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  •   Clark Clifford: The Rise of a Reputation

    By Marjorie Williams
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, May 8, 1991; Page D1

    If you could see out the windows of his 12th-floor office, you would be able to see the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. You could see the Capitol, where he rode with Harry Truman when Truman went to deliver the speech Clark Clifford had drafted, the speech that would become known as the Doctrine. You could see Lafayette Square and, beyond it, the White House, to which Clifford used to amble whenever Jack Kennedy's secretary called. You could see the Potomac, and look toward the Pentagon, where Clifford moved when Lyndon Johnson needed a new secretary of defense in the last desperate year of his presidency.

    But Clifford is too sensitive to bright light, a legacy of hepatitis, which he caught during a trip to Vietnam in 1967. And so his office is perpetually dimmed by heavy tan curtains that close out the radiance of the day; visitors must content themselves with his own, more subtle luster.

    He closes his eyes and covers them with his vast right hand, as if with a cool compress. "All I can say to you," he confides in his laborious baritone, "is it has been the most dif-fi-cult pe-ri-od in my life."

    Now the hands, so long the fingers seem to have four or five knuckles apiece, join in the steeple that is his trademark gesture. It says thoughtfulness, judiciousness, probity. "I've prac-ticed law for 62 years," he continues. "This is the first time that an-y cloud has ever been associated with my name or my reputation."

    Re-pu-taaaaaay-shun, he says. In the time it takes Clark Clifford to state his grief, you could run downstairs to buy a paper and back; Clifford is famously deliberate, famously theatrical, in his every word and gesture.

    But perhaps only Clifford's voice could give that word – reputation – the weight it deserves just now, near the end of his life, in the midst of his troubles. For it is Clifford's golden reputation that is suddenly threatened after 46 years in Washington. And it was Clifford's reputation, and his willingness to lend it to an unsavory client, that brought him into the bank scandal that now sullies his image as the prototype of the respectable Washington lawyer.

    Time was, this was the kind of trouble for which you called Clark Clifford. Johnson aide Walter Jenkins, House Speaker Jim Wright, former CIA director Richard Helms, Carter administration Budget Director Bert Lance: Men who had legal problems with political dimensions, or political problems with legal dimensions, all called Clark Clifford, who was a master at tweezing one from the other – and then defusing both.

    But today it is Clifford who, at 84, is entangled in investigations – by the Federal Reserve Board, the Justice Department and the Manhattan district attorney. These authorities are following up a shadowy foreign bank's admission that it illegally acquired a controlling share in First American Bankshares, a Washington-area bank holding company chaired by Clifford. They are also examining whether Clifford either knowingly or unknowingly misled state and federal regulators 10 years ago when he laid his prestige on the line to assure them that the foreign bank would not be involved in First American's acquisition by a group of Middle Eastern investors. The two banks, and their relationships with Clifford and his law firm, have been under ever-sharper scrutiny since 1989, when executives of the foreign bank pleaded guilty to laundering drug money – some of it through accounts at Clifford's First American Bank.

    Clifford has said that at worst he was misled by the foreign bank with which his name is now linked. But revelations keep coming. On Sunday The Washington Post reported that he profited personally from stock transactions, to the tune of more than $6 million, that were financed by the foreign bank he claims to have been duped by.

    Clifford's embarrassment comes just as he was preparing to cement his legend with a memoir, "Counsel to the President," for which Random House paid him $1 million. What was to be his triumphant act of self-definition threatens instead to be an ironic comment on the evanescence of image.

    "It is," says an old friend, "one of the grand falls."

    Establishment Washington is stunned by the turn of events. Not just surprised or – in the cases of the many people who bear Clifford a genuine fondness or respect – saddened, but truly shocked. Because Clifford has been a kind of local totem, basic to the status hierarchy of postwar Washington. In the words of Democratic lawyer Berl Bernhard, "He has held this position at the pinnacle of – it's not really just power – it's the pinnacle of respectability."

    And he has guarded that summit carefully. Although he has made himself a multimillionaire, his true capital is in the name Clark Clifford, and what it stands for. This is what his investors knew, in hiring him to represent their deal. It is what the bank regulators accepted, in weighing Clifford's assurances against their own doubts.

    The worst possible scenario under investigation is that Clifford knowingly misrepresented the deal to those regulators. The best is that he was duped, lied to by his investors and lured into lending them his prestige. For a man who has made a career of knowing the score, it is hard to say which would be the more painful choice.

    "I can't put Clifford together in my mind with either stupidity or unethical behavior," says former Johnson aide and fellow attorney Harry McPherson. But, he concedes, if news reports to date accurately reflect investigators' findings, "this required either a failure of intellect or a failure of ethical reasoning, I guess."

    On a human level, Clifford's is a relatively simple story: the story of a driven man who came to Washington and made good – made history – but who nursed one ambition too many. The particular engines of this story are as old as Clifford is, and their insistent noise can be heard all through the decades of his career. They may help solve the mystery of how a man as smart – and as wealthy – as Clark Clifford came to ally himself with clients who could bring about his downfall.

    But there is another mystery in Clifford's history: the intriguing question of how Washington came to repose so much confidence in a corporate lawyer-lobbyist, making him the personification, the very definition, of integrity. The answer to that mystery lies in the story of how he made himself the monumental figure he is – and of how eager Washington always is to think of its fixers as statesmen.

    This is the history of a Washington reputation.

    Lloyd Cutler, another prominent Democratic lawyer, measures Clifford's reputation in an anecdote:

    In 1979, at the nadir of Jimmy Carter's presidency, Cutler was asked to become counsel to the president. "When the president asked me to become counsel, I asked what did he expect from me. And he said, 'I want you to perform a Clark Clifford

    role. To do what Clark Clifford did for Harry Truman.' " These words, from a president who ran against the Washington establishment Clifford had long symbolized, described a relationship that was then almost 30 years in the past.

    Cutler continues: "I got it in writing. And after that, whenever a meeting went on that I wasn't invited to ... I would go to President Carter or to [Chief of Staff] Hamilton Jordan and say, 'I think Harry Truman would have wanted Clark Clifford to be at this meeting.' It was like saying 'Open Sesame.' Really, it opened every door."

    Clifford describes his meteoric start in Washington, in 1945, as almost accidental. A native of Missouri, he was a successful St. Louis trial lawyer, a pillar of the city who planned to stay there, when America joined World War II. Although old enough to be exempt from service, Clifford volunteered for the Navy and was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1944.

    An old associate from Missouri who was serving as the new president's naval aide had Clifford assigned here temporarily as his assistant in the summer of 1945. And Clifford recognized immediately that there was a power vacuum around Truman: After Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, his old associates, tired from long service and in many cases contemptuous of the new president, had deserted the White House in droves.

    Clifford moved quickly. While his own boss was at the Potsdam Conference with the president, he attached himself to Samuel I. Rosenman, the special counsel to the president who was one of the few FDR holdovers. He did whatever chores he was allowed to do, and eventually he was promoted to replace the naval aide. Clifford was given responsibility for arranging Truman's regular poker weekends on the presidential yacht Williamsburg, games that became an important part of his bond with Truman – and an important rite of access to the president, which Clifford controlled. The first thing he did was study a poker manual until his game improved, a small price to pay for the bonds he forged with the likes of W. Averell Harriman, future chief justice Fred Vinson and then-Rep. Lyndon Baines Johnson.

    By the time Rosenman left to return to his New York law practice, Clifford had begun to establish himself as a speech writer and all-purpose adviser. In June 1946 he became Truman's special counsel. He was 39, and he had been in Washington less than a year.

    After a time there was no area of policy he did not touch. He was soon the subject of fawning magazine profiles as the power behind the president, a new breed of White House aide. The aura was born. Even today, Clifford is a notably handsome man. At 39, he was devastating: blue-eyed and imposingly tall, with blond hair he was sometimes accused of styling into its wheaty waves and the flashing smile of a man who knows he has perfect teeth. With his wife, Marny, he became socially sought-after. "Just to look at them," gushed a society columnist in The Washington Post, "makes you feel you've just gone through an ocean spray."

    Clifford's willingness to work was his seed capital. He worked 70- and 80-hour weeks, and according to his wife, he sometimes fell asleep at parties.

    Clifford's book plays up the more statesmanly functions of his job – an emphasis he would make all through his career. He was deeply involved in the first building blocks of what would become the Cold War policy of containment: the Truman Doctrine, the Four Points, the Marshall Plan. And his book suggests that he was crucial to Truman's decision, in 1948, to grant immediate recognition to the new state of Israel.

    In domestic policy, the president's counsel was perceived as liberals' chief conduit to the president. But Clifford, who had had no interest in government at the time Roosevelt launched the New Deal, guarded his own views very closely. In his book, Clifford writes in the clinical argot of the pragmatist. He refers scathingly to " 'professional liberals' whose ardor and search for ideological purity outweighed their discretion and their judgment."

    Clifford's pragmatism determined his attitude toward the early manifestations of communist witch-hunting in 1946 and 1947: He supported Truman's Loyalty Program. The infamous Executive Order 9835, issued in March 1947, established "loyalty boards" empowered to examine federal employees, who could be fired on the basis of anonymous accusations to J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, and without any specific finding that they had done anything disloyal. Thousands of federal employees were hauled before loyalty hearings, and many forced from the government under circumstances that made it almost impossible for them to find other jobs.

    His failure to head this off, Clifford writes, is one of the greatest regrets of his career. Truman "felt that without the loyalty program, the political pressures would have been much greater, and more difficult to resist. At the time, I agreed with him; later I would come to a different conclusion." But his precise role in the affair is left vague. The executive order, Clifford writes, was drafted by the FBI and the Justice Department and "passed through my office before it was approved by the President."

    It is a selective reporting of his role. As every good bureaucrat knows, ducking involvement in a controversial issue can require as much finesse as joining the fray. At least one liberal friend, Assistant Secretary of the Interior C. Girard Davidson, entreated Clifford to use his influence against the gathering forces of red-baiting. In late 1947 he wrote Clifford a long, confidential letter arguing that the Loyalty Program must be redesigned to guarantee employees the standard rights of due process: to confront their accusers, to hear the charges against them, to present witnesses on their own behalf, to appeal. Clifford forwarded the letter to the presidential assistant in charge of the program with a bland covering memo saying, "I shall appreciate having your comments on his letter, and your advice as to how I should reply."

    The letter somehow leaked, causing a raft of editorials calling for Davidson's firing.

    Davidson never heard from Clifford.

    The climax of Clifford's service to Truman came with the hairsbreadth victory of 1948. Clifford was widely perceived as the author of Truman's impossible, come-from-behind win, including the grueling "whistle-stop" train tour. After it, he decided to leave the White House and strike out on his own.

    All power in Washington ultimately flows from politics. Thus his role in the 1948 election, observes another Democratic lawyer, "launched him into the absolute most upper echelons of the Washington power scene. And he knew how to handle that. He knew how to get there, and he knew what it took to stay there. ... He knew what he could be, and he became it."

    Honing the Image Clifford's aura flows, first, from his role in the history of his times. But it is hard to separate his contributions from the legend he has built up around them, and from his great skill at capitalizing on his natural gifts – his voice, his bearing, even the alliterative good luck of his name.

    He wears double-breasted pin-striped suits with sharp, upswept lapels; he has worn them steadily for decades, lending them his own dignity when the whims of fashion condemned them as inappropriate on other men. Folded into his great leather desk chair, with his polished wingtips planted flat on the floor, he has physical fabric to spare: His knees sit higher than his thighs, and his arms are so long that with his elbows planted on the chair's arms, his hands can meet up at chin level.

    The presence is polished off by the deep, rich voice, deployed so slowly it almost parodies itself.

    "There's that soft, confidential, complimentary tone," says George Reedy, former press secretary to Lyndon Johnson. "All your defenses go down."

    Reedy summarizes the total effect: "He radiates prudence, more than anyone else I have ever met in Washington. He has at least as much prudence as others, but he definitely radiates it more."

    A close associate describes Clifford's aura as "a totally conscious construction. Totally."

    For 41 of his 46 years here Clifford has been a lawyer-lobbyist, like the handful of men who preceeded him in the field or were his peers (Tommy "the Cork" Corcoran, Abe Fortas, James Rowe), and like the thousands of men and women who have since flourished on K Street.

    But he is "like" these others only by category. His genius has consisted largely of making himself seem as unlike them as possible, in the eyes of his clients, of the government officials who are his targets, and of the press. Through his intermittent work as adviser and problem-solver to presidents, he has made himself appear a lifelong public servant who only incidentally practices hardball Washington law.

    If you were to codify Clifford's achievement, it could be reduced to five simple rules:

    1. Resist characterization as a lobbyist or influence-peddler, however much truth those labels might hold. Others lobby; Clifford counsels.

    2. Develop something more lasting than influence, which perishes with each change of administration. Because Clifford has prestige, influence follows.

    3. Shun the accountability and dependence (not to mention the pay scale) of a government job. For Clifford, who served only one year in government in the past four decades, the half-dozen presidential job offers he turned down would have been demotions.

    4. Hone your wisdom in foreign, not domestic, policy. It's easier to influence behind the scenes, it's worth more status points, and it's far less likely to conflict with a corporate law practice.

    5. Above all, avoid appearing to seek power. There's no one the power-hungry creatures of Washington admire more than someone for whom power looks effortless; the idea is that power begs an audience with Clifford because he's just so damn smart. "Clifford's view of himself is that power sought him – that he never sought power," says a close associate. "At a certain point in a person's life, when he has said something like this long enough, he believes it when he says it. Even if on a daily basis he does things that suggest otherwise."

    Private Practice On leaving the Truman administration, Clifford went into partnership with a friend who had worked in the antitrust division of the Justice Department. He immediately developed a little speech that he delivered to every prospective client: I do not consider that this firm will have any influence of any kind here in Washington. ... If you want influence, you should consider going elsewhere. What we can offer you is an extensive knowledge of how to deal with the government on your problems. ...

    Within a year of leaving office, he was representing RCA, Standard Oil, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Republic of Indonesia, El Paso Natural Gas, TWA and Phillips Petroleum, whose chairman he had met through a good friend, Oklahoma Sen. Robert S. Kerr.

    Not until 1969 did any member of his firm register as a lobbyist; not until 1975, when the Justice Department made a minor fuss over the firm's four-year-old representation of Algerian oil interests, did Clifford register as the agent of any foreign government. His was, he said then and says now, an advisory firm.

    Of course, Clifford well knew that his clients regarded him as a big wheel at the White House. He remained close to President Truman, sometimes joining him on vacations in Key West, and continuing to be responsible for arranging Truman's cherished poker weekends.

    And when Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower took office, there was still the Democratic Congress to deal with. Clifford was already best friends with Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington, whom he had known in St. Louis. He made tight associations, too, with junior Sen. John F. Kennedy, with future majority leader Johnson, and with Kerr – who was arguably as powerful a figure as Johnson. In Symington, Kennedy and Johnson, he also had as friends three of the party's future presidential contenders.

    He became known as the Washington lawyer who had a special skill, who could succeed where others failed – and by the '60s was rumored to be the first lawyer in America to make more than a million dollars a year. (He disputes the statement that he was first, without quarreling with the million-dollar figure.) Perhaps his most famous success was in saving millions of dollars for du Pont family interests on the court-ordered divestiture of a huge block of General Motors stock. He was able to push through Congress a bill enabling Du Pont's shareholders to pay capital gains taxes, rather than the much higher ordinary income tax, on the shares that were distributed to them. And he did it without lobbying Congress personally, instead directing an imaginative lobbying campaign by Du Pont's president.

    At the same time, he was seen as a man who could give counsel on delicate, quasi-political problems. In 1957, Sen. Kennedy asked him to counter an accusation by columnist Drew Pearson that Kennedy aide Theodore Sorenson was the real author of Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Profiles in Courage." Pearson had made the charge on an ABC broadcast. It was clear, from notes and manuscripts, that Sorenson had at least given Kennedy extensive help in research and writing. But Clifford not only obtained a network apology, but got an ABC vice president to read on the air the groveling statement that Clifford had drafted – with Sorenson.

    Clifford became JFK's personal lawyer, performing services for him even while supporting rival presidential candidate Symington in the 1960 campaign. Already, Clifford had a special status: Where another man would have been exiled for his service to an opponent, Clifford was respected for a usefulness that transcended political combat. After the election, Kennedy asked Clifford to manage his transition.

    To this day Clifford carries secrets about the services he performed as JFK's personal lawyer. But he writes in his book about the political advice he tendered. For example, it was Clifford whom JFK called in, in the fall of 1961, while the family pondered whether 29-year-old Ted Kennedy should run the following year for the president's old Senate seat. A family friend was keeping it warm for the next Kennedy, and the decision seemed certain but for one thing: Teddy had cheated on two Spanish exams at Harvard 10 years earlier. "The president and Bobby wanted my judgment as to its effect on their brother's possible candidacy," Clifford explains in his book, "and recommendations as to how to deal with it publicly if the family concluded that he should make the race."

    Clifford researched the matter in his lawyerly way, questioning Ted and the classmate who took the exams for him, and concluded the race could be won anyway. Teddy, he counseled, should arrange to explain the incident, as if spontaneously, in answer to a question from a journalist. "The President decided that Teddy should follow the suggestion I had made to surface the matter through an interview with a friendly journalist," Clifford writes. "The man chosen, Robert Healy of The Boston Globe, wrote the story on March 30, 1962." Perhaps his strangest assignment, early in the new administration, was JFK's request that he travel to New York to talk to Joe Kennedy Sr., to try to dissuade him from his insistence that Robert F. Kennedy become attorney general. Clifford would not succeed, as surely JFK knew in advance; it seems likely he wanted to preview for his father, in the person of Clifford, the likely reaction of "establishment" Washington to the controversial appointment.

    Just once, President Kennedy leaned heavily on Clifford's contacts with industry. In 1962, the big steel companies raised prices on the heels of major union wage concessions, in violation of what Kennedy believed was a solid understanding that the companies, too, would show restraint. The president sent Clifford to stare them down, threatening them with antitrust investigations, tax audits and defense contract boycotts.

    The new administration cemented Clifford's credentials as a "wise man." In an administration striking for its youth, Clifford was able, in his mid-fifties, to seem an elder statesman, and he played it for all it was worth. His canniest decision was not to join the administration. As transition director he said flatly that he would accept no job in the new administration: Only in that way, he said, could he adjudicate among power-hungry job candidates. He turned aside JFK's tentative suggestions that he become CIA director or chief arms control negotiator.

    Kennedy understood perfectly the nature of Clifford's use to him, and his to Clifford. "Clark is a wonderful fellow," Kennedy was fond of saying. "In a day when many are seeking a reward for what they contributed to the return of the Democrats to the White House, you don't hear Clark clamoring. All he asked in return was that we advertise his law firm on the backs of one-dollar bills."

    His Way With LBJ Clifford's relationship with Lyndon Johnson had cooled during the Kennedy years. But when LBJ became president, Clifford once again became one of Johnson's chief outside advisers.

    As always, some of his advice concerned rough-and-tumble political difficulties. Shortly before the 1964 campaign, for example, Clifford and Abe Fortas were called in when LBJ's close aide Walter Jenkins was arrested in a homosexual incident at the District YMCA. Clifford and Fortas visited the city's major newspapers to argue (though unsuccessfully) that the matter should be kept out of the news.

    The same year, LBJ was worried that the party would demand the vice presidential nomination for Bobby Kennedy – a prospect the president loathed. It was Clifford who drafted a "talking paper" on how to let Bobby down gently, and Johnson, in his anxiety to handle Kennedy carefully, simply read the paper aloud to RFK.

    LBJ was far more apt than President Kennedy to call Clifford in on matters of policy: He was a part of White House deliberations all through the Six-Day War, for example; his book is larded with references to such scenes as joining Johnson in the Situation Room while Johnson talked to Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin on the hot line. But unlike Fortas, who was intensely involved in Johnson's Great Society, Clifford had little part in the roiling domestic policy of those years.

    Clifford handled Johnson astutely: Over and above his own reluctance to return to government, Clifford understood that Johnson was a manipulator and a bully, and was careful never to put himself directly under LBJ's power. "I had the feeling that from my standpoint, at that period," he says judiciously, "I would serve him better as an independent adviser than actually going into a job which placed me under his control."

    He turned down – again – the job of CIA director ("I knew that's not what I wanted to do"). He turned down U.N. ambassador ("I slipped out of that one very quickly"), and attorney general – twice. (Especially attorney general: A good part of Clifford's practice was antitrust law, a major area of concern for the Justice Department. "I gave as my reason," he says demurely, "that that was not where my principal interest in government lay.") He turned down national security assistant and undersecretary of state.

    And then came the day, in 1968, when LBJ issued his direct, very presidential request that Clifford kindly join the administration as Robert McNamara's successor at the Pentagon. "He did not ask me," recalls Clifford. "He proceeded on the assumption that we already had an agreement." Johnson had snared him for what was possibly the hardest job in Washington: the management of the Vietnam War.

    Three years before, in the summer of 1965, Clifford had warned LBJ against escalating the war. He wrote the president that Vietnam could be a "quagmire," and that 50,000 American soldiers could die – a remarkably prescient prediction. But once LBJ rejected the advice, Clifford decided to pay the price he had to to stay at the table. He decided, he says, that "it does me no good to get off in the corner and sulk because he disagreed with me." Johnson had made his choice, Clifford says, so "it became our country's policy and I went ahead and I supported it."

    He supported it with such vigor that by the time he became secretary of defense, in the days after the Tet Offensive, he was known as one of the most fervent hawks in the president's inner circle. But once assigned personal responsibility for the prosecution of the war, his opinion shifted rapidly, back to his original stance.

    Gen. William Westmoreland had just requested an additional 206,000 troops. And in the course of reviewing that request, the new secretary conducted a reappraisal of the entire war effort. He concluded that the United States simply had no viable plan to win the war.

    Clark Clifford made up his mind to try to get president and country out of Vietnam. Finally, the frustrated doves in the Pentagon and the White House had an ally of sufficient clout to get through to the president. "It was like being in a John Ford movie," recalls Harry McPherson, then Johnson's assistant and chief speechwriter. "It was like the cavalry rode in."

    But one did not change Lyndon Johnson's mind through frontal assault. Clifford instead bent his every wile to a campaign for change. Richard Fryklund, a former deputy assistant secretary of public affairs at the Pentagon, remembers the detail with which Clifford plotted his course. Before a meeting in which he hoped to score points, "he'd be leaning back in his chair looking up at the ceiling, as if the script were there, and walking himself through it, as we critiqued it," recalls Fryklund. He rehearsed "down to the little pleasantries. He'd say, 'At this point, I'll turn to Dean [Rusk, secretary of state], and I'll wink.' And then he'd make a remark – some in joke between the two guys – 'And then I'll turn back to the president and say – ' And he would have gestures in there."

    Knowing that Johnson had been encouraged to prosecute the war in meetings with the Cold War-era "Wise Men" – men like Dean Acheson, Douglas Dillon, Cyrus Vance and Omar Bradley – Clifford arranged for Johnson to host a dinner to hear these men's opinions afresh. It was a ploy, as he knew that Acheson, Dillon and others had changed their views on Vietnam, and it had the shocking effect on Johnson that Clifford had hoped.

    Johnson had planned a speech on Vietnam for late March. Clifford, with the help of McPherson and others, used it as an opportunity to redirect the policy; by the time March 31 rolled around, Johnson was ready to announce that the United States would halt almost all bombing and to propose peace talks.

    "Without question, Clifford played a preeminent – and I believe the decisive – role" in changing Johnson's policy, wrote former undersecretary of the Air Force Townsend Hoopes in his book "The Limits of Intervention." "He was the single most powerful and effective catalyst of change. ... He rallied and gave authoritative voice to the informed and restless opposition within the government, pressing the case for change with intellectual daring, high moral courage, inspired ingenuity, and sheer stubborn persistence. It was one of the great individual performances in recent American history, and achieved in the remarkably taut time span of thirty days."

    Johnson also announced on March 31 that he would not seek reelection. Clifford was caught completely by surprise, but continued to the end of the administration to tug a string here, push his luck there, do everything possible to commit the United States to winding down the war. By the time of President Nixon's inauguration, peace talks were underway. And although Nixon continued to press the war, expanding it into Laos and Cambodia, Clifford's work had at least limited the American effort.

    Clifford's acts made him a hero to an entire generation of Democrats here, who had watched in horror as their party's presidents tied the nation's fate to the Vietnam War. His relationship with Lyndon Johnson, on the other hand, never recovered. Though persuaded by Clifford's campaign, Johnson felt it was a betrayal.

    As secretary of defense, accountable to history for his acts, Clifford traded away his most cherished resource – the confidence of the president – for what he perceived as the correct course. It was the kind of conflict Clifford's Five Commandments were devised to avoid.

    It was the finest hour of his career.

    With Nixon elected, Clifford went back to full-time private practice. And though the Republicans now controlled the White House, Clifford's prestige was at an all-time high. He was 62. He was known as a man of both principle and pragmatism. The stage seemed set for the kind of twilight career Washington offers its favorite sons: a selective practice, golf at Burning Tree, a trade mission here and a special diplomatic assignment there. A gradual, dignified retirement.

    Two decades later Clifford would be working 12-hour days, around the clock and around the year, at a new career.

    He would not go gentle into that good night; he would be driven, instead, toward the darkness of personal scandal.


    Part Two

    © Copyright 1991 The Washington Post Company

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