Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy

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No figure in American public life has had such great expectations thrust upon him, or has responded so poorly. But Ted Kennedy -- the youngest of the Kennedy children and the son who felt the least pressure to satisfy his father's enormous ambitions -- would go on to live a life that no one could have predicted: dismissed as a spent force in politics by the time he reached middle age, Ted became the most powerful senator of the last half century and the nation's keeper of traditional liberalism.

As Peter S. Canellos and his team of Boston Globe reporters show in this revealing and intimate biography, the gregarious, pudgy, and least academically successful of the Kennedy boys has witnessed greater tragedy and suffered greater pressure than any of his siblings. At the age of thirty-six, Ted Kennedy found himself the last brother, the champion of a generation's dreams and ambitions. He would be expected to give the nation the confidence to confront its problems and to build a fairer society at home and abroad.

He quickly failed in spectacular fashion. Late one night in the summer of 1969, he left the scene of a fatal automobile accident on Chappaquiddick Island. The death there of a young woman from his brother's campaign would haunt and ultimately doom his presidential ambitions. Political rivals turned his all-too-human failings -- drinking, philandering, and divorce -- into a condemnation of his liberal politics.

But as the presidency eluded his grasp, Kennedy was finally liberated from the expectations of others, free to become his own man. Once a symbol of youthful folly and nepotism, he transformed himself in his later years into a symbol of wisdom and perseverance. He built a deeply loving marriage with his second wife, Victoria Reggie. He embraced his role as the family patriarch. And as his health failed, he anointed the young and ambitious presidential candidate Barack Obama, whom many commentators compared to his brother Jack. The Kennedy brand of liberalism was rediscovered by a new generation of Americans.

Perceptive and carefully reported, drawing heavily from candid interviews with the Kennedy family and inner circle, Last Lion captures magnificently the life and historic achievements of Ted Kennedy, as well as the personal redemption that he found.

Customer Reviews:

  • Balanced and Well-written
    I was amazed that the review count was so low until I noticed that the people who actually had read it gave it high marks while those who gave it one star chose to attack the subject. The high reviewers did a much better job than I ever could at detailing the highs and lows of the life of Ted Kennedy as detailed in the book. What was amazing to me was how the accounts of Kennedy's life corresponded with what I remember as it happened (yes, I am that old that I remember it all).

    I would like to note that the one-star reviewer who said it was a sad title rip off missed the very beginning that explains the title. I don't know how they missed it if they read the book. Anyway, it was a quote by John McCain: "I've described Ted Kennedy as the last lion of the Senate...He remains the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results."

    I hope the book does well on the charts as it is highly readable and thorough and it doesn't try to make the failings or triumphs of Kennedy any more or less than they actually were or still are....more info
  • The Long Road Up
    This is a compelling read and shows the awful rock bottom Kennedy was able to climb from, one foot in front of the other, amidst the awful judgements against his whole person. He carries the awful burden of knowing that at least three people died due to his reckless pursuits, (besides Mary Jo Kopechne there were two people who died in that 1964 plane crash - he'd insisted on being flown though the original pilot refused due to heavy fog conditions). Also, Joan miscarried not long after attending Kopechne's funeral because, she thinks, Ted pressured her into attending with him, against her doctor's orders for bedrest. On the other hand, he shouldered tremendous responsibility for his extended family with astonishing grace and has done a lot of good in this world. Those who would point fingers take note: It would have been easier for him to give up but he kept going. This is a story of true American spirit. Inspiring....more info
  • Last Lion
    I have not had the pleasure of reading the book as yet. I received it a few days ago. Very much looking forward to reading the book. I know the Boston Globe people created this book and they are excellent reporter. Sorry I am not more helpful to you. ...more info
  • a very enjoyable, balanced biography
    I really enjoyed this book. I need to preface this review by saying that I am an independent voter from Massachusetts. I have voted for Ted Kennedy for the US Senate, but did not vote for him when he ran for president. In short, I think I went into this book open minded. I already knew much from the early part of the book, Ted's younger years, through bios I have read about Jack and Bobby Kennedy. I did enjoy learning more about "the other Kennedy" in those early chapters. As the book got into the 70's and 80's, there was much that I learned about Ted Kennedy, and I found so much of his behind-the-scenes work in the Senate fascinating. This book definitely touches upon Ted's many flaws in his personal life, in that they did have an effect on his public life. I felt that this book covered the man and the senator quite well. It was a very engaging read. This biography was respectfully written, and avoided some of the details of Ted's indiscretions. I felt it was accurate, but did not look to embarrass him. This book lets the reader see why Ted Kennedy is such a respected senator by so many in both parties. There's lots to like about this book. This book does not attempt to psycho-analyze Ted. Yet, Ted Kennedy does come alive in this, especially in the second half of the book....more info
  • Swimming lessons from uncle Teddy.
    I wonder how Mary Jo would rate old Uncle Ted, Americas one true hero. Or at least that is the story being circulated today....more info
  • Mutiple Personalities
    Last Lion offers a definitive, comprehensive look at the Kennedy who means the most to me personally, Ted Kennedy. As a twenty-something, JFK and RFK were long dead by the time I was born. But Ted Kennedy was the liberal champion in the Senate and also the ultimate dealmaker, pragmatically working to pass legislation and never allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

    The book fully explores what I view as Kennedy's three personalities: 1. His public political personality, where he is a hardworking liberal stalwart, a dealmaker, and a champion for the Democratic Party and his constituents; 2. His family personality as the patriarch of the Kennedys, serving as a surrogate father to the Kennedy children who lost their mothers and fathers; and 3. His personal personality, the hard drinking, womanizing, Chappaquiddick Kennedy.

    Each personality is dealt with in the book in an even and clear minded way. I'm sure Kennedybashers, who could never see any of his good, will think the book is a whitewash. But as a Kennedy fan, or at least a fan of his first two personalities, I felt the book was pretty tough on him in some spots.

    Two parts of the book were particularly interesting to me as a student of politics and history. First, the discussion of each potential Kennedy presidential run. The first was the calls in 1968 to pick up the torch of RFK. The next two were the chances in the 70s that Kennedy backed away from, perhaps due to family challenges and Chappaquiddick. The next was when Kennedy finally pulled the trigger in 1980 in a somewhat disastrous run whose highlight was his concession speech at the Democratic National Convention. 1984 seemed like it could have been the year, with everything in place for a triumphant run by the Kennedy staff. But again, Kennedy backed out and never again considered a campaign.

    The second particularly interesting section was on Kennedy's work for the 9/11 families, particularly those in Massachusetts. This was Kennedy, and political leaders in general, at their best. Kennedy provided services, offered support, and kept in touch without ever publicizing his efforts.

    Enjoy the book!...more info
  • Undeniably a Great Legislator
    Although I am an admirer of Senator Kenndy and his political views, I am not blind to some of his past reckless behavior and actions. Our heros are not perfect and they sometimes disappoint us. Americans are well aquainted with the word Chappaquiddick and the impact it had on his reputation. We know about his drinking problem and womanizing and I believe this aspect of his life is, as the title of the book indicates "his fall". His redemption, (and thus "the rise") is how he became a truly remarkable and effective senator. He has been the author of over 2500 major bills in his career, of which 300 bacame law. These included elimination of the poll tax, renewal of the voting rights bill, the WIC program, COBRA, HIPPA, and the Orphan Drug Act. He has been an outspoken advocate for the poor, women's rights and minorities. His concern for people was demostrated by his early support of issues important to the gay community. On of his greatest accomplisments was his ability to work in a truly bipartisan manner. For this he has earned him the respect and friendship of one of the most conservative members of the Senate, Orin Hatch of Utah. It is not within his power to change the closed minds of those who will always revile him, but for those who wish to better undetstand him in both a peronal and public way(the bad and the good), I recommend this book. Our heros may have feet of clay, but that does not prevent them from attaining greatness. ...more info
  • Last Lion
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book about Ted Kennedy. I felt it was honest and balanced. I have lived in Mass. all my life, and my family and I thoroughly supported John F. Kennedy. We were devastated the day he was assinated (the day after his assination was my husband and my wedding day!) We spent our "honeymoon" in Washington D.C. at his funeral.

    Ted has been maligned and castigated in the press for years and years with his many problems in his personal life, and yet, thoughout it all, he has always championed the common working people of our country and this state. We are just common working people, not priviledged wealthy folks like Ted is. Yet, he has kept us in the forefront of his mission in Washington, D.C.

    I felt that the book was very fair and balanced. It did not gloss over Ted's shortcomings, but it also pointed out many of the personal losses and problems that he has had to deal with since he was a very young person.

    My husband also read and enjoyed the book and felt that it is a fair portrayal of one of the finest Senators that we have had in this country. Former School Librarian...more info
  • Very good light reading
    Knowing the Boston Globe from growing up in Massachusetts, and glancing at the cover, which is a flattering photo, I expected to read a hagiography. Instead, I read a very well-balanced and plot driven book that is well worth the few hours it will take you to go through.

    As one reviewer wrote, this book breaks no new ground. It does not appear to have the cooperation of Kennedy, as he is writing his own book. This book does not get in the head of Ted Kennedy, nor does it go too deep into the workings of the US Senate. What it does, and does well, is stay focused on an amazing life, whatever you think of that life. The life is amazing for all it saw and did, for good and bad. And there is plenty of both.

    So put aside your political prejudices (you can immediately resume them after reading, this book will entertain but not change minds) and enjoy some exciting and well-organized journalism....more info
  • A favorable but well-written biography of America's most important senator
    I bought this book soon after reading an article in Politico in which Republican senators overwhelmingly cited Ted Kennedy as the most bipartisan and easiest senator to work with. I also realized that I knew more about Jack and Robert Kennedy, whose political careers ended tragically over 40 years ago, than I knew about this lion of the senate who has influenced politics so much during my lifetime. While I have read many biographies of the other Kennedys, I actually came to this book with few preconceived notions about Ted (other than the praise he received in that aforementioned Politico article).

    This book helped fill in the basic personal and political biography of Ted Kennedy the man. Some of the earlier history is familiar to Kennedy fans, but is retold following Ted Kennedy. The authors discuss some interesting campaign anecdotes, such as how Ted copied Jack's habit of taking a mid-afternoon bath. It gives a very good sense of life in the Kennedy family and Ted's role in it, both as the runt of the family and eventually the patriarch.

    Overall, I found the book a useful addition to my American political history library. However, as it is written by a team of journalists, the book focuses more on Kennedy's personal life than his politics and political ideas. While the authors point out a few incidents which shaped his philosophy (such as his reflections on healthcare when he was hospitalized after a plane crash in 1964), but these are often unsatisfactory. I would love to have learned more about the incidents and forces that shaped his political beliefs and why he has remained such an unabashed yet pragmatic liberal. When it focuses on Ted's political life, it highlights his glad-handling people skills that allowed him to thrive in the senate (which Bobby notably lacked). As such, this is not a serious treatment of Kennedy's political philosophy, but rather a study of Kennedy as a man and influential politician.

    As other reviewers have commented, this book is not unbiased. It portrays Ted Kennedy in a favorable light, although is not unduly fawning. The authors discuss his flaws and personal weaknesses, but also avoid stereotypes about the man. For example, while they spend quite a bit of time discussing Chappaquiddick, they do not address every single theory about the accident. Rather, they mostly describe the version of the accident that arose during the court case, as well as those that appeared in interviews at the time. For much of the incident, Kennedy's explanation seems plausible, but the authors also do point out inconsistencies in his testimony. It is difficult to say whether this is "bias" or simply journalistic caution in not straying too far from the known facts. I for one appreciate the authors' staying away from pure speculation.

    At the end of the day, this book is well-written, interesting, and accessible to most readers who want to learn a bit more about one of the most influential senators. While he never became president, Ted has had an enormous influence over our debates on healthcare, education, judicial nominations, and foreign policy. This book helps to explain why, on a personal level, he was so effective and how he became so well admired by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. ...more info
  • Good Read
    I have read innumerable books on the Kennedys, and was interested to see that this book mainly focuses on TK's development as a politician. He certainly made horrible personal decisions, but these are cast in the light of the destruction of his family over time. Certainly not an excuse, but it seems to me that many critics ignore circumstances that would certainly have destroyed a lesser person. As weak as he may have been in his personal life, TK has certainly been resolute and stalwart in his passionate support of liberal ideology in the Senate. You don't have to agree with his positions, but certainly have to admire his work ethic, his consistency over time, and his willingness to engage in bipartisan efforts to solve major problems in this country. I strongly recommend this book....more info
  • Pompous, Pretentious, and Prevaricated---just like it's Subject!
    Many years ago, the left-leaning "Saturday Night Live" summarized Teddy's legacy much better than this ponderous book does: "Teddy Kennedy is a big, fat drunk"....more info
  • Review the book not the man
    Ted Kennedy had his faults. The book does not gloss over these faults. I think this is a fair review of the man. It was well written and fairly objective. Kennedy will always draw extreme feelings. He has done much to improve the lot of Main Street Americans....more info
  • Ted Kennedy Propoganda
    Ted Kennedy is probably the most despicable political figure of the late 20th century.

    After the killing, coverup and cremation of Mary Jo Kapeckne, the remainder of Ted Kennedy's life is, personally, a continuation of his grossly immoral behavior and politically an attempt to preserve his electoral viability by becoming the face of the far left in America.

    Rather than support his dead brother Robert's children as the author asserts, Ted encouraged them to follow his life of drink, drugs and sex. Most of the Robert Kennedy children survived this influence except David Kennedy who died of drugs. This is well documented in published sources.

    Jackie Kennedy married Onasis to escape and save her children from the influence of Ted who led the family financially after the death of his father and three brothers. This is well documented in published sources.

    In a rape trial of his nephew, the victim testified that the incident was incited by Ted Kennedy accosting her in the nude except for a t-shirt and making lewd suggestions. The Kennedy lawyers got his nephew aquitted after a long trial in spite of recent demands to take the testimony seriously. This is well documented in published sources.

    Ted Kennedy became the face of the far left to join the anti-war bandwagon and save his political career from the Mary Jo incident. In this role he undermined our policies in Vietnam and the millions of Southeast Asians who placed their faith in America and trusted his brother Jack Kennedy with their lives, fortunes and families. Millions were enslaved and killed after the needless fall of Saigon and in the killing fields of Cambodia due to Ted Kennedy's withdrawal of support for a victory or even an orderly withdrawal. Many of my closest friends died in vain because of Ted Kennedy.

    It is absurd to claim that Ted Kennedy could have reached the Senate, given his bleak background without the corrupt Joseph P. Kennedy created Kennedy political machine and money.

    As the most famous name ever associated with the far left in this country, he undermined the values, traditions and free enterprise system which created this great nation and which his brother, Jack, fought to preserve and protect all of his life.

    Jack Kennedy was a small government, low tax, national defense, personal responsibility president. He would be shocked and ashamed to learn of his brother turning the Kennedy name to the far left.

    Without the far left, Ted would never have been taken seriously in America after Mary Jo and a lifetime of multiple drug abuse and sexual adventures. The far left needed a voice and Kennedy needed a base of support.

    Ted has backed every tax increase and big goverment spending program of the last 40 years. He has undermined our military, our defense, our cold war policies and the foreign policies of most American presidents from Jack Kennedy to George W. Bush. He did back the disasterous foreign policy of Jimmy Carter, which led to the power of the islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East.

    He has supported the nationalization of industries, most importantly Socialized Medicine, a failed prescription every where it has been tried.
    Unfortunately, his death may provide the excuse to socialize and destroy our fine medical system as a "memorial to Ted".

    He has supported a tax on energy and a virtual ban on energy exploration and development in the US. Our energy dependance on forein oil can be laid directly at his doorstep. However, when windmills were proposed as a distant sight from his Cape Cod estate, he opposed them with vigor.

    He is liked as a "good ol boy" in the Senate, respected for his political machine and far left leadership and also feared. In private few respect his judgement except for other far left opportunists.

    He is an unfortunate remnant of the Kennedy myth making, a myth extended by this author Peter Canellos, who knows better than to use a term "lion" recently used by William Manchester to describe a true Lion of the 20th century, Winston Churchill. There is no comparison and Ted is no "lion".

    Ted Kennedy is an American coward, leftist, philander, drug addict, abuser of women and one of the most dispicable persons ever to serve in the Senate.

    After the cremation of Mary Jo and three generations of mythmaking by the Kennedy clan and its hangers on, it will be impossible to publish a book which brings real objectivity and balance to the selfish life of this spoiled rich kid.

    In the guise of objectivity, this biographer of Ted Kennedy fails to mention the worst crime of Mary Jo's death which is the coverup and cremation. He refers to Kennedy's probable criminal acts surrounding her death as a "personal tragedy" for Ted. It is only a "tragedy" for Mary Jo her family and friends.

    Canellos calls Ted Kennedy's expedient fall-in with the far left in America a "rise". An objective observer would see it as base political oportunism.

    ...more info
  • A Life of Service to Others
    For the self-righteous the only thing they remember about Senator Ted Kennedy is Chappaquiddick, and you don't look for forgiveness from them. However, Senator Kennedy has had to play the role of father figure to several nieces and nephews following the assassinations of brothers Jack and Robert. Delivering eulogies at funerals is something he has had to do numerous times as family members looked to "Uncle Teddy" for support in time of need. Having put his presidential aspirations in the past he has dominated Congress for nearly half a century fighting for civil rights, immigration, health care, and education. His odd-couple relationship with Republican Orin Hatch illustrate his willingness to reach out to those whose beliefs differ from his own. The suffering he has had to endure in his own family has made him sensitive to those who have had to endure suffering such as the personal help he provided to the families of his Massachusetts' constituents who died during the 9/11 attacks. Whatever your thoughts are on the Kennedy family you have to give them credit for devoting their lives to serving the public when they could have lived a life of leisure. This is a book well worth your time....more info
  • Saint Ted
    If you're looking for an unbiased account of the life of Ted Kennedy, you won't find it in this book. The reporters of the Boston Globe are able to anoint Ted Kennedy to Sainthood for his political accomplishments but drop the ball entirely when glossing over his messy personal life. After struggling through four hundred pages of praise for Teddy - and not holding him responsible for his actions towards women in his personal life- (long-suffering Joan, Mary Jo Kopechne, and even Patricia Bowman)- I wish I hadn't wasted the time with this glossed-over tribute....more info
  • The Last Lion
    More than I ever wanted to know about the Kennedy's, interesting read although glossed over many details....more info
  • Lat Lion - The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy
    A truly great book which follows Ted Kennedy, warts and all, throughout his years. The book revealed his later years when he turnd his life around and became perhaps the most effective Senator in our history....more info
  • Easy read about a remarkable, albeit controversial, man.
    Certainly a positive light shed upon the Senior Senator by the writers from The Globe, so I suggest a grain of salt go with your reading. That said, whatever your position is on Kennedy, the book certainly is an interesting read and a great starter if you're looking to get familiar with his story....more info
  • Respect the forum
    I am reasonably sure these reviews are intended to be reviews of the book about Ted Kennedy, and not the personal views of Ted Kennedy put forth by the one star reviewers who by and large appear to have not read the book since they don't address the book but merely recount what they don't like about Kennedy. I'm not a fan of Limbaugh, but I'd be interested to read a fair-minded biography that explains why a thrice-married, grossly overweight drug addict feels qualified to preach personal responsibility and morality to the rest of us....more info


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