Oral History Interview with
Assistant to White House Naval Aide, 1945-46; Special Counsel
to the President, 1946-50.
CLARK M. CLIFFORD
Washington, D. C.
April 13, 1971
by Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Clifford Oral History
Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry
S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee
but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember
that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced
for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission
of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened April, 1977
Harry S. Truman Library
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Clifford Oral History
Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed
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HESS: To begin today, Mr. Clifford, do you recall if Hugh Fulton may
have been under consideration for a position as Special Counsel or Attorney
General at the time Mr. Truman took over the office of the Presidency?
CLIFFORD: I would not have any information on that because when I came
in about May of 1945, I had had no previous acquaintanceship with President
Truman. I had no knowledge regarding the associations that he had with
any number of men. I met Hugh Fulton during that period, from time to
time at the White House, but I was not privy to President Truman's plans
with reference to him.
HESS: One point, to keep things in chronological order, also, what stands
out in your mind concerning
the events around the White House at the day
that the Japanese surrendered in August. Anything in particular?
CLIFFORD: I remember at that time that we had given some attention to
the statement that President Truman made on radio. And it was a time,
obviously, of great rejoicing. I remember being interested in when
he was going to make the announcement, what was to be said, and
when that was done, then I remember everybody pretty well declared the
rest of the day a holiday. My wife was in town at the time, and I remember
that we went our perhaps in the late afternoon, and stayed out all
through dinner time, all through the evening, just mixing with
the crowd. It was a marvelous experience. Everybody knew everybody,
everybody was everybody's friend, any time a soldier would walk down the
street, all the girls would stop and kiss him. It was a most . . .
HESS: A good day to be in the Army.
CLIFFORD: It was a most wonderful spirit of comraderie among all Americans,
a time of great rejoicing and all. I know we got a great psychological
lift out of it.
HESS: All right, moving on in time, Mr. Truman sent a message to Congress
on September the 6th of 1945, the twenty-one point message, and in his
Memoirs you are referred to in this context, and Mr. Truman says:
I sent the final revised version to the printer, and when the galley
proofs were ready I called Clark Clifford, John Steelman, John Snyder,
Charlie Ross, and several other advisers. With Rosenman, we went over
the proofs point by point . . . .
What comes to mind when you look back on that message?
CLIFFORD: My recollection of it would be that I had worked with Judge
Rosenman on it in a minor
capacity. It was mainly his job. I believe
that what Judge Rosenman wished to accomplish by it, and President Truman
was to show a continuity of governing and a continuity of policy between
the Franklin Roosevelt Administration and the Truman Administration. It
was something of a reiteration of the basic principles that Judge Rosenman
had worked on with Franklin Roosevelt, and I believe that President Truman
wanted his team in on a conference to determine whether or not it would
be right for him.
At that particular time, my own view of it was that it was a correct
position for him to take. I believe that what he wanted to do was to demonstrate
continuity of policy to the American people. It was not a time with all
that was happening, to inform the American people that they were going
to have a great shift in governmental policy. I think
any new President
coming in under those circumstances is interested in demonstrating continuity.
It helps keep the Ship of State on an even course, so that the public
doesn't get an idea that there's vacillation going on on the bridge.
And in this instance, I'm sure that we all met and went over it and exchanged
ideas. It is my recollection that the twenty-one point message came out
pretty much as Judge Rosenman had originally prepared it. I don't believe
that there was much modification of it. I might say (and we'll touch on
it later) that as we got on into '46 and '47, I think that we changed
from the policy of showing continuity to a policy that showed an affirmative
effort on the part of President Truman to develop a Truman program as
distinguished from a continuation of a Roosevelt program.
HESS: Was there a conscious effort on the part of the
White House staff
at this time, say in the summer and early fall of '45, to show a continuation
and to say that we should carry on with the Roosevelt policy.
CLIFFORD: I would say that it was more one of general attitude than it
being a specific formulated policy. When President Truman came in, the
war was still on in both theaters. I suppose it was in May that the European
phase ended, May of '45 . . .
CLIFFORD: In April the European phase ended, and then in August the Japanese
phase ended. We were still carrying on in the Roosevelt tradition through
that time. And I'd say for the balance of '45 there was still a basic
concept, "Let's carry on with the program the Franklin Roosevelt started."
That was very much the
feeling, I believe, on the part of all of
us at that time.
HESS: One other quote about that particular meeting that the President
had on the twenty-one points message. He said:
Most of my advisers agreed with the message, but some of my more
conservative associates advised me against this definite commitment
to such liberal measures. One of these was John Snyder, who at that
time was Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion.
At this time did you notice any beginnings of a struggle between the
so-called liberal and conservative elements for the President's attention?
CLIFFORD: I was not conscious of it that early. The fact is that I had
known John Snyder before I came to Washington. I had known him slightly
in St. Louis, and I had an office in the White House in the East Wing
where he had one. I saw
him from time to time. We were working together
and I was, at that early stage, not conscious of the beginning of the
struggle that was later to become so important. Also, I had not, by that
time, worked into the inner counsel sufficiently to be conscious of the
various cross-currents which were even then obviously starting to flow.
HESS: When things began to shape up between the conservatives and the
liberal elements who were a few of the people in each camp?
CLIFFORD: I would say that as we got on into '46 I became conscious of
two major forces which were pulling and tugging at the President. And
on the liberal side, I would say that Oscar Chapman would be an important
figure, and I believe, I might have talked about the Oscar Ewing group?
Did I go into that?
HESS: We haven't touched on that yet.
CLIFFORD: We haven't? All right, well, that was one of the most significant
developments that took place. There were others . . .
HESS: Did that--we'll cover that later, but did that start in '46?
CLIFFORD: Probably that did not start until either the end of '46 or
the beginning of '47. I'm not sure I can just designate at the very beginning
who the liberal forces were; it wasn't too clear. Most of the old Roosevelt
appointees had been of liberal persuasion. By the end of '45 most of them
had gone. Now, on the other side, I think that as time went on, John Snyder
headed up the conservative group. I think I'd put Clinton Anderson, the
Secretary of Agriculture, in that group. That would be about as far as
I could go.
HESS: Any White House members, any White House staff members?
CLIFFORD: I think that I would put, generally, I'd put Dr. [John R.]
Steelman more in the conservative camp than I would in the liberal camp.
Oftentimes the line of demarcation was not too sharp. I think that a man
like Charlie Ross might sometime be in one camp and sometimes in the other.
He was more likely to be in the liberal camp than in the conservative
camp, but in those early stages the lines were not nearly so clearly drawn.
Later on they did become very clear.
HESS: Do you recall the incident, or the occasion, w hen you first noticed
that there were two such forces?
CLIFFORD: No. I would not be able to pick up . . .
HESS: Can't pin it down?
CLIFFORD: I would not be able to be that specific. I would say that in
the first half of '46, while I was still in the Naval Aide's office, I
started doing some of the duties that had previously been assigned to
Judge Rosenman. Also, I remember working quite closely with John Snyder
during that period. I remember writing speeches for him. And then we came
to the railroad situation in the spring of '46.
HESS: That's right.
CLIFFORD: And I'm sure that John Snyder probably applauded my efforts
at that time in writing that very rough speech for the President.
I might add that I later thought that maybe the speech was too rough,
but certainly at the time it helped accomplish the purpose. It broke the
strike and kept the railroads running.
And then later that year we got into the real serious imbroglio
with John Lewis. At that time I suppose that John Snyder probably applauded
my efforts in that regard, because I counseled the President to take a
very hard line with Lewis.
CLIFFORD: Because I thought we could not permit a strike. We were just
coming out of the wartime economy, the peacetime economy really was teetering
in balance, and a coal strike at that time would have dealt the economy
a blow from which it might not have recovered for years. It so happened
that I remember there were very short supplies of coal all over the country.
And if we had a strike, our public utilities would have been forced to
shut down, our office buildings would have had to shut down because
elevators couldn't run, and our schools and hospitals would have had to
close. I felt that Lewis was wrong and I felt that the President was going
to have to take a hard stand.
Also, I thought that it was an excellent opportunity for President Truman
to be a very strong President. And he was a strong President; and
he busted that matter wide open and it did a great deal for him.
He took the case to court and it was tried and he won, and it went to
the Supreme Court where the decision was affirmed. And I think it was
that case together with the railroad strike that began to develop a real
place for President Truman. Up until that time he was but a carbon copy,
and a rather pale carbon copy, of Franklin Roosevelt. And I think that,
although he had to take a very hard position in both of those
they both turned out successfully. In politics, it's really success that
HESS: Do you recall the nature of the advice the President received in
the Lewis matter from the Department of Labor and from John Steelman,
his labor man in residence in the White House?
CLIFFORD: They were both of the strong conviction that a settlement
should be worked out, and that we should not get into a law suit
over it. They felt it was better to work it out with Lewis and conceded
that some kind of strike might be necessary. They didn't want to get into
this kind of head-on contest.
Fortunately, President Truman rejected that advice, and did engage
in it, and the courts and the public ultimately held that he was right
and Lewis was wrong. And curiously enough, out of that struggle came a
lasting friendship between
President Truman and John L. Lewis. John L.
Lewis developed a lot of respect for President Truman in that fight, because
he had given him a whale of a licking, and there weren't many who had
given John L. Lewis a licking up until that time. And it was an interesting
result; they both had a very real respect for each other, and later became
HESS: We have mentioned the fact that several of the Roosevelt people
stayed over in the Truman administration for a period of time. Did you
detect any note, or feeling, of resentment on the part of the Roosevelt
people against Mr. Truman, in the nature that they thought he might not
be up to Mr. Roosevelt's standards?
CLIFFORD: Oh, unquestionably. As far as I was concerned, that was the
attitude of practically all of the Roosevelt appointees.
HESS: How about Judge Rosenman?
CLIFFORD: Judge Rosenman could very well have been the exception
to it. And I think there was another exception and that would have been
Steve Early. I think that those two could have constituted exceptions,
but you have to think back about the climate at the time. Franklin Roosevelt
was a towering figure. He had had a very successful term as President;
he had helped bring the country out of the depression of the thirties;
he had been the wartime President in the first half of the forties (and
successfully so), he was bringing the war to a successful conclusion when
he died in April of 1945.
Then came President Truman, who was not nearly so well-known, who didn't
have the style and the grand manner of FDR, and it was a very serious
let-down for the Roosevelt
appointees, and they went rather quickly. And
I think it was wise that they did, because President Truman was not comfortable
with them and he began to organize his own team, with whom he felt comfortable
and with whom he could work more effectively.
HESS: Now, getting ahead of the game a little bit, but in 1946, an off-year
election when the 80th Congress came in, during the campaign Mr. Truman's
activities were held down, and I recall that there were a good many Roosevelt
speeches on records which were used quite extensively. And there were
clubs for--it was almost as if the Democrats were running Roosevelt as
head of the party and not Mr. Truman.
CLIFFORD: I think that's right, and I think the significance of that
is clear. Franklin Roosevelt died a hero in office, and it was claimed
that he was a casualty of the war, just like the
man who carried the gun,
as the burdens of office had been so great for him. There was a great
outpouring of sympathy and admiration for FDR, and it was a very difficult
time for the Vice President to come in. With the elections coming on in
'46 the Democrats in a great many parts of the country, instead of pushing
President Truman, pushed the Roosevelt program. They thought they had
a more saleable article. "Keep the present administration in and you keep
the Roosevelt program," was pretty much the philosophy at the time.
HESS: Do you recall President Truman's attitude about this particular
CLIFFORD: Not in any detail. I think he accepted it philosophically.
I think he sensed why people felt that way about it. You will remember
that when he ascended to the office of the President, he said that he
felt like the roof had just fallen
in on him. And I think he understood
it very well. I don't believe it was a matter of very much concern to
him that certain people felt that way. As a matter of fact, the election
of November of '46 was to a great extent a question of whether or not
the country wanted to continue on with the Roosevelt program. By that
time President Truman had pretty well adopted it in the twenty-one point
message in September of '45. He continued to go on with FDR's programs
without rocking the boat. In November of '46, the people were sick and
tired of the war, and tired of the effect of the war on the economy.
I remember one of the big issues at that time were price controls, that
people had gotten sick of. I think to a certain extent, the election in
November of 1946 was rather comparable to the British election in the
spring of '45
which seemed absolutely unbelievable to us. After
Winston Churchill took the British people through the most grievous experience
in British history successfully, to a great extent by the strength of
his character and his integrity, they turned him out of office under the
most embarrassing circumstances. The British election was held in the
spring and early summer of '45 during the Potsdam Conference.
HESS: Right during the Potsdam Conference.
CLIFFORD: And Winston Churchill was representing the British Empire at
the Potsdam Conference; the election then takes place, and he is defeated
in a most humiliating way. He had to get up and leave the Potsdam Conference
and go back to England and Clement Attlee came over and took his place.
So, there was a certain amount, I think, of that general public reaction
November '46 election came up. They were sick of the war and
they were sick of all that went with it, and . . .
HESS: Time for a change, more or less.
CLIFFORD: . . . turn the folks out--time for a change, that's right.
HESS: Return to normalcy, as they said after the First World War.
CLIFFORD: That was Warren Harding's slogan, "Return to normalcy."
HESS: That's right.
At one point you mention that in your opinion Mr. Truman was a very strong
man. I would like to ask when you first noticed that characteristic about
CLIFFORD: I would say that one would not notice it
at first because when
he came into the Presidency, the office was so new to him. Franklin Roosevelt
had taken no steps at all to prepare Vice President Truman to assume
the former's office. My own view of it is, I believe, that Franklin Roosevelt
did not think he ever was going to die and so there was no need to prepare
anybody else to be his successor. And when President Truman came in, it
was a trying time, and since he was new at the job, it took him quite
a while before he began to assert himself. I believe the first time (and
I'm sure there were more minor ones) that it was dramatic and important
and came to the attention of the public in the early spring of '46, when
he had the railroad strike. He showed plenty of courage at that time.
Nobody had stepped up to these fellows before. They really had run it
just the way they had wanted to run it; he stepped up to them and there
no question at all about President Truman's courage from that standpoint.
He did the same thing in the contest with John L. Lewis. On the other
side of the ledger, he showed quite a lot of courage in stepping up and
vetoing the Taft-Hartley Act, since he felt that the Act was definitely
inimical to the interests of labor. He was getting a lot of advice at
the time to go ahead and sign it but he stepped up and vetoed it. He wrote
a fine veto message, a strong, ringing veto message.
Two or three years ago I had some occasion to check that and it has stood
the test of time very well. It was a cracking good message.
HESS: Did you help write that?
CLIFFORD: Yes. It's his message, though; all an adviser does is to help
a President draft it. You get his ideas and then you try to formulate
his ideas. You turn them over to him and he does
what he wants with it.
It becomes the President's statement.
Nobody really writes anything for a President. You assist a President,
but it's the President who makes the policy, and it's the President
in the final analysis whose words they become.
HESS: How important do you think Mr. Truman's veto of the Taft-Hartley
Act was in his victory in 1948?
CLIFFORD: It had some usefulness. It was one of a series of actions on
his part that showed his interest in, and dedication to, the advancement
of working people in the country. Labor was very helpful in that campaign.
You're familiar with the political memorandum that I wrote for the campaign.
What we were aiming for at that time were various large voting blocs.
In that regard we made a real pitch
for labor, and rightly so,
because the President felt a very real sympathy with the working
people. That was one of the voting blocs we went out to get.
Another was the Negro. There had been a lot of talk prior to President
Truman about civil rights. He's the first one who really did something
about it, in my opinion. He put into operation, for instance, certain
regulations in our military forces that had never been in operation before.
He had a civil rights program and that's why the South walked out on him.
That was another voting bloc.
Another bloc was the consumers. Another was the farmer. And those were
four great blocs, voting blocs, that we made a very real bid for,
and they are the ones that pretty well carried us through.
HESS: When we get up to the subject of the 1948
campaign, we will want
to go through that very important memo quite extensively. I will just
mention one thing in passing, though, I think you missed it on the South,
isn't that right?
CLIFFORD: I did.
HESS: Remember that?
CLIFFORD: I did, I had some language in there that . . .
HESS: "The South has nowhere else to go," or something to that effect.
CLIFFORD: Oh, it was terrible!
HESS: I have it here with me today, but I won't dig it up right now.
We'll get into it later.
HESS: But, why did you feel that way about the South? Do you recall?
CLIFFORD: It was traditional. I felt that when the chips were down in
1948, that although the South had bucked before, and the South had not
been fond of Franklin Roosevelt or Mrs. Roosevelt, when the time came
to vote, why, they had voted Democratic. And I thought that we had not
pushed the South beyond the limit that they would accept. I was wrong.
Now, in some other parts of the memorandum that I think the prophesies,
or predictions, turned out to be pretty accurate. On that one I placed
too much reliance on the tradition of past elections, and the historic
loyalty of the South to the Democratic Party. The fact is they were completely
fed up with the progress that he was making in the ci vil rights field.
I remember, for instance, a Jefferson-Jackson dinner in the spring, I
think it was, of 1948, in which South Carolina had taken a
Alabama, and Georgia. There were about five or six of those tables that
ended up completely empty at that dinner. That was the South's way of
protesting. They were not going to come and attend a Democratic dinner
at which the President of the United States would speak. I saw all that.
At the same time I still did not think that the South had turned that
far away from the Democratic Party. Well, it turned out that they had.
But I believe that we had still made the right decision. I think the statistics
bear this out. In the early morning of the day after the election, before
all of the returns were in, the election hung on the results in Illinois,
Michigan, Ohio and California. My recollection is that by very narrow
margins we carried each of those four states. And I believe the margin
by which we carried the Negro vote in each of those four states substantially
the margin by which we carried each state which was a rather
significant development. So, the votes we lost in the South, I think we
made up in other places. When the final electoral count was made, it didn't
turn out to be a very close election. President Truman had won by really
quite a handsome majority.
HESS: That's fine. Well, we will go into that extensively when we reach
the '48 campaign.
One question on the time you took over as Special Counsel: do you happen
to know if anyone else was in the running for the position?
CLIFFORD: I had not heard that, and I believe that nobody else was. My
progress in the White House occurred, if I might say, not through any
intrinsic merit or ability, but because of the existence of a vacuum.
When Judge Rosenman said he was going to
go, President Truman made the
decision not to replace him. I think Rosenman left the lst of January
1946. All of the jobs that he had been performing up to that time were
no longer being performed because he had left, and yet somebody
had to do them. I don't know quite how President Truman thought they were
going to be performed.
HESS: And you had been assisting in that office anyway, on your own.
CLIFFORD: I had been assisting Judge Rosenman on a voluntary basis. As
we got into '46, January, February and March, I began to do some of those
matters on my own that I had been helping him with. And the fact is, that's
what I really was interested in.
The war was over and I had no real reason to want to stay in the Navy.
I would have been
glad to have been out of the Navy, but I was then serving
as Naval Aide, which doesn't take much of your time. I don't know if I
mentioned it, but about 25 percent of your time as Naval Aide, you serve
as a "potted plant," you see, at White House festivals and parties and
so forth. And that didn't interest me at all.
But the President would use me more and more because somebody had to
do the various tasks Rosenman had done, and there was nobody else doing
it. I wasn't particularly equipped to do it, but somebody had to
do it, and fortunately I had had previous experience with Rosenman. I
was learning fast and I did them. And then came the railroad strike and
President Truman said to me, "I want a good hard-hitting message." He
gave me some notes, some handwritten notes, as I remember.
HESS: According to Cabel Phillips, the notes that he
handed you were
rather inflammatory, is that right?
CLIFFORD: Plenty! He was mad.
HESS: Do you recall that?
CLIFFORD: Oh, yes. And that was, of course, one reason that the speech
was so tough.
HESS: When he handed you those notes, were they more or less in the form
of notes or what he would have--sort of a draft as he would have liked
to have given?
CLIFFORD: It was not so much a draft, but rather contained points that
he might have expanded on. It might be a paragraph that would contain
an idea, and then there might only be a sentence or two to hit hard, and
then he might have started to write another paragraph. And I might say
to you, Charlie Ross and I looked at
those notes and we agreed that he
never could have given that speech. I mean . . .
HESS: Isn't that the one where he ended up saying, "Come on boys, let's
go hang some traitors?"
CLIFFORD: I don't remember the words, but it was just rough as a cob.
We toned it down a great deal, and I think he felt it was right to tone
it down. He just let go. It's like writing a letter to somebody in which
you just pour out all that you feel and when you finish you feel a lot
better. Then you tear it up and put it in the wastebasket. And I think
he didn't intend that we go that far, so we toned it down quite a lot,
but it was still a very rough speech.
HESS: Two of the men who are mentioned in that speech are A. F. Whitney
and Mr. Alvanley Johnston, or however you pronounce his first name. I
understand they came into the White
House for discussions about this time.
Is that correct? They came in to discuss . . .
CLIFFORD: Yes. I think he saw them before he reached the decision
to go up to the Hill, and I think he had conferences with them that contributed
to his attitude. I think he felt that they were completely intransigent.
HESS: Did you sit in on those conferences?
CLIFFORD: No, I don't know whether anybody did. I'm quite sure that I
did not. I think he felt that they were really awfully arrogant, and this
is what really got his goat. And that was the background of his writing
these very tough notes.
HESS: I believe it was at this time, when President Truman--when A. F.
Whitney said he would spend every penny in the union treasury to defeat
Mr. Truman in the next election.
CLIFFORD: That's right. That's right. After the President hauled off
and let them have it in his speech, they were outraged and just as bitter
as they could be. And they took a pretty stiff trimming, which people
don't like to do, and nobody had trimmed them before. And that's when,
I think it was Whitney who said, "I will spend every cent in the treasury
to beat President Truman." It didn't turn out that way at all. By the
time '48 came around these men were for him.
HESS: That's right, he was a real supporter during the '48 campaign.
CLIFFORD: He was. And I think John L. Lewis was too.
HESS: That's right. Now, this is also the speech at which Mr. Truman
was handed the note by Leslie Biffle . . .
CLIFFORD: That's right.
HESS: During the speech.
CLIFFORD: Halfway through the speech.
HESS: Now, some people at that time felt that was staged.
CLIFFORD: I know it was not. I know that I rode up to the Hill
with President Truman in his limousine. John Steelman, I think, was at
the Statler Hotel in conference with Whitney and Alvanley Johnston. The
idea was all set up that if he made any progress there, he was to get
in touch with me, or I was to get in touch with him at the intervals,
because I could locate him more easily since I had his phone number.
When we got up there, I did not go sit in the chamber, but instead I
sat in an anteroom
off the chamber, the House chamber, for the very purpose
of trying to get any word that came through. I don't recall whether he
had my number. I may have called him and given him my number after I got
there. I believe that's the way it went, and he was to call me if any
developments took place that were significant. Approximately halfway through
the speech, the message came from Steelman (I talked with him directly
over the phone), and he said, "We have reached an understanding. The strike
is broken. The men are going back."
I wrote a quick note in longhand, took it up to Biffle who was sitting
within the Chamber. He then looked at it, recognized the significance
of it, stepped up and handed it to President Truman while President Truman
was delivering his message to the joint session. And President Truman
stopped and then read the
statement there to great applause. A photographer
fortunately took a very dramatic photograph of Les Biffle handing the
note to President Truman, and President Truman receiving it, and then
that photograph appeared in the paper.
Now, it was Wayne Morse of Oregon who contended in a public statement
within a day or two, that he thought the whole affair was framed and he
thought it was staged. President Truman got in touch with Wayne Morse
and explained to him everything that happened and Wayne Morse apologized
to him and said he was awfully sorry that he had gone off half cocked.
HESS: All right. We have mentioned Judge Rosenman. After Judge Rosenman
left, did he ever come back to assist you at any time?
CLIFFORD: Very rarely. On, I'd say, two or three occasions he came back.
I think sometime in
1946 we had a crisis over the question of whether
meat should be decontrolled. It was a great issue with the housewives
of the country. The President had to prepare a message and, I think, the
President asked Judge Rosenman to come back at the time to help with it,
because I remember Judge Rosenman working with me on the message
in the Cabinet Room. We worked late one evening. I think he didn't get
down until dinner time and we worked most of the night because the President
had to deliver the message the next day. But that's one of the few times
that he was called back.
I believe that what President Truman wanted to do was to have as clear
a cut-off with the old Roosevelt administration as possible, and that
would include a complete separation from the former Roosevelt personnel.
HESS: What was your view on that?
CLIFFORD: I thought it was probably wise. I was interested in President
Truman developing his own status, his own personality, his own image,
and not being a reflection of FDR. As time went on, President Truman did
do that, and it was right that he should do it, and he could never have
gotten anyplace in 1948 unless he had. People weren't interested, in 1948,
in voting for a pale carbon copy of FDR.
HESS: This brings up the standard stock question. Was the Fair Deal a
continuation of the New Deal, and is that even valid, would you
want such a continuation?
CLIFFORD: This is really quite clear. The Fair Deal was not a
continuation of the New Deal.
My interpretation of it would be as follows: Through the lengthy Roosevelt
administration the New Deal was a great liberal move. It accomplished
a great deal, and at a time when we had to work
out of the awful depression
of the late twenties and early thirties it was very definitely needed.
I like to view President Truman's Fair Deal as an analysis of the
New Deal, with the preservation of some of its tenets, and the discarding
of others. I think it was more of a stopping to study, and reflect, and
If you wanted to compare it to the field of battle, let's say that President
Roosevelt conducted a constant offensive for twelve years, and finally
then he left and President Truman came in. I think President Truman found
that maybe we had advanced to a point where it was not a good idea to
advance further. Stop and establish a line at that point, bring up your
supplies, bring up your lines of communications, reorganize, and re-evaluate,
and then gradually, and slowly, start a gradual new offensive under the
name of the Fair Deal. That's the way I
like to visualize it, and
I think that's the way it turned out.
HESS: All right, fine.
In our first interview we mentioned the memo that Arthur Krock has as
Appendix A of his memoirs, but I would like to continue on just a little
bit in that because as I see it, two of your most important roles as Special
Counsel were advising on foreign affairs, and advising on domestic affairs.
And, using this memo, I think, to start a discussion on your role as an
adviser on foreign matters, foreign affairs matters. One thing: Who helped
you, who assisted you in the compilation, or in the writing of this particular
memo. Do you recall?
CLIFFORD: Yes, his name was George Elsey.
I would say that after I was first precipitated into this vortex at the
(and that's what it was in those early days), I gradually
became involved in (in the year '45), domestic problems. Afterwards, I
gradually began to have some part in foreign policy and national security
You go into those things slowly. One reason I went into them slowly is
that I had such an enormous amount to learn. I had no real background
in them. I had, I think, an excellent background in American history,
but no previous background in government. And I had to learn as I went;
it was catch as catch can, and those were pretty hectic days.
As we began to get into 1946, I became involved in more matters all the
time. During '45, the President gave me an assignment to conduct a study
and write a memorandum on the possibility of putting universal military
training into operation. Also at one other time in '45,
I had an assignment
to start preparation of a study on the unification of the services. These
Then we get along into '46 and in the spring of '46 the President gave
me the assignment of preparing memoranda for him on our relationship with
the Soviet Union. That was the occasion when I talked with different individuals
that we have mentioned. And with Elsey's help, we obtained a great mass
of material, distilled it, synthesized it, and wrote the report. I might
say, that as I began to get into these areas, I found that the enormous,