Thomas Howard Kean was born on 21 April, 1935 in New York City. Thomas Kean is an American Republican Party politician, who served as the 48th Governor of New Jersey, from 1982 to 1990. Thomas Kean is best known globally, however, for his 2002 appointment as Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, widely known as the 9/11 Commission, which was responsible for investigating the causes of the September 11, 2001 attacks and providing recommendations to prevent future terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean was appointed to this post by U.S. President George W. Bush.
Thomas Kean (sounds like cane) was born in New York City to a long line of New Jersey politicians. Thomas Kean’s mother was Elizabeth Howard and his father, Robert Kean, was a U.S. Congressman. Thomas Kean’s grandfather Hamilton Fish Kean and grand-uncle John Kean both served as U.S. Senators. Thomas Kean’s other grand-uncle was Hamilton Fish, a U.S. Senator, Governor of New York, and U.S. Secretary of State. Also, Thomas Kean’s great-great grandfather was a delegate to the Continental Congress.
Thomas Kean was educated at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts, and then at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey and Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City.
Originally a teacher of history and government, Thomas Kean was elected, in 1967, as a Republican to the New Jersey General Assembly.
With a split among the Assembly’s Democrats, Thomas Kean obtained the support of one of the Democratic factions and thereby was elected New Jersey Assembly Speaker in 1972. In the next Assembly, in 1974, the Democrats united behind one candidate for Speaker; Thomas Kean then became the minority leader of the Assembly. In 1973, he briefly served as acting New Jersey Governor.
Governor Kean visiting Fort Dix, November 1987.In 1977, Thomas Kean ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the governor of New Jersey.
Although he spent most of his career as a political moderate, in this race Thomas Kean ran to the right of New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Raymond Bateman. Raymond defeated Thomas and won the nomination, though Raymond went on to lose the general election to Brendan Byrne.
Thomas Kean fared better 4 years later, in 1981, when he again ran for Governor. Thomas Kean defeated U.S. Representative James Florio in the closest election in New Jersey gubernatorial election history; Thomas Kean won by fewer than 1,800 votes.
Thomas Kean proved hugely popular in office. In striking contrast to his slim 1981 victory, he won re-election in 1985 with the largest margin of victory in the history of New Jersey gubernatorial races, defeating Peter Shapiro, then Essex County Executive, 71%-24%. Thomas Kean won every municipality in the state except Audubon Park and Chesilhurst in Camden County and Roosevelt in Monmouth County.
In 1988, reflecting his stature as an up-and-coming leader of the Republican Party’s moderate wing, Thomas Kean delivered the keynote speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. The same year, he also authored a book, The Politics of Inclusion, published by Free Press, which urged political cooperation among historically divided interest groups and politicians.
Limited to 2 terms as governor by the New Jersey State Constitution, Thomas Kean left office in January, 1990 as one of the most popular political figures in New Jersey political history. Former New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester, New Jersey Congressman Bob Franks, and other leading New Jersey and national Republican figures began their political and public policy careers in his state administration. Thomas Kean was succeeded by Florio, who won a landslide victory in November 1989.
Following the end of his second Gubernatorial term, Thomas Kean was named President of Drew University, a small liberal arts university in Madison, New Jersey. Thomas Kean’s considerable standing as a popular former governor of the state was helpful as he undertook an upgrading of the university’s campus and academic programs.
Extremely popular among the student body, Thomas Kean served as Drew’s President until 2005.
While leading Drew University, Thomas Kean also continued to expand his role as a national political leader, forging close working relationships with the administrations of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton (with whom he had worked closely in the National Governors Association) and George W. Bush, who saw Thomas Kean as an important national political ally.
Former Heritage Foundation foreign policy analyst Michael Johns and other national policy and political leaders were recruited by Thomas Kean to support and help administer his growing involvement in a broad range of national policy initiatives in the fields of education, environmental, low-income housing, foreign policy and other issues. As Governor, Thomas Kean had some degree of national recognition as the spokesperson for a New Jersey tourism commercial, in which he cited the state’s tourism motto: “New Jersey and You: Perfect Together.” With Johns’ support, Thomas Kean also quickly established foreign policy and national security credentials following his Governorship that ultimately proved important in his gaining appointment by President George W. Bush to head the 9/11 Commission.
Beginning in 1990, Thomas Kean for the first time began expressing views on foreign policy and national security matters, views that generally mirrored those of the Republican Party. In a 15 December, 1991 speech to the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Thomas Kean endorsed the free trade initiatives then under way by the administration of former President George H. W. Bush. Thomas Kean also advocated continued U.S. aid to anti-communist resistance forces in Afghanistan, Angola, and to those engaged in supporting democratic change in the former Soviet Union. “To those supporting the Afghan resistance,” Thomas Kean told the Heritage Foundation audience in 1991, “I say, carry on.”
Thomas Kean quickly was appointed to the boards of several important foreign policy bodies, including the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was heavily engaged in supporting democracy-building programs in former Eastern bloc and other nations around the world, and a Presidential advisory commission on a post-Castro Cuba, chaired by former U.S. Presidential Republican candidate Steve Forbes.
Several years later, in 1997, Thomas Kean was appointed as an Advisory Board member of President Clinton’s One America Initiative, designed to help heal racial divides in the nation.
Following the 9/11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda, political pressure grew for an independent commission to independently investigate why the attacks were not prevented by U.S. national security organizations, including the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, National Security Agency and others, and to provide recommendations for preventing future terrorist attacks.
The cover of the final 9/11 Commission report Bush initially selected former Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to head the Commission, known as the “National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States”, or the 9/11 Commission. But on 13 December, 2002, Kissinger resigned as the Commission’s Chairman, under pressure because of potential conflicts with his global business consulting.
Noting Thomas Kean’s post-Gubernatorial foreign policy involvement and his reputation as a consensus-oriented political leader, President Bush nominated Thomas Kean to succeed Kissinger in leading the important and politically-sensitive Commission. The Commission is widely considered the most important independent U.S. government commission since the Warren Commission, which was charged with investigating the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and perhaps the most important in American history given its mammoth responsibility for investigating the causes of the first foreign attack on the U.S. mainland since the War of 1812, and recommending steps to defend the U.S. from future attacks. Thomas Kean’s appointment to head the Commission, and later the work and final report of the Commission, drew substantial global attention.
Just as some had criticised Kissinger’s nomination, Thomas Kean’s leadership of the Commission also drew some criticism. Some alleged that Thomas Kean did not have the depth of foreign policy and national security expertise needed to manage an investigation so integral to the future of American national security. Supporters of Thomas Kean in the Bush administration and elsewhere, however, countered that Thomas Kean’s work since 1990 as a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the post-Castro Cuba Commission and his foreign policy and national security commentary and analysis following his Governorship established adequate national secrurity and foreign policy credentials for him to assume such a critically important assignment.
Once the Commission began its work, some critics argued that Thomas Kean, the Commission members, and the Commission staff almost all had various business and political conflicts that made it difficult to lay blame on their political allies. One prominent example was the Commission’s Staff Director, Philip D. Zelikow, who had served on George W. Bush’s Presidential transition team and had worked closely with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a key Commission witness, in the George H. W. Bush administration.
Thomas Kean has also been criticized for using his role as the chairman of the 9/11 Commission in order to make profit, such as his book, Without Precedent. Some also argue that his endorsement of the television movie, The Path to 9/11, was misguided. The film features some scenes which are known to be false, according to those involved and the official 9/11 Commission Report. Thomas Kean was also a paid consultant to the film and was credited as an executive producer.
In December 2003, Thomas Kean said that the September 11 attacks could have been prevented, stating: “As you read the report, you’re going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn’t done and what should have been done. This was not something that had to happen.”
On 4 April, 2004, Thomas Kean again stated that the September 11 attacks could have been prevented, saying that the United States government should have acted sooner to dismantle al-Qaeda and responded more quickly to other terrorist threats. “When we actually saw bin Laden on the ground, using the Predator or other means, did we have…actionable intelligence? Should we have sent a cruise missile into a site where he was at that point? I think those early opportunities are clear. We had him. We saw him. I think maybe we could have done something about it.”
On 22 July, 2004 the Commission issued its final report, the 9/11 Commission Report, which concluded that the CIA and the FBI had ill-served President Bush and the American people in failing to predict or prevent the September 11 attacks, which the report concluded was preventable.
On 15 August, 2006 a book by Thomas Kean and 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton, titled Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, was released regarding the September 11 attacks and the September 11 Commission.
In the book, Thomas Kean and Hamilton write that the 9/11 Commission was so frustrated with repeated misstatements by officials from The Pentagon and Federal Aviation Administration during their investigation that they considered a separate investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Pentagon and FAA officials.
Thomas Kean served as a paid consultant and spokesman for the ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11, which aired nationally and without commercial interruption on 10 September, 2006. On September 11, the second part of the miniseries aired, also without commercial interruption, with the exception of a 20-minute break at 9pm ET, when President Bush addressed the nation on the 5th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
While not technically considered a documentary by ABC, prior to its airing, the series drew criticism for misrepresenting facts leading up the September 11 attacks. Many former high-ranking Clinton administration officials, including Clinton himself, and other scholars, publicly questioned the accuracy of the miniseries and asked that it not be aired. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the miniseries’ portrayal of her “false and defamatory.”. Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine also strongly criticized her character’s portrayal, complaining in the Los Angeles Times about the “mythmakers” who created the film, calling the project “false.” The film depicts Clinton and his administration with being aloof in addressing the al-Qaeda threat, failing to intervene in ways that could have prevented the attack, and being too absorbed in the political dimensions of the Monica Lewinsky scandal to properly defend the nation’s national security interests.
Thomas Kean defended the docudrama in July 2006 and until the eve of the broadcast, declining to disclose the amount of his payment from ABC for supporting the project.
On 4 July, 2007 the terrorist group al-Qaeda publicly released a video, featuring its Deputy Chief Ayman al-Zawahri urging all Muslims to unite in a holy war against the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere. The 95-minute video was discovered and released by U.S. intelligence sources and, in addition to al-Zawahri’s comments, prominently featured video excerpts of Thomas Kean citing al-Qaeda as one of the most formidable security threats that the U.S. has ever confronted, presumably with the intention of bolstering the morale of al-Qaeda supporters through Thomas Kean’s citation of the magnitude of the movement’s strength and threat. Comments by Thomas Kean cited on the video include a reference to the fact that al-Qaeda remains as strong in 2007 as it was before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The video also appeared to validate that al-Qaeda was closely monitoring U.S. political developments, especially including the work of the September 11 Commission, which Thomas Kean chaired. It also suggested that al-Qaeda intended to focus not just on engaging the West in Iraq, but also in other countries. “As for the second half of the long-term plan,” al-Zawahri says on the video, “it consists of hurrying to the fields of Jihad like Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia for Jihadi preparation and training.”
As of 2004, Thomas Kean was a member of a number of corporate board of directors, including ARAMARK, Hess Corporation, Pepsi Bottling Group, and major financial firms CIT Group Incorporated and Franklin Templeton Investments.
Since 1993, Thomas Kean has also been on the board of United Health Group, a large health insurance firm. In 2006, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating the conduct of the company’s management and directors.
Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York subpoenaed documents from the company. The investigations came to light after a series of probing articles in The Wall Street Journal in May 2006, which reported on the apparent backdating of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of stock options by UnitedHealth Group’s management. The backdating allegedly occurred with the knowledge and approval of the directors, including Thomas Kean, who sat on the company’s compensation committee during 3 crucial years, according to the Journal. Major shareholders have filed lawsuits accusing Thomas Kean and the other directors of failing in their fiduciary duty.
In 2004, Thomas Kean’s compensation from United Health Group alone was more than $650,000; in that year, as a corporate director, he missed more than a quarter of the company’s board-related meetings.
Thomas Kean and his wife Deborah have 3 children, a daughter, Alexandra, and identical-twin sons, Tom and Reed. They live in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Thomas Kean’s son, Tom, Jr., is a New Jersey State Senator, representing New Jersey’s 21st district. Thomas Jr, was also the Republican Senatorial nominee in the November 2006 general election, losing to Democrat Bob Menendez.
Thomas Kean is also a weekly columnist for the Star-Ledger, a Newark, New Jersey newspaper, where he and former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne (his immediate predecessor as New Jersey Governor) address issues of the day in a column titled “Kean-Byrne Dialogue”. Although both men sometimes disagree (as Kean is a Republican, while Byrne is a Democrat), they occasionally see eye to eye on topics, and both men have expressed great mutual respect for each other.
Thomas Kean is an advisor to, and has been inducted into, Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity.
Thomas Kean is a partner in Quad Partners, a private equity firm that invests in the education industry.
On 19 November, 2007 Thomas Kean endorsed John McCain for the 2008 presidential race.
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