Monday, March 5, 2012

Some Future Historian

In an article published in the New York Times in 1971, journalist Patrick Anderson asserted, “Barbara Tuchman, in her most recent book, has viewed the American experience in China in 1911-45 through the career of General Stilwell, and I think some future historian may decide that the Cold War experience can well be seen through the focus of Clifford’s career. This is not to say that Clifford is a heroic figure, or always an admirable figure, but that he is a representative figure, very American in his strengths and weaknesses, and pre-eminently a man caught up in the tides of his time.”[1] And that, right there, is why I am writing this thesis.

[1] Patrick Anderson, Clark Clifford “Sounds the Alarm,” New York Times, August 8, 1971.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shut Down by the President (in case you had any doubt about who exactly Sen. Russell was addressing)

"[Senator] Russell: Well, I don't hardly know how to reply to all of this because it is so damn general and deals with suppositions of which I have no knowledge at all. I want to say something but damn if I can see any place to put my teeth in other than to build up a straw man. Then you go calling up reserves--that would make me look silly.

President [Johnson]: Well, I think you ought to say that first the Committee of the Congress and the reservists themselves have been urging that they be called up because we have a strategic reserve--twelve divisions when we go into this thing and it is down to six and they ought to be called up. Now, the President has had the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to talk to you about it, the President has talked to the other chairmen [sic] about it, you believe the President has talked to a good many Senators, and if any Senator wants to talk to the President about it you are sure the President will be glad to hear his views. There has been no President that has ever consulted to much with the Senate as the present President. Now, so far as the Senate running the war, this is something else.

Russell: No, of course, the Senate cannot do that."

"Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell," March 7, 1968, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Vol. VI (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 344.

Harry C. McPherson, a Presidential Counsel, Dies at 82

This happened last Saturday, but I only got around to reading the obituary today.

I spent a good part of the day reading through McPherson's Oral Histories from the Lyndon B. Johnson Library while writing my thesis (you can find his oral histories here if you are interested). At one point, McPherson casually mentioned borrowing a pair of the president's pajamas and sleeping for a few hours after being called in to work at 2am. That little detail truly tickled me. Can you imagine taking a nap in LBJ's PJs?!

Here is the New York Times obituary. It's a great tribute to an extraordinary man. Clark Clifford is even mentioned: "[McPherson] and Defense Secretary Clark M. Clifford helped persuade the president to scale back the bombing of North Vietnam." That's exactly what the latest chapter of my thesis is about.