senator from Massachusetts, John Forbes Kerry, was born on Dec.
11, 1943. Kerry's father was a career foreign service officer
for the U.S. State Department. His mother was a member of an aristocratic
American family, the Forbes.
much of his childhood abroad, attending boarding school in Switzerland
and New Hampshire before entering Yale University.
At Yale, Kerry
was a top debater, president of the political union, and, like
both President Bushes, a member of the Skull & Bones secret
society. In 1965 Kerry committed to join the Navy after graduating
from college, essentially volunteering for service in Vietnam.
At the end of his senior year in 1966, he was selected to give
the class oration. Kerry delivered what political reporter Joe
Klein called "a broad, passionate criticism of American foreign
policy, including the war he would soon be fighting."
Kerry served as a "swift boat" captain, and was in charge
of ferrying soldiers and supplies up the Mekong River. The small
boats were easy targets for ambush from enemy soldiers on the
banks of the river, and often took fire as they sped through hostile
the attacks, Kerry proposed to his men that they launch a counterattack
against ambushers by quickly turning the boats directly toward
the point of gunfire and rushing the enemy position. On Feb. 28,
1969, Kerry and his crew successfully executed his counterattack
plan, capturing and killing enemy soldiers. Kerry himself chased
down and killed a soldier carrying a rocket launcher.
"When the firing began I gave the order to turn and -- phoom!
-- we just went in and beached and took them by complete surprise,
and we routed them and we didn't take a wound," Kerry said
in a 2002 New Yorker profile by Klein.
For his service
in Vietnam, Kerry would be awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star
with Combat V (for valor), and three Purple Hearts for being wounded
in battle three times.
tour of duty, Kerry again spoke out against the U.S. involvement
in the war and became a leading activist. The senator's official
Web site says, "he felt compelled to question decisions he
believed were being made to protect those in positions of authority
in Washington at the expense of the soldiers carrying on the fighting
found Vietnam Veterans of America and served as the spokesperson
for Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do
you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" he
once famously asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
During a 1971
antiwar protest, Kerry threw some of his military decorations
onto the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Kerry's involvement in the antiwar movement marked the opening
steps in his political career. Some analysts and writers thought
him precociously ambitious. In a 60 Minutes television interview
during this period, Morley Safer asked Kerry point blank, "Do
you want to be president?" Kerry replied with a "no"
and a laugh.
In 1972, after
what political analyst Michael Barone called "some widely
observed district shopping," Kerry ran for a Massachusetts
congressional seat and lost. After the campaign he entered law
school at Boston College, and after graduating in 1976 went to
work as an assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
won statewide political office in 1982, when he ran for lieutenant
governor on the same ticket as Michael Dukakis. In 1984 Kerry
won his current U.S. Senate seat, defeating Republican Raymond
Shamie 55 to 45 percent. Kerry was reelected in 1990, defeating
GOP challenger Jim Rappaport 57 percent to 43 percent.
In the Senate,
Kerry has built a reputation as a left-of-center legislator. Klein
reported that Kerry votes with senior Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy,
a well-known liberal, "about 96 percent of the time."
it's important to look at the other 4 percent," David McKean,
Kerry's chief of staff told Klein.
that there are differences of "nuance and interest"
between Kennedy and Kerry, citing the junior senator's support
for free trade and his inclination to support "an expansive
U.S. foreign and
also been critical of the bureaucracy of public education and
teacher tenure in opposition to teacher's unions, which traditionally
support Democratic candidates.
In the Senate,
Kerry has also become an influential member of a bipartisan fraternity
-- Vietnam veterans. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona is
one of his closest friends in the body. Kerry led a Senate committee
that concluded no U.S. soldiers were still being held as prisoners
in Vietnam, and Kerry and McCain worked with the Clinton administration
to normalize relations with Vietnam in 1995.
In 1996 popular
Massachusetts GOP Gov. William Weld challenged Kerry for his Senate
seat. The campaign "was the rarest of events in latter-day
American politics: a civil, closely contested, intelligent and
wildly entertaining brawl," wrote Klein. Kerry narrowly defeated
Weld 52 percent to 45 percent.
In 2002 Kerry
cruised to reelection, defeating Libertarian candidate Michael
Cloud 80 percent to 18 percent.
been a critic of President Bush's domestic and foreign policy.
Kerry voted against the tax cuts the administration advocated,
against the proposal to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge coastal area, and against approving the nomination
of Attorney General John Ashcroft.
staked his claim to the presidency, however, on criticism of the
administration's foreign policy, especially its handling of the
Iraq war. He has argued that Democrats must take the foreign policy
debate back from their GOP rivals.
and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has criticized Kerry for voting
to give the president broad authority to wage war in Iraq and
later criticizing the administration's policies there. Kerry voted
against the $87 billion aid package President Bush requested for
Iraq in October.
is that the president has misused the trust that Congress placed
president made promises to us -- that he would build a coalition,
that he would respect the U.N. and go through the international
inspection process, and that he would only go to war as a last
resort," Kerry has said, according to The New York Times.
stood by his early vote on authorization while continually criticizing
the president's handling of foreign policy.
George Bush has led and misled us on a course at odds with 200
years of our history," Kerry said on Sept. 2, the day he
officially launched his campaign in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. "He
has squandered the goodwill of the world after Sept. 11 and he
has lost the respect and influence needed to make our country
In 1995 Kerry,
who was divorced at the time, married the widow of former fellow
senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania. Teresa Heinz, a former Republican,
is heir to the Heinz fortune.
said in the past that if other candidates launch media attacks
against him during the campaign, he might use some of his wife's
money to respond, but it is unclear how much would be available.
Teresa Heinz controls a reported $550 million to $600 million,
but much of that may not be available for Kerry's political use.
chunk of Mrs. Kerry's fortune could be off-limits," Business
Week reported in the summer of 2003. "Campaign finance analysts
say candidates are allowed to use unlimited amounts of their own
cash, but they cannot spend assets that belong to a family member."
2003 Kerry left the campaign trail to undergo surgery for prostate
cancer. He has reportedly made a full recovery.
-- By Jason Manning, Online NewsHour