Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington

Overview

Clark CliffordThe Wise Man of WashingtonJohn Acacia

Behind every great president is a trusted adviser. Advisers often play a substantial role in influencing critical decisions that can drastically change the course of history. Throughout the history of the American presidency, numerous individuals have assumed the role of top presidential confidant and adviser, although their positions were not often officially recognized within the cabinet: Colonel Edward M. House, Harry ...

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Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington

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Overview

Clark CliffordThe Wise Man of WashingtonJohn Acacia

Behind every great president is a trusted adviser. Advisers often play a substantial role in influencing critical decisions that can drastically change the course of history. Throughout the history of the American presidency, numerous individuals have assumed the role of top presidential confidant and adviser, although their positions were not often officially recognized within the cabinet: Colonel Edward M. House, Harry Hopkins, Sherman Adams, Robert Kennedy, and most recently, Karl Rove. However, few individuals have maintained an authoritative presence within the White House over several presidential terms.

In Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington, author John Acacia details the life of one of Washington's most renowned White House insiders. Clark Clifford (1906—1998) started out as an ambitious midwestern lawyer and by the end of his illustrious career had served as top adviser to four Democratic presidents, becoming a legendary Washington political figure.

During his years in the nation's capital, Clifford contributed to the development of some of America's most influential policies. As special counsel to Truman, Clifford helped to draft the Truman Doctrine, grant recognition to Israel, create the Marshall Plan, and build the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO). Kennedy appointed him chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and he later served as Johnson's secretary of defense, during which time he took an opposing but firm view that a U.S. military deployment in Vietnam would be disastrous. Even Carter, who kept his distance from Washington insiders, turned to Clifford for help. Drawing from a wealth of sources, Acacia reveals Clifford's role as one of the most trusted advisers in American history and as a primary architect of Cold War foreign policy.

John Acacia taught American history at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.

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Editorial Reviews

Timothy R. Smith
Acacia masterfully explores Clifford's ability to persuade the powerful. The descriptions of White House tussles between advisers competing for the president's ear—especially the hawks on Vietnam, who we know were leading the president to disaster—are riveting. All too often, we focus on the officeholders, forgetting the managers backstage. Acacia's book shows just how much power advisers can wield.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Although not a household name, Clark Clifford (1906–1998) advised Democratic presidents from Truman to Johnson. Acacia, American history professor at William Paterson University, has absorbed a mass of material and delivers an insightful if not always flattering biography. Fiercely ambitious, Clifford was a successful St. Louis lawyer when fellow Missourian Harry Truman became president in 1945. A senior colleague invited Clifford to Washington, where within a year his organizational skills won him promotion to Truman's special counsel. Happy to take credit for Truman's spectacular 1948 election upset, Clifford kept his reputation as a political genius for the next 20 years, although his opposition to sending troops to Vietnam put him in LBJ's doghouse until 1968, when—thanks to the possibility of peace talks and his own deft maneuvering—he replaced Robert McNamara as secretary of defense. This astute political biography concentrates on Washington infighting, position papers, memos, debates and quarrels on subjects ranging from trivial to world-shaking. Clifford comes across as a clear-eyed political strategist with genuinely noble ideals, but who looked after his own interests, often claiming others' ideas as his own and “parlay[ing] his government service into a lucrative private legal career.” (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"This astute political biography concentrates on Washington infighting, position papers, memos, debates and quarrels on subjects ranging from trivial to world-shaking." — Publishers Weekly

"This astute political biography concentrates on Washington infighting, position papers, memos, debates and quarrels on subjects ranging from trivial to world-shaking. Clifford comes across as a clear-eyed political strategist with genuinely noble ideals, but who looked after his own interests, often claiming others' ideas as his own and 'parlay[ing] his government service into a lucrative private legal career.'" — Publisher's Weekly

"A biography of the Washington lawyer and power broker (1906-98) who was a top advisor to Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter." — Chronicle of Higher Education

"[Acacia asserts that Clifford] was the "prototype" for the influential lawyers and political aides now populating Washington." — U.S. News Weekly

"Acacia masterfully explores Clifford's ability to persuade the powerful. The descriptions of White House tussles between advisers competing for the president's ear...are riveting...Acacia's book shows just how much power advisers can wield." — Washington Post

"The book is balanced and well documented throughout. Most importantly, Acacia leaves no doubt as to why Clifford became such a key advisor to Democratic presidents for better than two generations." — Diplomacy & Statecraft

"John Acacia... produces a fascinating story of personality and power." — Historian

"History sometimes neglects those people behind the scenes, the figures who present the information to those who make the big decisions.... Acacia's biography is a testabment to that often-ignored place in history where chief advisors alter major events." — Register of the Kentucky Hisotrical Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813125510
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 9/13/2009
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

John Acacia taught American history at William Paterson University.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Informative...but

    When you find yourself making good time with a book you must be enjoying it, right? Well I actually did here but not without from the very beginning take a cautious posture believing everything I read. It's apparent that the author himself had an axe to grind or carried that edge for someone else. You know when from the start of a biography if there is obvious glorification of its subject there will be some matters left out. Here the case goes the other direction. Anyone reading Clark Clifford can't help but notice it. More editing should have been done before deciding to publish. The author John Acacia however did respectable research and did well seaming Clifford's lifes chapters toegether. From Truman to Kennedy, Johnson, Vietnam, Carter, Clifford's law practice and finally BCCI the story tells you about Clark Clifford. Acacia does well in presenting the tension at the White House during the misery of Vietnam. This part of the book makes this reading well worth it by itself. Side details strengthen this book. This is a fine book for American history buffs who want to know all sides and I therefore recommend it strongly. To know more one needs to read more.

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