, made several specific references to Bush and elements of his biography, that Kerry was referring to President Bush and not American troops in general.[113]

After two days of media coverage, citing a desire not to be a diversion, Kerry apologized to those who took offense at what he called the misinterpretation of his comment.[114]

Yacht moored in Rhode Island

According to the Boston Herald, dated July 23, 2010, Kerry commissioned construction on a new $7 million yacht (a Friendship 75) in New Zealand and moored it in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where the Friendship yacht company is based.[115] The article claimed this allowed him to avoid paying Massachusetts taxes on the property including approximately $437,500 in sales tax and an annual excise tax of about $500.[116][117] However, on July 27, 2010, Kerry stated he had yet to take legal possession of the boat, had not intended to avoid the taxes, and that when he took possession, he would pay the taxes whether he owed them or not.[118]


During the Libyan civil war, Kerry was one of the first members of Congress to call for the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone in Libya.[119]


Kerry leaving the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2013

Kerry "has emerged in the past few years as an important envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan during times of crisis," a Washington Post report stated in May 2011, as Kerry undertook another trip to the two countries. The killing of Osama bin Laden "has generated perhaps the most important crossroads yet," the report continued, as the senator spoke at a press conference and prepared to fly from Kabul to Pakistan.[120] Among matters discussed during the May visit to Pakistan, under the general rubric of "recalibrating" the bilateral relationship, Kerry sought and retrieved from the Pakistanis the tail-section of the U.S. helicopter which had had to be abandoned at Abbottabad during the bin Laden strike.[121] In 2013, Kerry met with Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss the peace process with the Taliban in Afghanistan.[122]

Secretary of State (2013–present)

John Kerry is sworn in as Secretary of State by Justice Elena Kagan, Feb 1, 2013


On December 15, 2012, several news outlets reported that President Barack Obama would nominate Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State,[123][124] after Susan Rice, widely seen as Obama's preferred choice, withdrew her name from consideration citing a politicized confirmation process following criticism of her response to the 2012 Benghazi attack.[125] On December 21 Obama proposed the nomination[126][127] which received positive commentary. His confirmation hearing took place on January 24, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the same panel where he first testified in 1971.[128] The committee unanimously voted to approve him on January 29, 2013, and the same day the full Senate confirmed him on a vote of 94–3.[129][130] In a letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Kerry announced his resignation from the Senate effective February 1.[131]


Kerry meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt on March 3, 2013

Kerry was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, 2013.[132]

After six months of rigorous diplomacy within the Middle East, Secretary Kerry was able to have Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agree to re-launch stalled Mideast peace talks. Senior U.S. officials stated the two sides were able to meet on July 30, 2013 at the State Department without American mediators following a dinner the previous evening hosted by Kerry.[133] On 27 September 2013, he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during P5+1 and Iran summit. It was the highest-level direct contact between the United States and Iran in last six years and makes him the first U.S. Secretary of State that had met with his Iranian counterpart since Iranian Revolution.[134][135][136]

Electoral history

See also

  • Daily Kos, Kerry is an occasional contributor to this political community blog[137]
  • University of Florida Taser incident
  • United States Senate special election in Massachusetts, 2013 to replace Kerry in the Senate after his resignation.


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Further reading

  • Brinkley, Douglas (2004). Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. New York: William Morrow & Company. ISBN 0-06-056523-3. 
  • Kerry, John; Vietnam Veterans Against the War (1971). The New Soldier. New York: MacMillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-073610-X. 
  • —— (1997). The New War: The Web of Crime That Threatens America's Security. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-81815-9. 
  • —— (2003). A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-03260-3. 
  • —— Heinz Kerry, Teresa (2007). This Moment on Earth: Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-58648-431-6. 
  • Kranish, Michael; Mooney, Brian C.; Easton, Nina J. (2004). John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-273-4. 
  • McMahon, Kevin; Rankin, David; Beachler, Donald W.; White, John Kenneth (2005). Winning the White House, 2004. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6881-0. 
  • O'Neill; Corsi, Jerome R. (2004). Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-017-4. 

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