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.
July 26, 1971
by Jerry N. Hess
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Transcript | Additional Clifford Oral History
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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 It may not be published in full except by permission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
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HESS: Mr. Clifford, to begin this afternoon I'd
like to ask a few questions. And as the release of the 47 volume study conducted
in the Pentagon on the background to events in Indochina has been very much
in the news, I'd like to ask you a question or two about President Truman's
thinking on the subject of Indochina. Now, in an article in the Washington
Post on the third of this month, written by Chalmers Roberts, the first
two paragraphs read:
On May the lst of 1950 President Truman approved the allocation
of 10 million dollars for the Defense Department to cover the early shipment
of urgently needed military assistance items for the French in Indochina.
It was the first crucial decision regarding U.S. Military involvement
in Indochina, according to the analysis of the RooseveltTruman years
in the Pentagon papers available to the Washington Post.
And on June the 27th, 1950, shortly after the
invasion of South Korea, President Truman issued a statement on the situation in
which he had the following paragraph:
I have similarly directed an acceleration in the furnishing
of military assistance to the forces of France and the Associated States
in Indochina, and the dispatch of a military mission to provide close
working relations with those forces.
Now I realize that you left before these events took place, but I'd like
to ask anyway, what had been the view of the President and his advisers
on the advisability of concerning ourselves with matters in Indochina?
CLIFFORD: I do not have an independent recollection of any details regarding
Indochina during the period that I was with President Truman from 1945
until 1950. I have a general impression, during that time, that President
Truman was interested in taking those actions that would be helpful to
France after the Second World War.
A great deal of the fighting, you'll recall, had taken
place in France. After the Second World War, the nations of Western Europe were prostrate
and the United States, generally under the aegis of the Marshall plan,
took those actions that would assist the nations of Western Europe to
returning to some form of economic viability.
I have a general recollection that the only interest that I can recall
our country having in Indochina during that period of 1945 to 1950, was
to take those steps that generally would be of assistance to France in
recovering its economic equilibrium. I would say generally that it was
felt at the time that the assistance that we could be to France in restoring
its posture in what had been French Indochina was calculated to be of
assistance in France gaining some type of its former economic stability.
Now, I do not recall individual actions such as you
describe of May lst. As you say, I had left the White House by then, and I wouldn't be
likely to recall individual action after the passage of over twenty years.
I can recall merely a broad attitude our country's government took toward
what was then known as French Indochina.
HESS: Do you recall Mr. Truman making any statements to you in this
context about Indochina?
CLIFFORD: I do not.
HESS: Do you recall any discussion with Mr. Truman, or among his advisers,
that even though the French had this territory in their possession before
the war that actually it is the territory belonging to the indigenous
people and that perhaps we should work through the indigenous people and
not through the colonial countries?
CLIFFORD: I do not recall any philosophy or ideology of
that kind being discussed. It was more the attitude that now that the Second World War
was over, we would attempt to help the nations of Western Europe reconstruct.
France had owned Indochina. The reason they'd lost it was due to Japanese
aggression. We were, I believe, attempting to take those steps which would
tend to return areas of that kind to' the status quo. I don't recall taking
part in any kind of discussion or policy debate about whether we should
assist the French in their colonial or imperialist attitude. I would be
rather surprised if there was much of a debate in that regard because
it seemed to me to be the rather settled policy that we were attempting
to return conditions to those that had existed prior to the changes that
had taken place in the Second World War as the result of Communist
or Japanese aggression.
HESS: Did you ever recall what Mr. Roosevelt's attitude was, might have
been, on helping the French after the war in this area?
CLIFFORD: I have since read about it, since it became such an important
topic during our presence in Vietnam. But at the time I do not recall
it coming up for discussion.
HESS: Anything else on that subject?
CLIFFORD: I can offer very little because it was not a subject of major
importance and merely fell within the framework of our attitude toward
assisting France in regaining its feet.
HESS: Do you think we might have been better off if we had worked with
the indigenous people? Not necessarily Ho Chi Minh, not necessarily the
Communists, but finding someone who is
there, someone who is a native
of the country rather than working through foreign countries.
CLIFFORD: An answer to that question would be based upon all that we
have learned in the last twenty years. At the time, I do not believe that
the world had any real understanding of the spirit of nationalism that
was then starting to come into focus; it would have taken a man of very
considerable prescience. At the time we were engaged mainly in saving
Western Europe and doing those functions that contributed to that.
It was Western Europe that really mattered to us at the
time, because you will recall that during the Second World War and thereafter,
the Soviets started their very aggressive expansionism towards the west.
They took forcibly all of the nations on their western periphery such
as Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Rumania,
Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia,
and they were pressing onward. The major concern during those years was
that they might press on even from the west.
Also you will recall the Russians at that time established what was
known as the Comintern, i.e., Communist cells were established in each
country to try to break up the government of that country and transform
it into a Communist country.
The Communist Party was a very powerful force in France after the Second
World War and had they gotten control of France, one would not know what
Western Europe would look like today.
So this was our main consideration and I think that territorial concerns
regarding former properties owned, not only by France, but other Western
powers, was really not a matter of major concern. We were fighting to
Europe at the time.
HESS: All right, now moving back to our date in 1948, where we were,
one point I want to bring up concerns Judge Sam Rosenman. In the files
of the Library I found a couple of interesting letters. On March the 10th
of 48, Judge Rosenman wrote to the President saying in part, "As you
know, I want to be of whatever service I can from now until election day."
President Truman wrote back a couple of days later and said among other
things, "I am counting on you to be on the team, as usual."
Judge Rosenman did come to Washington, he went to the convention in
Philadelphia, he assisted you I understand with the writing of President
Truman's acceptance speech, but when the campaign came on he was not utilized,
why? Any particular reason?
CLIFFORD: I do not know of any specific reason. Certainly
there was no break between President Truman and Judge Rosenman. Remember that he
had left the end of the year 1945, so held been gone for over two years
during all of 46 and '47.
HESS: February the lst of '46 was the official date of his resignation.
CLIFFORD: Yes. So he'd been gone over two years before he wrote the
letter of March of 48. That two-year absence from the scene makes a great
deal of difference in government.
You naturally assume that a man has not kept up with the day by day,
week by week, or even month by month developments
that take place. Obviously
he cannot. He had gone back to the practice of the law and it's just generally
understood that he would not be as informed as were those who were working
with the President every day.
The second point I think is that we had developed a team, after Judge
Rosenman left. The President, I think, was really quite satisfied with
the team and with the team spirit that existed.
Third, I might say that it was loyal, and certainly friendly, of Judge
Rosenman to write that letter in March, because there were very few individuals,
who in March of '48, thought that President Truman had any chance really
to be reelected. The only time I independently
with Judge Rosenman was when he came down and assisted in the preparation
of the President's acceptance speech in Philadelphia. Now he may have
come down once or twice before that, but it would not have been
on a very regular occasion. The fact is, the President had rather moved
away from those who had been prominent in the Franklin Roosevelt administration.
I believe that it is possible that there was maybe some psychological
reason he wanted to run on his own. He had been in the shadow of Franklin
Roosevelt for so long.
HESS: And the close association between Judge Rosenman and Roosevelt
might have been in some people's mind, a little bit too close to Roosevelt?
CLIFFORD: I believe so. I'm not sure that it was reasoned out that way,
but I was very conscious
of the fact that those around us, particularly
as we began to prepare for the campaign, were ascertaining President Truman's
independence. President Truman himself was asserting his individuality,
and asserting his image of a man who was his own boss. And, as a result,
persons who had been closely identified with Franklin Roosevelt were not
called back for the campaign. If there was any reason that I could think
of right offhand, I think that would be it.
HESS: Was there any discussion among the staff on that point?
CLIFFORD: I think not. I'm not sure that it was specifically discussed.
I do not recall from the time we got in the campaign (that would be the
time between the convention and the election) seeing Judge Rosenman once.
HESS: That is correct.
CLIFFORD: Now that is my feeling and I think this is the main reason
behind it. The President wanted to be surrounded by just his own men and
not FDR's men.
HESS: Not running in Roosevelt's shadow any longer.
CLIFFORD: Exactly. Exactly.
HESS: All right, just after the Democratic convention on July the 26th
of '48, two Executive orders were signed, Executive Order 9980, "Regulations
Governing Fair Employment Practices Within the Federal Establishment,"
and Executive Order 9981, "Establishing the President's Committee on Equality
of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services." Now some historians
have said that the timing, just after the convention, and before the campaign,
was for political
purposes. Would you agree or disagree with the timing
of those two Executive orders, or with that premise?
CLIFFORD: I suppose that if a President has followed a certain policy
and he is then preparing to get into a campaign, that it is considered
appropriate at the time to dramatize and emphasize the policies that he
has been following. So, I would say that it is entirely possible that
there is some political flavor to the timing of those two events.
Let me hasten to add, however, there was no change in policy. I have
contended on a number of occasions, that President Truman did more in
working toward equality for our minority groups in the United States than
any President before him. You perhaps would have to say he did more with
the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. In the Franklin Roosevelt administration,
was a lot of conversation about what you were going to do for the blacks
and they for the first time, I think, had blacks at the White House. There
was, in short, a good deal of publicity about the Roosevelt administration's
interest in the blacks, but it was not until President Truman assumed
office that real, concrete, affirmative, progressive steps were
taken. History will show that he took such determined actions prior
to that convention that that was the issue that caused such great touble
at the convention. You remember there was a walkout of southern delegations
from the Philadelphia convention.
I recall in the spring of 1948, at the Jefferson-Jackson annual dinner,
the South Carolina delegation purchased a table right in the center of
the banquet hall and then no one showed up. There was thus an empty table
just stared at everybody during the dinner. And
as you know photographers spent most of their time taking photographs of that . . .
HESS: Empty table.
CLIFFORD: . . . empty table. Now the reason the South Carolina delegation
did not show up was that they were bitterly opposed to President Truman's
civil rights policy; the South was bitterly opposed. He had done a great
deal in that regard long prior to the convention and was paying the price
for it as shown by the attitude of the southern states. So, I would say
to you that it is possible that the timing of those two orders had some
political connotation. You can't do anything between a convention and
a campaign that doesn't have some political element in it. But I'm emphasizing
it did not constitute a change in his policy on civil rights. It
was just a next logical step to what
he had been working towards.
HESS: If I recall correctly, the southern delegation walked out when
the so-called Andrew J. Beimiller-Hubert Humphrey plank was added to the
Democratic platform, rather than the one that the Administration had been
backing. Now one was not all that much stronger than the other, but it
has been pointed out by historians that one was considered to be a little
weaker than the other, the one that Mr. Truman was backing, not the BeimillerHumphrey
one, but the original one, was somewhat weaker. Do you recall any discussions
on this with Mr. Truman as to whether or not he should have a strong civil
CLIFFORD: Well, I do recall a discussion. I'm not sure this has ever
been referred to; I doubt that I have ever referred to it before. As I
appraised and analyzed the political situation
in the spring and summer
of 1948, I felt that it was important for us to hold onto the South. I
thought that we could hold onto them as I mentioned in the memorandum
that I wrote. Although I had supported the President vigorously in his
civil rights program, I felt that there was no need to mortify the South
by pressing for an extreme civil rights plank at the convention.
After all, a plank doesn't amount to very much.
HESS: It can just make some people awful mad.
CLIFFORD: It can make some people very, very angry.
HESS: Did you feel the Beimiller-Humphrey plank was too strong?
CLIFFORD: Well, I cannot recall that particular detail. I'd have to
say to you I had a discussion with President Truman prior to the convention
and suggested really quite a mild
approach to civil rights. He indicated
at that time that he felt that we should be stronger in a civil rights
plank than I had indicated that I wanted. And he was not deterred from
that and he did promote, and propose, a strong civil rights plank.
Now at the convention I have some recollection that it became stronger,
and as far as I can remember that was all right with him. There wasn't
a great deal of difference. It was just a question of degree; the whole
thrust of it was about the same.
HESS: Did he say why he said he wanted a stronger program? Did it seem
to be that he thought this was the thing to do or did he think it was
CLIFFORD: I believe that I was concerned more with political expediency
HESS: Did that concern him very much?
CLIFFORD: The question of political expediency? Well, you get into a
campaign and when one would have to be unrealistic to suppose that a President
was not giving attention to the political facet of every policy that came
up. Every President since George Washington has concerned himself with
the politics, I'd say, in the period between the convention and the election.
HESS: If at no other time.
CLIFFORD: That's all that you think about at that particular time. Every
action that is taken is taken with the concept of what is its political
effect going to be. But I would say to you that I have a distinct recollection
(and I don't recall it with any particular pride), saying to him at the
time that I thought
we ought to be very careful not to drive the South
away, and his taking the position to me that he was not going to retreat
one inch from his civil rights program. And by god that's
the way it was, and that's the way he was going to stay with it. And he
did stay with it. He did not budge an inch.
Now it turned out what he was right in principle, and interestingly
enough, I think he was right politically. But I do not believe that at
that time that he felt that this was a mere political course of action
to take, because most of his friends at the time were urging him to go
easy with the South. Most of his good friends on the Hill had been Southerners,
like Dick Russell and men like that.
HESS: What do you see in Mr. Truman's background that would cause him
to develop into a man who would want to take such determined action in
civil rights programs? A man from Independence,
Missouri, which is really a southern town, especially during the time that he was growing up.
CLIFFORD: Well, I'm really quite clear on that. I think he understood
the importance of the particular problem within the framework of our whole
Democratic principles. After he got into the Presidency (I wouldn't know
before that), I think he became deeply impressed with the need to move
into this area. I can recall his using the expression "second class citizens."
He would say that if our whole theory of government meant anything, that
it meant that they were not to be different classes of citizens, that
each would have the right both to social, political, economic opportunity
in the country, and he developed a sincere, honest and enduring attitude
toward that major constitutional question.
I think that he learned a great deal about the matter
and manner in which our minorities were treated and exploited, both politically and
I believe that he was determined to take corrective measures. I have
heard other men who served in the Roosevelt administration say he took
steps that Franklin Roosevelt was never willing to take.
For instance, that was a very, very important step that he took with
reference to the armed services. I had to struggle some with that problem
when I was in the Pentagon. The precedents that we had for actions that
we took while I was in the Pentagon were precedents that were set in the
administration of Harry Truman, and not anybody before that. The Fair
Employment Practice Act, good Lord, was looked upon as an anathema by
the Senate. They'd never had the slightest concept of fair employment
Well, you can see what that's grown to now. We work in that area in
our law business. We represent companies that have plants down South,
and labor pressure is growing there all the time. More and more Negroes
are being employed in better and better positions. That also is a monument
to Harry Truman.
Just to recapitulate, I believe that he took the risk that his attitude
on civil rights would be a political liability because of the honest conviction
that he had that progress had to be made in that field.
HESS: All right, moving on to the campaign, just what do you recall
of the events of the 1948 campaign, and perhaps we could start by discussing
what your duties were during the campaign?
CLIFFORD: I'd have to say, parenthetically, it's a
good deal of a blur
to me from the time of the convention, which I assume was early or middle
July, until election time. We gave every thinking moment to the campaign.
A great deal of the campaign was conducted on a train. I have some recollection
that there was one period of something like fifty days in which somebody
figured out that we spent forty nights on a train.
I lived in a little tiny stateroom where I slept and ate and wrote.
My big task in the campaign was to do the writing for the President. I
remember that we kept building up the number of appearances that he had,
I think the top one was one day when he had fourteen back platform appearances
and then a major speech that night. We were getting this material out
just as fast as we could turn it out. George Elsey was helping.
I remember one other, a personal recollection. I think I had gotten
run down a little and I was
beseiged by an attack of boils during that
whole summer. It was a nightmare. For years afterwards I'd sometimes wake
up at night in a cold persperation thinking I was back on that terrible
train. It was a real ordeal. I don't know quite how I got
through it except I was young at the time and strong and vigorous.
We would talk with the President about policy. We would go over one
evening that we were going to do the next day. This all occurred on that
train where we went almost every place. I recall it became known as the
famous "whistlestop" campaign.
HESS: Thanks to Robert A. Taft.
CLIFFORD: Thanks to Robert Taft who did not make many friends for Dewey
by referring to stops on the railroads as "whistlestops." People were
generally proud of the fact that they had a
railroad station and that
the President would stop to see them.
The writing went on. We had an advance team out and they would get the
material in to US. I remember I'd write up notes for the President when
he would come into Chicken Bristle, Iowa, or some such place like that.
He would congratulate the town on their having a new sausage factory.
That would be based on material that had just come in a few days earlier
from the advance team.
HESS: Do you recall if the Research Division of the Democratic National
Committee also helped in this manner?
CLIFFORD: Oh yes. Yes . . . .
HESS: One was David Lloyd.
CLIFFORD: That's right. Well, the fact is that some
of the material
that came out of the committee was so good we looked into it and found
out who was doing it. We learned it was David Lloyd. And either then or
later we pulled him over into the White House. They were very helpful.
My main job was to be in charge of the writing. I would get the material
in, decide what would be helpful to the President, what would be dangerous,
get his thoughts and then try to reduce his thoughts to writing. That
would be the second most important function that I performed.
The most important function was to take part in the daily policy
meetings that took place to set the policy in the campaign. I had some
strong views about what ought to be done. I believe some of them were
adopted; some of them perhaps weren't adopted.
HESS: Can you give me an illustration of one that
might have been and
one that was not?
CLIFFORD: No, I can't. I can't remember details now. At that stage,
the basic liberal-conservative struggle was still going on. It had gone
on through the whole Truman administration. There were those that wanted
me to take a more conservative view on some of these questions. Some of
us felt that if we were going to win we had to win on a liberal approach.
HESS: Who on the train was advocating a conservative approach?
CLIFFORD: I can't recall who all were the regulars on the train. I know
Matt Connelly was there. My recollection is Charlie Ross was still there
during the campaign. He, of course, had been there all the time, but .
HESS: Was his advice usually liberal or conservative?
CLIFFORD: Well, I think that Charlie was about in between.
HESS: Sort of middle of the road.
CLIFFORD: I would say that he was perhaps middle of the road.
HESS: Did Matt Connelly engage himself in the policy discussions?
CLIFFORD: I think not. He was more on the political side as to who the
President should see and what the difficulties were in a particular state
or country. He would arrange to have the local politicians come in and
then he would be with the President when he saw them. That was his field.
But one did not have to be with the President all the time. Those who
had taken the conservative approach were writing the President. We'd get
back to Washington and they would see him then.
They would send memoranda to him. That kind of activity went on.
I was still pretty much the representative of the Ewing Group. That
relationship has had a great impact on me and I continue to have contacts
As I recall, the major thrust in which we were engaged were the following:
One: Efforts to get strong support from labor. We had been through a real
fight over the Taft-Hartley Act. President Truman had vetoed it, and Congress
has passed it over the President's veto. We worked hard on labor.
Second: We worked hard on the farmers. The Republican Congress had passed a bill
which apparently wasn't understood, nor did it have much impact on the
general public. But it had a great impact on the farmer. The
of the bill was that in order to get a Federal loan on your crops, you
had to place your crop in a Federally certified warehouse.
HESS: Which was the rewriting of the charter of the Commodity Credit
CLIFFORD: Right. Well, the farmers detested it because it cut a great
many of them out from getting the support prices. We used that a great
HESS: Do you recall when you first heard of that issue? Does the name
W. McNeil Lowry ring a bell?
CLIFFORD: Yes, was he in the Agricultural Department?
HESS: No, he was working for . . .
CLIFFORD: On a newspaper?
HESS: A Des Moines paper.
CLIFFORD: Yes. I may have heard about it from him. We had had a close
relationship with farm organizations, or with one of them, and I recall
a man named Patton.
HESS: Jim Patton?
CLIFFORD: Jim Patton, who I used to see from time to time when he came
to Washington. Persons well-versed with farmers' attitude, early in the
campaign, brought this matter to our attention and we used it a lot during
Third: I'd say that we made a very definite bid for support of the Negro.
We thought that we had a right to that after actions that President Truman
Also at the time we were appealing to consumer groups and the housewives,
because the President
had taken actions in that regard that we felt warranted
consideration by consumers generally.
I think also we gave a good deal of attention to the psychological fact
that the President was the underdog and that we wanted to appeal in that
manner as much as possible.
I'd say another point was that Dewey's speeches were bland. They had
a tendency to be high level. He felt that held already won . . .
HESS: He didn't need to commit himself.
CLIFFORD: That's right, so that he was engaging in generalities, and
we took the opposite attack.
Some of our speeches were really rough. I remember one time the President
saying, the GOP stood for "Gluttons of Privilege." I remember in our big
farm . .
HESS: Whose little gem was that? Do you recall?
CLIFFORD: I don't recall, but it was a pip. And I recall that at the
big speech made out in Iowa at the annual plowing contest . . .
HESS: The National Plowing Match.
CLIFFORD: Match, that's right, that we said that the GOP had plunged
a pitchfork into the farmer's back.
HESS: Now, I have heard that that was yours, is that right?
CLIFFORD: Well, it's highly possible. I'm not too proud of it today.
HESS: Well, you were trying to win an election, you know.
CLIFFORD: We were fighting to bring the President to the attention of
the people. Much of the
public had written him off; the press had written
him off. The other side had already assumed they were going to win. I
remember stating to someone at the time that we were on our five-yard
line with ninety-five yards to go; we had everything to gain and nothing
to lose by taking every possible risk.
I recall that as the campaign progressed, especially the last month
of the campaign, something was happening. The crowds were larger; they
were enthusiastic. We would go into a town. We would arrive there at a
quarter after six in the morning and there would be two or three thousand
people that would come down into the freight yards to hear President Truman.
He would start in and he would go about a paragraph and somebody in the
crowd would yell, "Give 'em hell, Harry!" And then the whole crowd would
hoot and howl; enthusiasm was building up.
And that last month you could
actually feel it. The last ten days of the campaign were something of
Now we were all indoctrinated with the fact that he had a real long
shot on our hands; but that last ten days, that last five days even, you
could sense there was something going on.
I remember thinking, "Well, I don't know whether we're going to make
it or not, but, by god, I bet if we had another week we would surely make
it." There was something rolling all the time. We could sense it and the
newspapermen could sense it. The other side never saw it at all.
HESS: Did you ever talk to any of the newspapermen (I suppose you did),
who were switching trains? Some of the newspapermen stayed with the Truman
train all of the time, others stayed with the Dewey train, but many of
the news services
would switch their reporters from train to train. What
did the men tell you that had come from the Dewey train as to how things
were going there? Do you recall?
CLIFFORD: In the first place they were terribly bored. In the second
place, they didn't like Governor Dewey. They thought he was a stuffed
shirt. The third place, they were impressed with the smooth mechanical
efficiency of that trip. Ours wasn't that way. Ours was just catch as
catch can, and the contrast was very noticeable.
But there was a ferment on our train. There was something going on and
they would get caught up in it. Most of the working press, in my opinion,
were for President Truman. Now the editors and publishers and owners may
not have been, but most of the working press was. And I spent a good deal
of time with them, getting
ideas from them and passing on our ideas to
them to use in their story. They were very friendly to us.
Sometimes I'd go out and have breakfast with the whole crowd of them
when they were having breakfast. I had contacts of that sort with them.
They expected Dewey to win; they weren't looking forward to the next four
years with Governor Dewey. They liked President Truman. They thought he
was courageous. They liked his spunk. They liked the way he was fighting
against what everybody at the time thought were hopeless odds.
HESS: All right, now just a couple of points. You mentioned that in
your policy discussions the civil rights matter was brought up. Reading
through the Public Papers of the President, and reading through
the speeches at that time, I believe that the first time that the subject
was brought up in a speech by Mr. Truman, was late in
the campaign, at Harlem on October the 29th. Now do you recall any discussions about not
mentioning anything about civil rights matters until that late in the
CLIFFORD: I would be surprised if it had not been referred to before.
That may have been a major speech on it, but the attitude that
he was taking towards civil rights colored the whole campaign. I don't
recall the individual speeches. There would be references in press conferences
and in smaller off the platform speeches. There was no question in anybody's
mind what his attitude was. Now it may have been that that was a fullfledged
speech on civil rights, but...
HESS: Harlem being the spot for such an address.
CLIFFORD: Well, yes. All around the country it was well-known that President
Truman had put
those Executive orders into operation. His attitude on
civil rights was very clear. And, as with most issues, Governor Dewey
was ducking it and not taking specific positions in order to allow himself
plenty of latitude when he became President.
HESS: At the whistlestops, and at the various stops, did you get off
the train and walk around to hear what the people were saying, perhaps
ask them questions on what they thought?
HESS: Was that done?
CLIFFORD: Yes. Some would do it. Sometimes Elsey did it and sometimes
other persons who were on the train did it. I can't recall very well who
else was on the train, but others would do it..
HESS: Did they come back and tell you what
the general tenor of the crowd . . .
CLIFFORD: They would come back and report generally to us. We traveled
with the President on his car, and I don't think I . . .
HESS: They had the Ferdinand Magellan?
CLIFFORD: Yes. That's where the President lived. He had Mrs. Truman
and Margaret with him most of the time. I think I lived on the car just
in front of that. We met every day around the dining room table on his
car sometimes at breakfast, sometimes at lunch, and sometimes off and
on during the day. I was in contact with him three, four, five times a
day--just very close to him all around the period. I had to know
what he was thinking, what he wanted for the next speech, and what he
wanted to use for a platform address. And on those occasions individuals
who had gotten out and mixed with the crowds would report. I just didn't
have time to do it.
HESS: Did you concern yourself more with the major
speeches that were usually delivered in the evenings than you did with the whistlestop speeches?
CLIFFORD: Both. I gave more time to the major speeches, and I think
Elsey was spending more of his time on the platform speeches, but for
awhile we both wrote those platform speeches. The President developed
a style that the people liked and then we began to get them up in outline
form. We'd send in the material in the form of memos, and then give him
an outline. He would have the outline in front of him and would pretty
much give the speech in his own words. We were making a number of major
speeches at that time and we just turned it out, and turned it out, and
turned it out.
HESS: In working on Mr. Truman's speeches, when you
were writing them,
perhaps a major evening speech, did you try to write them in the language
that Mr. Truman would find comfortable, and if so did you study his sentence
style and his manner of spe