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American Secretary of Defense
Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford was born on December 25, 1906, in Fort Scott, Kansas, and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He obtained a law degree in 1928 and practiced law in St. Louis, joining the Naval Reserve during World War II. He became assistant naval aide to President Truman in 1945. After the war, Truman appointed him general counsel, in which position he helped draft the legislation which created the Department of Defense in 1947.
In 1950, Clifford left the White House to establish a private practice, representing many large corporations and continuing to advise government officials. He was President-Elect Kennedy's liaison with the Eisenhower administration, and performed many special assignment duties for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations before he was appointed Secretary of Defense in 1968. When Clifford became Secretary of Defense, he supported US involvement in the Vietnam War, advising Johnson against a moratorium on bombing North Vietnam. Once he became Secretary of Defense, however, he publicly called for an end to American involvement in the war, backing Johnson's bombing halt in November of 1968. In 1969, he returned to private legal practice in Washington. Clifford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians.
One of the most renowned Washington insiders of the twentieth century, Clark Clifford (1906--1998) was a top advisor to four Democratic presidents. As a powerful corporate attorney, he advised Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. As special counsel to Truman, Clifford helped to articulate the Truman Doctrine, grant recognition to Israel, create the Marshall Plan, and build the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After winning the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, Kennedy asked Clifford to analyze the problems he would face in taking over the executive branch and later appointed him chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Johnson named Clifford secretary of defense in 1968, but their warm relationship was strained when Clifford concluded that there was no plan for victory in the Vietnam War and that the United States was in a "bottomless pit." Even Carter, who kept his distance from Washington insiders, turned to Clifford for help. In Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington, John Acacia chronicles Clifford's rise from midwestern lawyer to Washington power broker and presidential confidant. He covers the breadth and span of Clifford's involvement in numerous pivotal moments of American history, providing a window to the inner workings of the executive office. Drawing from a wealth of sources, the author reveals Clifford's role as one of the most trusted advisors in American history and as a primary architect of cold war foreign policy.
John Acacia taught American history at William Paterson University.
"An impressive book of large importance that will be welcomed by historians and political scientists who recognize the great significance of the American presidency." -- Richard S. Kirkendall, Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington
"A deftly written account of the rapid rise of a young St. Louis attorney from a temporary wartime appointment in Truman's White House to a position of wealth and power without exception in the nation's capital. Superbly researched, objectively presented, Clark Clifford is an exciting account of an extraordinary life." -- George M. Elsey, former aide to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, president emeritus of the American Red Cross, and author of An Unplanned Life, Roosevelt and China, and The President and U.S. Aid to China, 1944
"For a long time we have needed a biography of Clark Clifford. Acacia has filled that need with a book that is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the politics of foreign policy." -- Lloyd C. Gardner, professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University and coeditor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: or, How Not to Learn from the Past
"Acacia offers us a valuable view of presidential politics, decisions, and policies through the eyes of their trusted counselor Clark Clifford. The chapters on Vietnam decision-making and the role of the Wise Men are especially illuminating, providing new documentation on Clifford's role in influencing Lyndon B. Johnson's turnaround on the war." -- Larry Berman, professor of political science at UC Davis, author of No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam and Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An
"Acacia has pried open the mind and motives of Washington's premier insider." -- Warren F. Kimball, Robert Treat Emeritus Professor of History at Rutgers University, author of The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman, and editor of Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence
"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
From 1970-2016 Cliff Clark taught courses on American social, political, and intellectual history with a particular focus on reform movements. In the early 1960s, the dramatic confrontations of the Civil Rights movement sparked his initial interest in the question of why reformers risked their lives for social justice. As an undergraduate at Yale University, his student work in the Manuscript Division of the Yale University Library enabled him to explore the fascinating connections between revivalism and reform in the crusades against slavery in nineteenth-century America. His senior thesis, a study of the abolitionist preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, won the prize for the best undergraduate History thesis in 1963. He entered graduate school at Harvard that same year, taught in the History Department there while earning his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, and in 1967 joined the History and American Studies faculty at Amherst College. His first book, Henry Ward Beecher: Spokesman for a Middle-Class America, was published in 1978.
At Carleton, he chaired the American Studies Program from 1972 to 1992, ran Summer Academic Programs from 1984 to 2004 and started a program for Japanese students from Chuo University, and chaired the Cross-Cultural Studies Program from 2000 to 2003, and again in 2011. His books include The American Family Home, 1800-1960 (1986) and American and Canadian Intellectual History, 1789-1960 in the General History of the Americas (1992). In addition, he edited Minnesota in a Century of Change: The State and Its People Since1900 (1989). With Paul Boyer and others, he is one of the authors of the widely used American history textbook, now in its ninth edition, The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People.
He most recently taught courses on the American Civil War, Alcohol and American Society, American Social History, Popular Culture and Politics in late Nineteenth Century America, Growing Up Cross-Culturally, and American Intellectual History. After he retired from the History department in 2015-16, Cliff served as the Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology department for two years, 2016-18.
(1) Chalmers Johnson, The Disquieted American (6th February, 2003)
In mid-1965, the legendary Major-General Edward Lansdale - 'legendary' for having thoroughly militarised the Philippine Government in the name of 'counterinsurgency' - was asked to return to Vietnam as special assistant to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. After hearing Lansdale talk in Washington, Ellsberg asked to join his team. He transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of State at the same civil service grade, and set off for Saigon, still very much with the outlook of a Cold Warrior and a Marine infantry officer. Lansdale assigned him the job of visiting every province of South Vietnam and reporting on the 'pacification' efforts.
To do this, Ellsberg associated himself with another legendary figure, John Paul Vann, then working as an adviser to the US Agency for International Development. With Vann at the wheel of a jeep, they drove all over South Vietnam. Vann taught the neophyte Ellsberg many tricks of the trade: always drive fast because that makes it much harder for guerrillas to detonate a mine under your car, and always travel in the morning, after the previous night's mines have been blown but before they have all been replaced.
During these inspection tours, Ellsberg went on patrol with American units and often found himself in combat. Even though he was technically a civilian, he could not go along as a simple observer. He got a Swedish K submachine-gun from the CIA and revived his skills as an infantryman. He was surprised to discover that, with a little experience, you can usually tell from the sound when a bullet is coming directly at you. From walking around up to his neck in flooded marshes he caught hepatitis. In mid-summer 1967, after he had recovered somewhat, he left Vietnam and returned to Rand.
This tour of duty was very important to Ellsberg's political development. There was no pacification, since our South Vietnamese allies simply had no stomach for fighting their fellow Vietnamese. He discovered that the conflict was not a civil war, as so many academics around the world believed. One side, the South, was entirely equipped and paid for by a foreign power. As he writes, 'we were not fighting on the wrong side we were the wrong side.'
Back in the US, Ellsberg was particularly incensed by the daily drumbeat of official statements from the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the high command in Vietnam, all of them insisting that the US was making great 'progress' in winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people.
Then came the Tet Offensive of 29 January 1968 - simultaneous Vietcong attacks in almost every province of South Vietnam as well as in Saigon itself. The scale of the offensive strongly suggested that American leaders were either incompetent or lying. On 10 March, the New York Times published a leak from inside the Pentagon to the effect that General William Westmoreland, the commanding officer in Vietnam, was asking for 206,000 more troops. Neil Sheehan and Hedrick Smith reported this leak, which was accurate and had a devastating effect on Congress and the American people.
It did not come from Ellsberg, but 'as I observed the effect of this leak,' he recalls, 'it was as if clouds had suddenly opened. I realised something crucial: that the President's ability to escalate, his entire strategy throughout the war, had depended on secrecy and lying and thus on his ability to deter unauthorised disclosures - truth-telling - by officials.' It dawned on Ellsberg that, in the wake of Tet and the leak, President Johnson could not get away with his deceptions any longer.
Ellsberg was recalled from Rand to Washington to join a high-level working group evaluating the full range of options on Vietnam for the incoming Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford. In the capital he learned that McNamara had ordered John McNaughton to organise the writing of an internal historical study of US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to the present based on top secret documents. McNaughton assigned the project to his deputy, Morton Halperin, who in turn delegated leadership of the work to his deputy, Leslie Gelb. At the time neither Halperin nor Gelb had ever been to Vietnam.
They, in turn, hired Ellsberg to write one of the projected 47 volumes, and he chose to work on JFK and the year 1961. One of the first things he did was to obtain from the CIA all the National Intelligence Estimates for Indochina from 1950 to 1960. 'What was evident in each one of the years of major decision was that the President's choice was not founded upon optimistic reporting or on assurances of the success of his chosen course.' Ellsberg thus began to ask himself a forbidden question: why did every one of the Presidents from Truman to Johnson 'mislead the public and Congress about what he was doing in Indochina?' He had discovered part of the answer: it was not because the President's subordinates deceived him.
(2) Marilyn Berger, Clark Clifford, New York Times (11th October, 1998)
A secretary of defense for one president, friend and confidant of three others, Clifford frequently played the role of capital wise man in inner-sanctum crises, helping President Harry S. Truman find peace with labor and warning President Lyndon B. Johnson about the folly of the Vietnam war.
With a gentle drawl and an insider's run of the halls of power, Clifford was consulted as well by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, bridging the nation's postwar political era until he ran into legal troubles in high-finance brokering.
For all the roles he played in presidential history, Clifford faced a rigorous ordeal in his final years, insisting on his innocence to the end as he faced charges of fraud, conspiracy and taking bribes in the biggest banking scandal in history, the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
Clifford resigned from government service in January of 1950 in order to open a private law practice. The firm of Clifford and Miller opened up across the street from the White House. The firm represented many large corporations and continued to advise government officials. John F. Kennedy (1917–1963 served 1961–63 see entry) used Clifford as his personal lawyer when Kennedy was elected president in 1960, he put Clifford at the head of his transition team. Kennedy frequently enlisted Clifford's help and in 1961 appointed him to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The board was put in charge of supervising the CIA after the CIA botched a top-secret invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Clifford became the chairman of the board in 1963. After Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson called on Clifford to reorganize the White House staff.
Clark Clifford was born December 25, 1906, in Fort Scott, Kansas. Clifford attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and upon graduation attended Washington University Law School. He remained a lawyer in the St. Louis area, and married Margery Kimball in 1931. In 1944 he joined the Navy where he worked as a naval aide to President Harry Truman during World War II. After the war Clifford became a part of the second White House council who advised Truman. Clifford eventually established a law practice in Washington where he advised businesses on governmental policies and resources. Although he had his own law practice, Clifford continued to advise presidents through the 1960s and during the Vietnam War. Clifford served as chairman of the President&rsquos Intelligence Advisory Board for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
On February 29, 1968, Clifford became the ninth Secretary of Defense to President Johnson. The Vietnam War was a major focus during his time in office. Clifford supported a quick end to the war. Although Clifford was only Secretary of Defense for 11 months, he often references those months as the proudest in his life.
After his time as Secretary of Defense, Clifford returned to his life as a lawyer and political advisor in Washington D.C. In 1982 Clifford became the chairman of First American Bankshares, of Washington D.C. In 1991 Clifford was charged in an international scandal involving the bank, but he claimed that he was not aware of the illegal activities. He was in failing health and not indicted in the scandal. Clifford died October 10, 1998, in Bethesda, Maryland, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Entry: Clifford, Clark
Author: Kansas Historical Society
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Date Created: June 2012
Date Modified: July 2016
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Clark Clifford, a Major Adviser To Four Presidents, Is Dead at 91
Clark M. Clifford, the silver-haired Brahmin of the nation's political establishment who advised Presidents across half a century of American history, died yesterday morning at the age of 91 at his home in Bethesda, Md.
A Secretary of Defense for one President, friend and confidant of three others, Mr. Clifford frequently played the role of capital Wise Man in inner sanctum crises, helping President Harry S. Truman keep peace with labor and warning President Lyndon B. Johnson about the folly of the Vietnam War.
With a gentle drawl and an insider's run of the halls of power, Mr. Clifford was consulted as well by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, bridging the nation's postwar political era until he ran afoul of legal troubles in high-finance brokering.
For all the roles he played in Presidential history, Mr. Clifford faced a rigorous ordeal in his final years, insisting on his innocence to the end as he faced charges of fraud, conspiracy and taking bribes in the biggest banking scandal in history, the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
It was only earlier this year that Mr. Clifford and his law partner, Robert A. Altman, reached a $5 million settlement with the Federal Reserve. Just last month, they settled the last of several civil lawsuits brought in the case.
Mr. Altman was acquitted in 1993 in New York state court of charges of bank fraud indictments against Mr. Clifford had been set aside because of his failing health.
Mr. Clifford considered his role in extricating the United States from what he called that ''wretched conflict in Vietnam'' to be his finest moment the day he was indicted and fingerprinted like a common criminal, he said, was the worst.
Few people in Washington, let alone Clark Clifford himself, could have imagined so inglorious an end to so glorious a career. From the time in World War II when he went to Washington as a naval aide to Truman, Mr. Clifford was a highly respected lawyer and public servant about whom scarcely an unkind word was ever uttered.
He was a symbol of elegance -- 6 feet 2 inches tall, trim, wavy-haired, his French cuffs always a precise half-inch longer than the sleeves of his impeccably tailored double-breasted suits.
There were a few who saw in him a little too much smoothness, a touch of the riverboat gambler, perhaps. But to most people who knew Mr. Clifford, he was a symbol of probity, even a legend in his own time. Except for Spiro Agnew and a lone article in Ramparts magazine, nobody had a bad word to say about him in public, at least not until the B.C.C.I. scandal.
Whether in the White House or in his law offices across the street from the White House, Mr. Clifford was the man politicians and business leaders turned to for advice. Johnson, beleaguered by the Vietnam War, asked him to be his Secretary of Defense, and President Carter called on him to be a White House adviser. Kennedy asked him for legal help and put him at the head of his transition team, and Truman appointed him special counsel.
Few people in Government were as familiar with as many of the nation's problems as Clark Clifford. He helped articulate the policies for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. He wrote the basic legislation establishing the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department. On the domestic front, he wrote some of Truman's most important speeches and helped keep labor peace in the postwar period.
With a thriving private law practice, Mr. Clifford liked to think of himself as a bridge between business and government. But he was more than that. Like many lawyers who made up the Washington establishment, he advised corporations on how to navigate their way through laws and regulations.
For each new client he had the same well-rehearsed speech that he offered to one of his first clients, Howard R. Hughes. As Mr. Clifford recounted it in his memoir, 'ɼounsel to the President'' (Random House, 1991), he said his firm had no influence and would not represent anyone before the President or any of his staff.
''If you want influence you should consider going elsewhere,'' he would tell prospective clients. ''What we can offer you is an extensive knowledge of how to deal with the Government on your problems. We will be able to give you advice on how best to present your position to the appropriate departments and agencies of the Government.''
He gave the same speech to the Arab investors who came to see him in 1978, the same investors who, it turned out, were front men for the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. The bank, which was chartered in Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands and had offices in 70 countries, was shut down in July 1991 in a worldwide swoop by banking regulators.
B.C.C.I. was accused of fraud, laundering drug money and bribing bank regulators and central bankers in 10 developing countries.
The Importance Of Credibility
In an interview in the mid-1980's, Mr. Clifford said his concept of the practice of law ''is that through the years you conduct yourself in such a manner that the staffs of the Government agencies have confidence in your integrity and your credibility.'' He added, ''I've never contended that I have influence, felt I had influence or attempted to use influence.''
It was precisely his reputation for integrity and credibility that led the group of Arab investors to seek Mr. Clifford's help in the late 1970's when they wanted to acquire an American bank. The Federal Reserve Board approved the takeover in 1981, reassured by Mr. Clifford that there would be no control by B.C.C.I., which he also represented. The fact that Mr. Clifford himself was to become chairman of the bank further reassured the regulators. The bank, with Mr. Clifford as its chairman, was called First American Bankshares and became the largest in Washington.
Ten years later, Robert M. Morgenthau, the District Attorney in Manhattan, disclosed that his office had found evidence that the parent company of Mr. Clifford's bank was secretly controlled by B.C.C.I. The District Attorney convened a grand jury to determine whether Mr. Clifford and his partner, Mr. Altman, had deliberately misled Federal regulators by assuring them that B.C.C.I. would have no control.
Mr. Clifford's predicament worsened when it was disclosed that he had made about $6 million in profits from bank stock that he bought with an unsecured loan from B.C.C.I. A New York grand jury handed up indictments, as did the Justice Department. Mr. Clifford's assets in New York, where he kept most of his investments, were frozen.
Mr. Clifford said the investigation caused him pain. If the regulators had been deceived about any secret ownership by B.C.C.I., he said, he, too, had been deceived.
But if he was deceived, it would have been an aberration. While Washington lawyers like Mr. Clifford say they do not ''sell'' influence, what they do offer is sophistication, experience and knowledge of the mechanics of government. That is why it was so difficult for people to believe that Mr. Clifford, who was so experienced at seeing around corners and anticipating problems for his clients, could have been duped by front men for B.C.C.I.
''It's easy to say I should have known, but a client tells his lawyer what the client wants the lawyer to know,'' Mr. Clifford said. ''I have to admit that they came to me because of my standing and reputation. If you think of that, then youɽ understand better that Iɽ be the last person theyɽ divulge this stuff to. I gave them standing. Why would they jeopardize that? They knew if they told me Iɽ be out the door.''
A 'Wretched' War: Pride and Regrets
Although he spent a total of only six years in Government service, those were the years that he liked to dwell upon. Looking back one day in the mid-1980's as he was preparing to publish his memoirs, he said in his customary measured tones, ''I believe the contribution I made to reversing our policy in that wretched conflict in Vietnam is very likely the most gratifying experience I have had.''
There was no sense of self-congratulation. ''I was part of the generation that I hold responsible for our country's getting into that war,'' he said. ''I should have reached the conclusion earlier that our participation in that war was a dead end.''
Mr. Clifford added: ''I've been quite severe with myself that I didn't make a greater issue of it with President Johnson. I permitted myself to be lulled into a false sense of optimism over reports that came back from Vietnam.''
But in the nine months that he headed the Defense Department, succeeding Robert S. McNamara in 1968, Mr. Clifford used everything he had ever learned about the levers of power, all his skill as an advocate and all his political capital to persuade the President not to further escalate the role of American ground troops in South Vietnam. United States military involvement in Southeast Asia, Mr. Clifford argued, was sapping the nation's strength as a world power.
In his later years, no longer in Government service, he sought to end the arms race as he once tried to end America's participation in the Vietnam War. When he began in Government, the world had two atomic bombs. Within four decades the world had 24,000 nuclear bombs, and that awesome fact continued to preoccupy him long after he left public office.
In the Truman years, Mr. Clifford wrote that military power was the only language the Soviet Union understood. He was nevertheless a consistent advocate of finding a way to coexist with the Russians, and urged the adoption of arms agreements and a nuclear freeze. He often said he was haunted by a remark Winston Churchill had made about the superpowers and the arms race: 'ɺll they're going to do is make the rubble bounce.''
Old World Grace, Midwest Openness
Trim and disciplined -- he kept his weight at 180 pounds and allowed himself dessert only when he fell below that, and he smoked one cigarette a day, proving to doubters that he could do it -- Mr. Clifford was the personification of Old World grace combined with a kind of Midwestern openness.
To close the door on entering Mr. Clifford's office meant to close out the hurried pace of the 20th century and to return to the more measured rhythm of the 19th. In the cauldron of the Vietnam-era Pentagon or in the paneled luxury of his Connecticut Avenue office, there was always time for the niceties of conversation. He would inquire after one's spouse, and ask whether the children were writing from college.
The quintessential insider, Mr. Clifford had access to the corridors of power and to the private clubs that were the marks of success. He tried to play golf at Burning Tree Country Club in Maryland every weekend, but he liked to take his lunch at the People's Drugstore around the corner from his office. He said he could have a sandwich and a glass of skim milk in 22 minutes at the lunch counter there, while his occasional visits to the Metropolitan Club meant an hour and 22 minutes.
His office kept a car and chauffeur at his disposal but, until his health declined, he liked to drive himself to work from his 150-year-old house on Rockville Pike in Bethesda.
No one can recall a time when Mr. Clifford raised his voice. What Washington veterans do remember was his ability, even into his 80's, to speak, seemingly extemporaneously and without notes, for 40 minutes. In fact, Mr. Clifford prepared every statement carefully and then memorized it. ''The mind is a muscle,'' he said. ''The more I use it the better it gets.''
Mr. Clifford had a way of taking his listeners step by step through an argument, pausing now and then to ask rhetorically, 'ɽo you see?'' as he ushered them along with him with carefully reasoned logic.
'ɼlark was so smooth that when you lost with him, you thought youɽ won,'' said Phil G. Goulding, an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Mr. Clifford.
His Father's Words: 'To Live Is to Work'
Clark McAdams Clifford was born in Fort Scott, Kan., on Dec. 25, 1906. He was named for his mother's brother, Clark McAdams, a crusading editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His mother, Georgia McAdams Clifford, was, as her son remembered her, a great storyteller, very dramatic and '𧯪utiful beyond belief.'' His father was an official of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, a man who, Mr. Clifford said, ''instilled in me the precept that to live is to work.''
''He developed in me habits of industry -- too much, my wife thinks sometimes,'' Mr. Clifford said.
He was given chores to do when he was a boy, and as he got older the tasks increased. When the family moved to St. Louis he was a delivery boy for a grocery store and, in the summertime, was a night delivery boy for a drugstore. He also remembered earning $30 a month for singing in a choir.
''I had an extremely happy childhood it was ideal,'' Mr. Clifford said. ''I thought everybody loved his mother and father and would go to the wall for his sister. Boy, was I naive!''
Mr. Clifford attended college and law school at Washington University in St. Louis. On graduating in 1928 he entered law practice there. In the summer of 1929, while traveling in Europe, he met a Boston woman, Margery Pepperell Kimball. They were married on Oct. 3, 1931. In addition to his wife, he is survived by their three daughters, Faith Christian of Chico, Calif., Dr. Joyce Burland of Halifax, Vt., and Randall C. Wight of Baltimore 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
From Naval Aide To Truman Adviser
Although Mr. Clifford was over the draft age and already a father when the United States entered World War II, he volunteered for the Navy in 1943 and was accepted as a lieutenant junior grade. After an assignment to assess the state of readiness at naval bases on the West Coast, he was drawn into the White House in 1944, where he began a career, as the columnist James Reston once put it, of rescuing American Presidents from disaster.
In July 1945, when Truman attended the Potsdam Conference near Berlin, Mr. Clifford found he did not have enough to do. ''You're kind of a potted plant when you're a naval aide,'' he recalled. ''So I offered to be helpful to Judge Samuel I. Rosenman, the special counsel, who had more work than he could handle.'' When the President returned, Mr. Rosenman said, ''Let's keep that young fellow here.''
As a speechwriter, and later as special counsel to Truman, Mr. Clifford helped articulate the Truman Doctrine, a program proposed in 1947 to help Greece and Turkey resist potential Communist expansionism, and related innovative programs for assisting underdeveloped countries.
Mr. Clifford also participated in the creation of the Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of Western Europe and in the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
It fell to Mr. Clifford to be Secretary of State George C. Marshall's adversary on the issue of recognition of Israel. ''President Truman said he would like me to prepare the case for the formation of a Jewish homeland as if it were a case to be presented to the Supreme Court,'' Mr. Clifford said.
Marshall, who opposed recognition, became almost apoplectic at a White House meeting when Mr. Clifford made his points -- points that he could still reel off in detail 40 years later. When Truman decided in favor of immediate recognition of Israel, Mr. Clifford said, there were some tense days until Marshall relented.
Mr. Clifford insisted that Truman acted out of conviction and humanitarian considerations, and not for domestic political advantage, as Marshall had suggested.
In his years in the Truman White House, Mr. Clifford was a poker-playing regular of the kitchen cabinet he even played a hand or two with Churchill.
Mr. Clifford was an important architect of the President's ''give ɾm hell Harry'' whistle-stop campaign in 1948, when Truman won an upset victory over the Republican nominee, Thomas E. Dewey.
Mr. Clifford was also one of the principal architects of the National Security Act of 1947, which unified the armed services and established the Central Intelligence Agency. Amendments that he framed two years later greatly strengthened the authority of the Secretary of Defense.
In his memoirs, he expressed regret that he had not made a greater effort to kill the loyalty program instituted to root out Communist subversives. But he has been criticized for contributing to the climate of fear -- the proposition that ''the United States must be prepared to wage atomic and biological warfare if necessary.''
Mr. Clifford left the White House in 1950 to open a law firm in Washington, hoping to repair his personal finances, which had been tattered by his years in the Government, most of them at an annual salary of $12,000.
When Truman discussed with him the possibility of a seat on the Supreme Court, Mr. Clifford told him he would not be happy there. In 1949 he turned down an offer from a group of prominent Missouri Democrats to run for the Senate.
''Iɽ been in the Navy and the White House for almost seven years,'' he said, looking back at that period. ''I had three growing daughters reaching the age when daughters become expensive, and going through this economic ordeal again that Iɽ been through was an obstructing factor I could not overcome at that time.''
After leaving the Government, Mr. Clifford overcame his economic problems so quickly that within four months he was able to move his family from a rented house in Chevy Chase, Md., to the historic house on three acres outside Bethesda that was his home for the rest of his life.
Clients lined up outside his door. One of the first was Mr. Hughes, who asked Mr. Clifford to be the Washington counsel for Trans World Airlines. There followed a clientele that represented blue-chip America and included General Electric, A.T. & T., I.T.T, the RCA Corporation, ABC, Du Pont, Hughes Tool, Time Inc., Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and El Paso Natural Gas.
In time, the man whose early ambition was to be the finest trial lawyer in St. Louis became the first Washington lawyer to make a million dollars a year, a Washington superlawyer -- highly paid, it was thought, because he could fix things for his clients. Mr. Clifford said he always found that concept deeply disturbing.
But the legend of his influence had grown so that a favorite story around Washington was that whenever Mr. Clifford had occasion to go to a Government office on behalf of a client, the meeting would be interrupted by the announcement that the President was calling Mr. Clifford.
''That happened exactly once,'' he protested. The President, he said, was Kennedy, and there was a genuine emergency at the White House.
In the Eisenhower years Mr. Clifford was not called by the White House, but he remained active in Democratic politics. He was also the personal lawyer for Kennedy, then a young Senator from Massachusetts.
In 1960, when Kennedy won the Democratic nomination for President over Stuart Symington, whom Mr. Clifford had supported, Kennedy asked Mr. Clifford to prepare an analysis of the problems Kennedy would face in taking over the executive branch. Mr. Clifford wrote a detailed assessment and, after the election, was named to head the transition team.
At a dinner shortly after his election, Kennedy paid tribute to Mr. Clifford for all the work he had done and for asking nothing in return. 'ɺll he asked was that we advertise his law firm on the back of one-dollar bills,'' the President-elect quipped.
After the abortive invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, an operation supported by the C.I.A., Kennedy again turned to Mr. Clifford, who in 1947 had written the legislation establishing the agency. The President asked him to become a member, and then chairman, of the newly created Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Kennedy also turned to Mr. Clifford a year later, when the nation's major steel companies refused to honor an agreement that the President thought he had with them not to increase prices. The companies backed down several days later, after Mr. Clifford convinced them that it would be in their best interest to rescind the increases.
President Johnson was hardly in office 24 hours when he called for Mr. Clifford. Faced with the sudden and enormous task of running the country after Kennedy's assassination, Johnson talked with Mr. Clifford for two hours, then three, then four. It was late in the evening, Mr. Clifford remembered, when Lady Bird Johnson entered the Oval Office and reminded her husband, ''Just because you're President now doesn't mean you don't have to eat dinner.''
Mr. Clifford's warm relationship with Johnson became strained and almost broke over Vietnam in 1967, when Johnson asked him to be Secretary of Defense. Mr. Clifford's first assignment was to determine how to meet Gen. William C. Westmoreland's request for 206,000 more American troops in Vietnam. The special panel Mr. Clifford set up to study the issue soon became a forum for debating the rationale for the war.
Because he then had the complete confidence of the President, whom he had known for more than 20 years, and because he had the luxury of not being bound to previous official positions on Vietnam, Mr. Clifford was able to ask the difficult questions. He did not like the answers. No one could say whether the 206,000 troops would be enough. No one could say whether the war would take another six months, a year, two years or more.
Mr. Clifford finally came to the conclusion that there was no plan for military victory in Vietnam and that the United States was in what he called 'ɺ kind of bottomless pit.'' He said he realized that ''we could be there year after year, sacrificing tens of thousands of American boys a year, and it just didn't add up.''
When Mr. Clifford began to oppose Johnson on the war, a rift opened. Mr. Clifford remembered a ''sense of personal hurt that I was doing this to him.'' To help heal the breach, Mr. Clifford asked Johnson to have lunch at his home on his final day in Washington, the day Richard M. Nixon was inaugurated as President. Johnson accepted and, as one of his last official acts, awarded Mr. Clifford the Medal of Freedom with Distinction, the highest award given to civilians in the United States.
Having persuaded Johnson to cut back the bombing and negotiate an end to the war, Mr. Clifford spent the next years trying to urge President Nixon to end the war. His efforts led Vice President Agnew to accuse him of being 'ɺ late-blooming opportunist who clambered aboard the rolling bandwagon of the doves when the flak really started to fly.''
Except for Mr. Agnew's comments and a broadside from Ramparts magazine at the other side of the political spectrum, Mr. Clifford's more than 40 years in Washington passed with a relative absence of criticism, until the bank scandal broke. At the time, no one paid much attention when Ramparts called Mr. Clifford a 'ɼurious hybrid of Rasputin, Perry Como and Mr. Fix,'' in an article that depicted him as an architect of United States economic imperialism and linked that role to his legal work representing major multinational corporations.
Only once in his long career did he step out of character, and that was when he referred to President Ronald Reagan as an 'ɺmiable dunce.'' The remark was made at a private dinner party but, unknown to Mr. Clifford, a tape recording had been made so that the hostess, who was ill with the flu and unable to come to her own party, could hear what was expected to be some sparkling conversation. Excerpts from that tape were published out of context.
Mr. Clifford explained his remark this way: ''In the fall of 1982, President Reagan said he would cut taxes by $750 billion, substantially increase defense expenditures and balance the budget in the 1984 fiscal year. Those were public promises. I made a comment that if he would accomplish that feat, heɽ be a national hero. If, on the other hand, it did not work out after such a specific and encouraging promise and commitment, I thought the American people would regard him as an amiable dunce.''
Given the opportunity some time later to retract his remark, however, Mr. Clifford declined to do so.
In time, even President Carter, who kept his distance from the Washington establishment, turned to Mr. Clifford for advice when Mr. Carter's budget director, Bert Lance, came under attack for his banking practices in Georgia. A former Kennedy aide later remarked, ''They ran against Washington, but when the water comes up to their knees they call for Clark Clifford.''
A New Challenge In His Later Years
It was Mr. Lance who introduced Mr. Clifford to the Arab investors who sought to take over the bank in Washington that was to become known as First American Bank. Mr. Clifford and his young partner, Mr. Altman, structured the deal that led to the takeover of the bank and, according to prosecutors, the success of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International in the United States. Mr. Clifford said to the end that he did not know that B.C.C.I. had been behind the purchase of the bank.
For him, the bank became a new challenge for his later years. He looked at his contemporaries and did not like what he saw, he said in an interview in The Washington Post.
''Some of them would go with their wives each morning to the market and help with the marketing, pushing those carts and all,'' he told the interviewer. ''Well, I didn't find that very appealing.''
And so he accepted the clients who are now known to have been associated with B.C.C.I., and agreed to become the chairman of First American Bank. In itself, some lawyers saw his wearing of two hats as a conflict of interest.
Mr. Clifford was called before Congressional committees and had his lawyers send reams of material to the prosecutors in an effort to show that his work for B.C.C.I. and First American was proper.
How will history judge Clark Clifford, he was asked by a visitor to his office several months before he was indicted. ''It depends on the ultimate result,'' he said. ''If it comes and goes and nothing else happens, gradually it gets swallowed up in history. If it turns out badly, as far as history is concerned I've taken a bad tumble.''
The Clark M. Clifford Page
Truman's Sep. 6, 1945 message to Congress, reportedly the first to address health, was a reflection of the influence of Mary Lasker and Florence Mahoney. Truman's 1948 presidential campaign "received direct input from Mahoney and Lasker through their friendship with Clark Clifford. " "The three often dined together, making up what Clifford jokingly called 'our exclusive club.' By then he had replaced Rosenman as the president's special counsel. Mahoney and Lasker continually sent him material from the Nation's Health Committee, facts that he could use in speeches for the president." When Truman won the election, Clifford's chaffeur delivered a celebration basket of champaign and cheese from Florence Mahoney to the White House. (From: Noble Conspirator. Florence S. Mahoney and the Rise of the National Institutes of Health. By Judith Robinson. The Francis Press 2001.)
The Brown Shoe Company
Clark Clifford was brought to Washington through his connections to James K. Vardaman Jr., who had been a banker and owned a shoe company in St. Louis. He was Vardaman's lawyer as well as a social friend. The likely suspect is the Brown Shoe Company, established circa 1888, which owns the Famous Footwear, Buster Brown, Carlos, LifeStride, Dr. Scholl's, and Naturalizer lines. This company has a history of anti-tobacco fanaticism including refusing to employ smokers. On its Board of Directors are members of the family of J. Michael McGinnis, who is co-author of the health fascists' key source for the lie that lifestyle is the leading cause of death in the US (McGinnis & Foege, Journal of the American Medical Association 1993). Principal holders of the company's stock are Dimensional Fund Advisors Inc, 8.78% FMR Corp. of Boston, 6.46% (controlled by Edward C. Johnson 3d and Abigail P. Johnson, this fund has over $1 trillion in assets and is the largest stockholder in Philip Morris as well) Mellon Financial Corporation and certain of its subsidiaries, 5.59% and Fleet National Bank of Boston, 5.39%.
James K. Vardaman Jr. of St. Louis was appointed to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Apr. 4, 1946, and resigned Nov. 30, 1958. According to an oral history interview with Eben A. Ayers, a seventeen year veteran of the Associated Press and editor of the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal-Bulletin who was a press officer on the staff of President Truman, Vardaman's father was James K. Vardaman, a US Senator from Mississippi who was notorious for his racism.
James K. Vardaman Sr., from: The Ancestors of George & Hazel Mullins, by Philip Mullins. Chapter 14 - The Revolt of the Rednecks, 1903-1931.
Brown Group Inc.: W. L. Hadley Griffin, Chm. B. A. Bridgewater Jr, Pres. & CEO-Brown Group J. Carr Gamble Jr., Exec. V. Pres.-Brown Group. Richard W. Shomaker, Pres.-Brown Shoe Co. Ben Peck, Chm.-Wobl Shoe Co. Robert N. Stone, Pres.-Regal Shoe Shops (Large Employers of the St. Louis Region 1984-1985. St. Louis Regional Commerce & Growth Association, p. 34.)
The National Security Act of 1947
Israel and Palestine
"Corporate attorney Clark M. Clifford. was the Washington, DC insider who first put his thumb on the scale of U.S. Middle East policy to tilt it decisively toward Israel. Clifford's behind the scenes White House intervention in 1948 on Israel's behalf for domestic political purposes made him at least as responsible as any other American for the half-century of Middle Eastern turmoil and the hundreds of thousands of deaths that followed. One of Truman's decisions was to put the full diplomatic backing of the United States behind the November 1947 United Nations partition of Palestine. The UN plan gave 53 percent of the former British Mandate of Palestine to the one-third of its inhabitants who were Jewish and who owned only 7 percent of the land, and 47 percent of Palestine to the two-thirds who were Muslim and Christian Arabs. As predicted by the US foreign affairs establishment, this grossly unfair award of more than half of Palestine to its Jewish minority population precipitated bloody fighting almost as soon as the plan was announced." (Special Report. Insider Clark Clifford's death recalls two Mideast scandals: Premature recognition of Israel and BCCI. By Richard H. Curtiss, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 1998 Dec. pp 49-50.)
Paul Hoffman and The Marshall Plan
"[Dean] Acheson persuaded Navy secretary James Forrestal and domestic fixer Clark Clifford to show Truman how he could elevate a political scam like foreign aid into a mighty ideological struggle on the global stage."
RJ Reynolds Tobacco and Clifford, Warnke, Glass, McIlwain, and Finnay
"Clark Clifford: Advisor to Senator Muskie, advisor to Truman, handled transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy, Secretary of Defense under Johnson -- November 1967 to January 1969 -- originated White House Historical Association for Kennedy. Paul Warnke was a Covington and Burling partner from 1957 to 1966, when he went to the Pentagon, first as general counsel, then Assistant Secretary for Intenational Security Affairs. He came into Clifford's firm in 1969. Samuel D. McIlwain was in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Justice Department under Truman, and then counsel for the Senate Finance Committee in 1957-58. Larry L. Williams was an anti-trust trial lawyer for Justice Department 1958-1965. Carson M. Glass also spent a decade in the Justice Department. It has been said that Clifford hires only from the government. He says, 'We have to because we are specialists in dealing with the government.'" John F. Kevin, Harold D. Murry Jr., and Paul C. Warnke were attorneys for RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. (Report prepared "Upon request of the Director of the National Commission on Smoking and Public Policy (created by the American Cancer Society)" for its forum in Atlanta, June 14, 1977 by Louis U. Fink, Mar. 14, 1977, p. 8.) Clifford, Warnke, et al represented RJR in the FTC cigarette labeling litigation between 1975 and 1982 (in which another suspicious firm, Arnold and Porter represented Philip Morris), and in billboard litigation by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Paul C. Warnke, Esq., of Clifford & Warnke was a member of the Board of Directors of Georgetown University during 1987-88.
Food for Peace Council
Clark Clifford, Mary Lasker, and Florence Mahoney were members of the Food for Peace Council, circa 1961 George S. McGovern was its Director before he ran for the Senate in 1962. (Information from: Noble Conspirator, Florence S. Mahoney and the Rise of the National Institutes of Health. By Judith Robinson. The Francis Press 2001.)
The "Bank of Crooks and Criminals International"
(The BCCI Affair. A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, by Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Hank Brown, Dec. 1992.) The name of John Vardaman, a partner at Williams and Conolly, appears in Part 17, "BCCI's Lawyers and Lobbyists." [John W. Vardaman Jr. also filed a brief of amicus curiae urging affirmance on behalf of the American Tort Reform Association.]
"Clifford was the Chairman of First American Corporation from 1981 to August 1991 and was the Chairman of First American Bankshares from 1982 through August 1991. Clifford was also the Managing Director of CCAI and CCAH. Robert Altman was a Director and President of First American Corporation from 1981 to August 1991, and an officer of CCAI and CCAH. Both Clifford and Altman were legal counsel to BCCI and the record shareholders of FGB/CCAH." (Memorandum order, First American Corp. v. Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Naryan, March 26, 1996.)
Clark Clifford biographies
Clark McAdams Clifford was named for his mother's brother, Clark McAdams, "a crusading editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch." He attended college and law school at Washington University at St. Louis. "Clifford was also one of the principal architects of the National Security Act of 1947, which unified the armed services and established the CIA. After leaving the government, Clifford overcame his economic problems so quickly that within four months he was able to move his family from a rented house in Chevy Chase, Md., to the historic house on three acres outside of Bethesda that was his home for the rest of his life. Clients lined up outside his door. One of the first was [Howard] Hughes, who asked Clifford to be the Washington counsel for Trans World Airlines. There followed a clientel that represented blue-chip America and included General Electric, AT&T, ITT, RCA Corp., ABC, DuPont, Hughes Tool, Time Inc., Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and El Paso Natural Gas." His career was built upon the belief that "he could fix things for his clients as a result of his political connections," which Clifford denied. Like his Lasker Syndicate connections, he had a pass from the media, and "no one paid much attention when Ramparts called Clifford 'a curious hybrid of Rasputin, Perry Como and Mr. Fix,' in an article that depicted him as an architect of U.S. economic imperialism and linked that role to his legal work representing major multinational companies." He was President John F. Kennedy's personal lawyer and headed his presidential transition team and Secretary of the Defense Department for nine months at the end of the Johnson administration. Clifford structured the deal by which the Bank of Credit and Commerce International took over First American Bank. Depositors in third world countries lost billions when BCCI collapsed, while US deposits were insured by the FDIC. (Clark Clifford, Key Advisor to Four Presidents, Dies," by Marilyn Berger. New York Times 1998 Oct 11.)
"[H]e played a leading if often behind the scenes role in an estimated 11 presidential campaigns. In addition to his work for Truman and Johnson, he served Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter in a variety of sensitive and important special assignments. Clifford was known as a lawyer who was supremely urbane, intelligent and extraordinarily well connected at the highest levels of government. He was all but universally described as among the most effective and richest of Washington lawyers in the decades that followed World War II." (Washington Insider Clark Clifford Dies. By Bart Barnes, Washington Post 1998 Oct. 11, p A1.)
His biography at the Arlington National Cemetary website notes that "Clifford was director emeritus of Knight-Ridder Newspapers." His wife Margaret ("Marny"), who was a corporal in the US Army, is buried there also. Florence Mahoney's papers include correspondence with her from 1959, 1970, and 1973.
Clark M. Clifford Oral History, Interview 1, by Joe B. Frantz, Mar. 13, 1969 (although the date spoken is March 17, 1969).
Clark Clifford's partner Robert Altman
"While Clifford concentrated on cultivating Democrats, Altman developed friendships with members of both parties. His social success owed much to his wife, the actress Lynda Carter. She was known for her starring role in the 1970s television show Wonder Woman, based on the comic book character. In Washington, a city full of drab bureaucrats, she represented style and glamour, and the Altmans became prominent socialites. Their mansion in suburban Potomac, Maryland - purchased for $2.6 million 1987 - was the site of many opulent parties attended by the cream of official Washington. Lynda Carter has been nothing less than a magnet for several senior Republicans. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah displays a picture of himself with the actress in his office and frequently refers to her husband as 'my good friend.' The Altman's social circle also includes a large number of people close to George Bush.
". Altman has also been a generous donor. In 1991, it was reported that he had made about $23,872 in federal contributions since 1987. He gave $500 to two Democratic candidates during the 1988 presidential race, Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts and Congressman Gephardt. Altman's wife contributed $4,000 to candidates for federal office in 1987-88, including $1,000 to the presidential campaign of the Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. She also gave to Congressman John Dingell of Michigan." (From: False Profits. By Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin. Houghton Mifflin 1992.)
Truman Advisor Clark Clifford Opposes State Department on Partition
In two detailed memoranda to President Truman, Special Presidential Counsel Clark Clifford (shown in the photo) emphatically favored both the partition of Palestine and the lifting of an arms embargo imposed on Jewish forces in Palestine. Clifford found himself in direct opposition to the staunchly held views of the State Department, particularly Loy Henderson and George Kennan in the Policy Planning Branch, and Secretary of State Marshall. Clifford’s short memorandum was written on March 6, with a more lengthy dispatch dated March 8, 1948. Together they were the most forceful pro-Zionist statements by a Truman administration official in the months between the vote on partition in November 1947 and Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.
Clark Clifford did not want the US to waiver from the partition resolution passed at the UN in November, the resolution that called for the division of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with an economic union between them, and a special international regime for Jerusalem. Partition, he argued, was the only course of action to strengthen America’s position in the region vis-a-vis Russia. He said, “Jettisoning of the United Nations (vote) would be calamitous to American morale.” Clifford told Truman that he was thoroughly opposed to all acts of appeasement that were being made toward the Arabs, particularly the Arab desire to have the US delay the implementation of partition. “Shipments of arms should be freely allowed…this will give the Jewish militia and Hagana, which are striving to implement the UN decision, equal opportunity with the Arabs to arm for self-defense.” Among other points he made, he argued “that our Arabian oil supplies will not be imperiled if we support the (UN) Assembly’s resolution (on partition). The fact of the matter is that the Arab states must have oil royalties or go broke…political and economic self-preservation will compel the Arabs to sell their oil to the United States.” Truman of course did not back away from supporting partition and Israel’s independence, though the State Department’s pressure on Truman to do so might have succeeded had Clark Clifford’s forceful views not been presented to Truman.