"Ted Kennedy, The Dream That Never Died" by Edward Klein : Book Review

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Veteran Kennedy follower, Richard Klein wrote the biography of Ted Kennedy that is reviewed here. The reviewer takes exception to the sensationalism of the work.

Submitted: February 21, 2015

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Submitted: February 21, 2015

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There are two Ted Kennedys that everyone knows: the skilled sailor whose moral compass has caused him to run aground with regrettable frequency is one; the Lion of the Senate is the other. From the subtitle of Edward Klein’s new biography, Ted Kennedy, The Dream That Never Died, a reader might expect that the work would likely be a tale set in the jungle of Washington D.C. This is not the case.

Although Klein is an experienced chronicler of the Kennedys, having written The Kennedy Curse and two books on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, he had only talked with Ted Kennedy three times. These were casual encounters. The author states that the senator has stopped doing interviews since his diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor in May 2008.

As a result, Klein has put together a comprehensive account of Kennedy’s life that leans heavily on the extra-legislative. The word tabloid comes to mind. This is not to say that the narrative isn’t highly entertaining or that it isn’t thoroughly researched. The source list covers nearly five pages and the author lists interviews with subjects as diverse as Grover Norquist and Dan Rather. The only trouble is that very few of his interviewees consented to attribution and therefore their quotes are listed as the result of anonymous interviews. The author writes, “It takes a great deal of courage to speak out of school about a Kennedy, for if you are caught, you will most surely be expelled.”

The keywords of Kennedy’s well known public life are so much a part of the popular consciousness that their mere mention tell a story- JFK, Chappaquiddick, William Kennedy Smith, Kennedy Curse, RFK. If you’re mystified by the significance of these, Klein’s book will bring you up to speed.

So what in Klein’s work tells us something that we don’t already know? Ted Kennedy, according to Klein always sought the approval of his mother, who treated him as a teenager even into his adult life. Kennedy never thought that he had achieved Rose Kennedy’s expectations. When Kennedy was a young senator, Walter Reuther, the head of the United Auto Workers wielded his influence to secure a position on the health sub-committee for Kennedy. Senator Philip Hart of Michigan was responsible for instilling in him a maxim that he followed throughout his senatorial career, which was “You can accomplish anything in Washington if you give others the credit.”

Ted Kennedy as family patriarch is vividly portrayed in Klein’s work. His influence over Caroline Kennedy’s decision to seek Hilary Clinton’s senatorial seat in New York is dealt with in detail. The potential void that his death would bring to the Kennedy family is also addressed. According to Klein, look for a power struggle between Ted Kennedy’s wife Vicki and his nephew Joseph P. Kennedy II.

Part five of the book is entitled “A Master Legislator” and is the author’s attempt to tell us about “The Dream That Never Died”. Other than an excerpt from an impressive speech delivered by presidential historian Michael Beschloss, Klein offers little to enlighten us. The author calls Kennedy , “ a figure who equals Talleyrand, Edward VII, Webster and Clay as both public giant and private rogue.” Klein’s treatment of the rogue is extensive and riveting at times, however his consideration of the giant misses the mark – too bad for the reader and the senator.


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