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John Kerry: Candidate in the Making
CHAT TRANSCRIPT

On June 17, The Globe's Michael Kranish chatted with Boston.com users about this series.

Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:01PM
Hello, This is Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe's Washington Bureau. This is a chat and I would be happy to take your questions.
Kim
12:05PM
Hi Michael. How does John Kerry feel about this profile so far? Was he cooperative?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:08PM
Senator Kerry did provide some documents and letters and sat down with me for three interviews in person and one on the telephone. There were things they provided, and some they didn't provide, but overall they gave their side of the story. Cooperation should not be confused with collaboration; the series was indepently written. I was pleased to receive some journal entries and letters; these were selected by him and made up only a small part of the series but they were certainly helpful.
Jake
12:08PM
The state of Mass is starting to lean toward the right. What's is the Glove's position when it comes to equal coverage of both parties ?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:09PM
I'm sure the Globe's position is that we will provide equal coverage in the news pages. I can't speak for editorial pages, but I read plenty of diverse views there as well. What makes politics interesting is that it is lively, unpredictable and full of debate. No political reporter that I know wants one-sided coverage.
shortstop
12:09PM
What surprised you the most in researching this series? Any one thing?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:11PM
I think thing that most surprised Senator Kerry was my earlier story - incorporated in Part One - in which I wrote about the Austrian-empire Jewish ancestry of his Kohn grandparents, and the story of how exactly he grandfather committed suicide in the Copley Plaza Hotel. When I discussed that with Senator Kerry in his Senate office, he expressed a lot of surprise, but also said it all made sense, putting together some things that he did know. He was quite emotional about that - what we refer to as a Barbara Walters moment, except there was no television camera, just tape recorder.
timnelson
12:11PM
How long did this project take you to complete from start to finish? What were the major road blocks you faced in writing this profile?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:13PM
I worked on this for several months, with time out for helping on the Iraq war coverage. My editors gave me the time I needed and the space, and for that I'm grateful. We wanted to go much deeper than the usual profiles and the usual anecdotes. The result, I hope, is that even those who have known Kerry for 30 years or more are learning something new. I'm told that is the case. The bottom line is that the aim of the series is to provide readers with a full, balanced portrait. My pieces aren't the kind of pieces that quote the usual political experts. The time has given me the ability to find first-hand historical documents, and the White House tapes, that hopefully aid much more context.
Kim
12:13PM
Where did you get that picture of Kerry and Kennedy. I didn't know it existed.
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:16PM
Kim, those photos came from the JFK Library just down the street from the Globe headquarters in Boston. Kerry mentioned something in passing about having seen a photo, and the JFK library was able to find it when I gave them a date. Then, I asked the JFK library for any letters written to Kerry. (they didn't supply any copy of a letter that Kennedy may or may not have written back). From that letter, there was a mention of another visit to watch America's Cup, so I got the date of that race and asked the library to search for photos from that day. Sure enough, there was another photo, and we published. My thanks to the JFK library research staff.
Griff
12:16PM
Michael, I felt you were rather unfair to Senator Kerry during part 2 of your article. It seemed you were questioning the severity of his injuries and whether it was appropriate for him to leave after receiving 3 Purple Hearts.
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:18PM
I tried to be fair and made clear that Kerry engaged in repeated and unquestioned acts of bravery. The effort in part two was to provide a very full picture - the trauma is best reflected in Kerry's own words. I encourage you to go to the web site and you will be able to read the full text of a particularly revealing journal entry that Kerry made. He declined to sign a waiver that would have enabled us to examine the extent of medical treatment for his injuries, but he made clear that two didn't cause him to miss any action, and the other caused him to miss two days.
Diamond Dave
12:19PM
Hi Michael...I thought the series was going to be a typical Globe "all things liberal are wonderful" puff piece, but actually, find as many anti Kerry stuff to sink my teeth into as pro-Kerry
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:19PM
Diamond Dave, Of course, you know I'm going to say that I wanted the pieces to be fair and balanced. This is not a typical news story, but more like a long narrative that hopefully tells itself, with the readers able to make up their own minds. Thanks for your comment.
democrat
12:20PM
After all your analysis, would you vote for John Kerry for President?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:21PM
Like most reporters I know, I'm registered Independent and I have always tried to isolate any thoughts I might have from my reporting. It's too far away to even think about.
cojo63
12:21PM
Michael, do you think Kerry is trying to present a down-to-earth, everyday-Joe image? I mean, playing the guitar, riding on the Harley. Is he trying to be the anti-Gore from 2000 and make voters across America think he's not a liberal patrician and actually like them?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:23PM
I can't speak for him, but there's no doubt many high office holders walk a fine line where they want to come across both as Regular Joes but also someone who has a unique and high position. Just yesterday, I saw television coverage of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle in what he said was an effort to promote the president's Medicare bill. I'm not exactly sure what was the connection - the interview was conducted by a television weatherman! - but I'm guessing the fact that Thompson rode a Harley convinced someone in televisionland to put Thompson on the air.
Killian
12:23PM
Will the Globe be doing as in-depth profiles of the other candidates? Can you squeeze seven parts of interesting copy out of Howard Dean? Do you think a seven-part series is too much?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:25PM
In the case of Kerry, the hometown paper obviously knows more about this man than any other paper, at least I hope so. I think we have an extra obligation to use our expertise there. This series was written by three reporters; I wrote only the three parts that end today. The three of us have each watched Kerry in some way or other for 15 years each or more, so I doubt any other paper has that depth of knowledge or the commitment to spend as much time. I hope that the series will remain online and that it will be a resource throughout the campaign. As for other candidates, my understanding is that there be in-depth examinations of other candidates.
skubwa
12:25PM
Will you be doing pieces on other candidates in the Democratic party? If so, who, and when will they come out?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:26PM
ah, just answered this one. see above...
cojo63
12:26PM
Are people within the Kerry Campaign and John Kerry himself worried about Teresa Heinz Kerry and potential comments she could make and it effecting the campaign in a negative way? Some see her as a loose cannon...
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:28PM
cojo63, I haven't focused on that aspect of the story, but other reporters at the Globe have interviewed her and written pieces about her. Obviously, First Lady-candidates, if you can call them that, can be helpful, or not helpful. Hillary Clinton is the prime example; she caught some flack in the questions over "two for one" candidacy, and she got involved in an unusual way in thehealth care bill. Others would say she was helpful and is popular with the core constituency, which seems to be buying her autobiography. I've seen Kerry quoted as saying his wife won't be a "two for one" deal but also that she is great campaigner. so we'll see.
spinningaway
12:29PM
Hi Michael. I found the first three parts of the series to be informative and interesting, as well as very well-written. I was surprised to learn that Kerry left Vietnam early--but I'm very glad to know that he did, because someone who'd voluntarily stay after seeing part of the war would not get my vote. My question is: do you have any intention of expanding this series into a book?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:29PM
Thanks for the comment. The answer is I don't know. The hardest part was cutting all my material down to three pieces, but we'll see.
Sully
12:30PM
Michael, I'm a Vietnam vet. I thought the piece really humanized Kerry. It showed the enormous dilemmas faced by a very young man and how he handled them under unimaginable conditions. But I think you misunderstood the 3 Purple Heart policy: every combat vet I know understood that with 3 Purple Hearts you were reassigned.
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:31PM
Sully, I certainly tried provided a full dimension and put in context why he left.
Matt Perrault
12:31PM
Michael - have you found the name of the town in Alabama that Kerry's parents were married?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:32PM
Matt, I've had that question via email, maybe from you, but please email me and I'll try to get back to you.
MA full of liberals
12:32PM
John Heinz is rolling over in his grave at the thought of his fortune being spent to help a liberal from MA run for President.
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:32PM
I'll let that comment go, and perhaps we can ask Teresa Heinz kerry that question, if she hasn't been asked already.
skubwa
12:33PM
Any timeline on when other profiles will come out? I'm especially interested in Dean, Gephardt and Lieberman and how they will be portrayed.
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:33PM
upcoming, and the first causes and primaries are in January, so that's what I know
Francine
12:33PM
A very knowledgable friend who once worked closely with John Kerry told me over thirty years ago that he was "a captive of his own monogram". Interesting, don't you think?
Suzy Q.
12:34PM
I read your column yesterday. I am not a big Kerry fan but couldn't help feeling your were out to make a point other than just set forth the facts. Did you participate in the Viet Nam War?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:34PM
No, Ma'am, just trying to tell the story. I was a few years too young to have to face that decision.
skubwa
12:34PM
Will you do profiles on other undeclared people like Clinton, Clark and Gore?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:35PM
Gore and Hillary Clinton have said they are not running. Wesley Clark is thinking about. I think you have to declare you are definitely running before such a lengthy assignment is given, although we may well do shorter pieces about possible candidates
cojo63
12:35PM
The Kerry campaign has brought on many of the top Democratic Consultants and Operatives from across the country. Bob Shrum, Michael Whouley, Jill Alper, Robert Gibbs, Jim Jordan etc. Some people could say that there is going to be too many cooks in the kitchen and you'll have Gore all over again because of all his consultants telling him what to do. What do you think of that?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:36PM
cojo63, it's an interesting question given what happened with Gore, but I can't give you an answer until we say how things work out.
spinningaway
12:37PM
Thanks for answering my first question. I have another one (andthere may be more to come): I've heard journalists say that Kerry tends to "wax poetic" while being interviewed--is this true? Examples? --By the way, is this chat an hour long?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:40PM
The idea behind this series was to tell a story way beyond whatever is said in a stump speech. My experience is that candidates often want to run a dual track, partly on the story of their life and partly on the prospects of their policies. I like to look at both and understand where a candidate is coming from. With President Bush, few could have predicted that he would face the 9/11 situation and go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would not have been obvious from his policy proposals because those were abstract. Most presidents are remembered by how they react when they are tested by fire. So knowing how they reacted under fire is very helpful, I think. yes, we have another 20 minutes..
Kim
12:40PM
Michael, to follow up on the book question... do you mean that you have significantly more details about Kerry's life up to this point? And if so, why didn't you include them in your story?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:41PM
Of course, I put in what there is space to put in. Nothing significant is held back. And obviously there is plenty more context. I interviewed many more people than those I quoted. I talked to one Kerry friend four times over many hours, but there only a few sentences from him in the story. That's just part of the process.
Bryan
12:41PM
In my (albeit) brief introduction to Kerry’s ideas, I’m amazed at how much he seems to recall the speeches and ideas of JFK, right down to a recent set of speeches up north where he told young people to devote more of their lives to public service. In fact the comparison between the two figures seems stunning, which you alluded to in your pieces. How do you feel this will play out during the campaigns? Do you think Kerry will use this comparison or try to distance himself from it?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:42PM
To be fair, many Democrats invoke JFK. With Kerry, it's a natural inclination, but most of this generation of candidates grew up with Kennedy as president. A Washington Post profile of Joseph Lieberman on Sunday had a headline connecting him to JFK, so it's not only Kerry.
cojo63
12:43PM
Are Michael Dukakis and John Kerry close friends? Since Kerry was Dukakis' Lt. Governor?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:44PM
I did a story about this a few months ago. Governor Dukakis told me they talk and he shares advice, but it is not done in a public way. Republicans said in that piece that they would remind voters about the Dukakis connection.
skubwa
12:44PM
Based on your research with Kerry and his people, and knowing what you know about the current state of politics, what chances do you give ANY Democratic for taking back the White House?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:45PM
What makes political coverage so interesting is that I can't say. At this point in 1991, many experts felt President George H.W. Bush was a sure thing for reelection, but he lost to Bill Clinton. It depends on many things, the economy being one of the most important.
Beaker
12:46PM
Michael - Kerry has enjoyed media and electoral success in his career, but its hard to find anyone, even in Mass., who is really wild about him. And i'd say that his candidacy is generating surprising little buzz in these parts. Do you agree, and if so, to what do you attribute that phenomenon?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:49PM
I understand your question and my response is that is still too early to know whether he will catch on. It's hard to say if anyone could catch on this early. I have covered the last several presidential campaigns for the Globe and my experience tells me that the momentum isn't likely to be noticeable for anyone until after Labor Day, and then especially after New Year's Day. I wouldn't expect most voters to be able to name most of the candidates until there is much more campaigning, but I do expect that most voters in places that are used to the early campaigning - such as New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina - are way ahead in their knowledge because the candidates are going there. We will be seeing lots more stories from those states very soon, and that will give us a better indication.
Diamond Dave
12:49PM
Kerry is going to try to wrap himself up in as much Kennedy mystique as possible.
adriennne-clare
12:49PM
Great story. What do you think of Kerry's plans so far (health care, service, energy proposals)?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:50PM
thanks. Well, my stories didn't focus on those, so I don't feel qualified to answer. I know the Globe has done some stories on that, so I'm reading those along with you.
cojo63
12:50PM
Before this campaign, did John Kerry and Howard Dean ever have a friendship or professional relationship? Both being New Englanders and all?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:51PM
I don't have a researched answer on that so I would need to get back to you after double-checking.
Sandy
12:51PM
Mr. Kranish, Good job on the series. You describe the John Kerry I have met and supported. However, as a Vietnam veteran, I think you got the part about the purple hearts wrong.
Kerry=Dukakis Jr.
12:51PM
Why does everyone view JFK as such a God. He was worse than Clinton with his girlfriends, and he had a major disaster at the bay of pigs. He had a huge success with the Cuban missile crisis. Getting assassinated must ensure reverence?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:52PM
I'm obviously going to let so comments go without saying anything...
skubwa
12:53PM
How much pull does the Internet have in this election? For example, Howard Dean's web presence is unparalled, with a huge grassroots movement organizing almost exclusively online. Other Dems, and even Bush, have barely begun to skim the surface or tap into the potential of the web. Will the web matter in 2004?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:54PM
Yes, I think it will, but I don't know that it would be a determining factor. The Internet has proven valuable for candidates for organizing and fund-raising. The biggest impact would come if and when it is used for voting. That might greatly expand voter participation if it can be done in a secure, no-fraud fashion.
Kim
12:54PM
Michael, I enjoyed seeing the revealing photos and documents so far. Will the remaining stories have those, as well? Or are they limited to the early years?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:55PM
I think there will be more photos, not sure if the other pieces have as many documents as the ones so far.
claychacha
12:55PM
What do you think about Ted Kennedy's rivalry, then sudden support & friendship with Kerry?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:57PM
well, they have never run against each, but there may have been a competition over the years when it comes to getting legislative things. For many years, Kennedy was known as the legislator while Kerry was better known for his congressional investigations. Kennedy has said he is supporting Kerry for president, so there's no question there.
Sully
12:57PM
Michael, why did you write the piece in such a suspicious, condescending manner? Vietnam vets are frustated by writers who weren't there trying to hold vets to different standards 30 years later.
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
12:57PM
I don't think it was written that way, but I'll you state your opinion.
Beaker
12:58PM
Do you think having the Dem convention in Boston will help or hurt Kerry, provided he's the nominee?
Michael Kranish (Moderator)
01:00PM
Good question. It's hard to say. If he is the nominee, he would obviously have a hometown crowd, but conventions these days are always public-relations bonanzas for the candidates. It's a television event, so where it is held is not as important. The main purpose of the convention is usually to boost the candidate's standing, and it usually does that for the first week or so, then it often levels out. In the short term, the question all political reporters are asking is whether Kerry will perform strongly in New Hampshire, the neighboring state with the first-primary. Dean is also from a neighboring state. So, as is so often the case, we will be watching our neighbor to the north and trying to determine whether the results in New Hampshire are a true signal of what may come. Well, it's past time to go, so thank you all very much for joining this chat session.
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