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 It may not be published in full except by permission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 speaking?
CLIFFORD: Well, fortunately, in that regard our two styles fit quite
well. He liked simple sentences and simple words, and so did I. He wasn't
attempting to impress the populace with his erudition.
Now Franklin Roosevelt could do that, and do it very well. Franklin
Roosevelt used men like Rosenman and Robert Sherwood. He had some of the
best writers in the country. And some of those great phrases still live:
"All we have to fear is fear itself." His style was such and his background
was such that people were impressed and they liked him. It would have
been completely out of character for Harry
Truman. So, our styles worked
together well and we kept the speeches simple. We kept the words simple.
He didn't like big words that some of the people in the audience perhaps
wouldn't understand. He liked sentence structure that was even and not
lengthy. By the time the campaign came along, we'd had what, '45...
HESS: Almost four years.
CLIFFORD: That's right, close to four years together.
HESS: Now speaking of those four years, when you started off with Mr.
Truman, did he have different mannerisms, did he try to speak in phrases
other than Truman type phrases when you first started? Did he try to pattern
himself after Roosevelt? Did his speechwriters try to press him into that
CLIFFORD: During the whole year of ‘45 I didn't get
involved in speechwriting
because Judge Rosenman was there. I believe that early in the Truman administration
there was still a Rooseveltian flavor to his speeches because Sam Rosenman
had written a great many speeches for President Roosevelt. I think that
that carried over to some extent, and was part of the problem, President
Truman was fond of being a rather faint, almost indistinguishable copy
of Franklin Roosevelt. But he sensed and we all sensed, that he wanted
to get away from that and so he developed his own style. It was simple
and sincere and a far cry from the very sophisticated style of President
HESS: Did he develop that style with your help?
CLIFFORD: I would say only that in that regard that we knew what his
attitude was, and those of us that worked for him and prepared speeches
for him did our best through that period
to present him with speeches that we knew held be comfortable with.
HESS: At this point let me read just a paragraph that appeared in the
New York Times article by Lester Markel on March the 16th of 1947:
It is Clifford more than anyone else, as far as this reporter
can make out, who convinced the President that he should not be Franklin
Roosevelt, but Harry Truman, that he should no longer try to speak in
the Harvard accents, but with a Missouri twang; that in place of oratory
he should offer his own brand of "common sense." That was the trick--as
simple as that--and thus far it seems to be working.
So this is what a reporter saw in 1947.
CLIFFORD: I'm sure I wasn't the only one, but there were those of us
who wanted him to move away from the Franklin Roosevelt image. This was
obviously one of the clear and simple ways to do it.
HESS: Do you recall any major speeches in which
you may have been the sole writer? Was that pretty rare?
CLIFFORD: Well, anybody who writes speeches for a President is never
in the position of being the sole writer of a speech. What you
do first is to sit down with the President and discuss the matter. You
then arrive at a general concept of what he wants to say. Sometimes held
have a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to say and sometimes he wouldn't.
Sometimes I'd go in with suggestions because I'd be prepared. I'd know
a speech was coming and I would use that as an opportunity to say, "Here
is what I think you could do with that speech." I think that we were turned
so closely together that most of the time those ideas appealed to him.
And yet the man who writes the speeches for a President is merely relieving
of a burden that a President cannot carry, i.e., sitting
down with pencil and paper or his typewriter and hacking them out. They
become the President's speeches, because they are based upon the President's
attitude in your early talks. When you submit the draft it becomes the
President's material. He either accepts it or rejects it, or accepts part
of it, and rejects part of it. I can't recall ever writing a speech for
the President and having it escape unscathed and go to the public in the
original form. He always had his own ideas that went into it.
HESS: Or it might be edited by a third, fourth, fifth or sixth party.
CLIFFORD: Well, we had a system. When a draft had been prepared, and
it was a speech that was considered to be important, he would call a
conference for the Cabinet Room. I would be there and Charlie Ross would
be there. He would also invite from Government, those people who would
have some special knowledge. If it was an agriculture speech he would
have the Secretary of Agriculture and his assistants. If it was a foreign
policy speech he'd have the Secretary of State and some other men from
there and so forth.
We always had the same seats and I sat right across from him at the
Cabinet table. It was up to me to prepare the master draft. Usually our
policy was to have him read the entire speech aloud to get the whole feel
of it and everybody would have a copy and would follow along. Then he'd
go back and read a paragraph. And at the end of each paragraph held stop
and different people would make suggestions. So, it became the effort
of a good many people. Sometimes people came up with suggestions that
were wrong; then I'd fight for what was already in
the speech. Sometimes they came up with good suggestions. In any event it would be
pounded out in that manner.
HESS: What was your advice on how to handle the two dissident groups
that sprung up that year; the Progressive Party under Henry Wallace, and
J. Strom Thurmond and his States Rights Party? Just how should they have
been handled? What was your advice?
CLIFFORD: Well, that's touched on to some extent in the political memorandum
that I wrote for the President. I was sure that with Henry Wallace . .
HESS: That Wallace would have a party.
CLIFFORD: Yes, I felt very strongly that he'd be in it. He'd be the
candidate of the party and we had to take him on. There just couldn't
be any question about it. I think my general attitude was
to do it more in sorrow than in anger. The President had liked Henry Wallace and a great
many people liked him. He was just misguided; he was unrealistic and impractical.
We treated it that way, but we could not go along with the crowd that
was for him. They were Reds and Red sympathizers and we had to hit them
Now as far as Strom Thurmond and that side was concerned, the President
attempted to be conciliatory. I think he wanted to ameliorate the difficulty
that was occurring down South. I believe he still felt that we could carry
the South; I know I did. And yet we had to face up to the possibility
that there'd be a protest vote led by the States Rights Party.
HESS: Well, Mr. Henry Wallace in New York got a little over half a million,
he got 509,000 votes which took the state from the Truman column to the
Dewey column because they were very close, very
close in that.
HESS: Were there any plans laid, any thoughts, any discussions on what
they could do to try to save New York, for instance?
CLIFFORD: Well, we worked all through the campaign on New York. We knew
that it was critical. We knew at the time that that was Wallace's major
bastion of support. The President went there and spoke; others went there.
The whole Democratic organization was set to work. I believe that prior
to that election, no Democrat had ever been elected who hadn't carried
New York. We felt it was very important. We spent a good deal of money
(and money was awful tight), in New York, to try to carry New York.
When the returns came in, 500,000 votes that went to Wallace lost New
York for President
Truman; it enabled Dewey to win it. I recall that late
that night, around midnight or 1 a.m. or so, Herbert Brownell went on
the air and said, "We can now announce that Governor Dewey has won because
the returns are in from New York and New York has gone for Governor Dewey."
It looked pretty bad. We were all conscious of the fact that no Democrat
had ever been elected who had not carried New York.
So, it was a bitter blow to us; but we knew that New York was the main
danger. I think that to some extent we were surprised by the very large
vote that Wallace received in New York. It was larger than I think any
of us thought he would get.
HESS: Wasn't there a good deal of trouble that year with the Democratic
organizations in New York also? If I recall correctly, in preparation
for the traditional speech in Madison Square Garden,
the Garden itself
was rented for the President by the Liberal Party and not the Democratic
Party. Do you recall that?
CLIFFORD: I don't recall that detail. I think there was a good deal
of demoralization among the Democrats in New York and the main reason
was they did not think President Truman could win.
HESS: Many historians say that Mr. Truman chose to attack the 80th Congress
rather than Governor Dewey, and by calling the Congress back into special
session, which we have discussed, that he was sort of setting up a straw
man to attack rather than to attack Governor Dewey. And as you know, during
the campaign, he did strike out far more often, and far more effectively,
against the Congress rather than Governor Dewey. Was this part of the
CLIFFORD: It was obviously part of the policy decision,
but it was based on the reality that existed then. There was not a whole lot on which one
could base an attack on Governor Dewey. He was taking bland, moderate
positions. It seemed, I believe, to those of us who were so close to the
President, that one real avenue to victory was to point up what the people
in the country could expect if they got a Republican President.
Now Dewey's record had been pretty good as Governor in New York. He
had a good reputation as a prosecutor of crime there. He had a rather
outstanding term, or maybe two terms, as Governor of New York. The big
issue was really not that individual against Truman, but rather it was
what the country could expect. And I think the President very skillfully
and very adroitly said to the American people, "I'll tell you what's
to happen to you if you elect Dewey. Here the the policies that you are
going to get because here's what the Republican Congress has already demonstrated
to you their philosophy is." To the farmers President Truman said, "Is
this the kind of Government you want for four years? This is the Congress
that did so and so to you."
To labor he said, "This is what you'll expect. You'll have to expect
more repressive legislation such as Taft-Hartley. This is what you got
from this Republican Congress." President Truman had a specific illustration
to demonstrate to every group that we were appealing to what they could
expect if they elected Governor Dewey. If they were going to elect Governor
Dewey, then obviously they were going to get another Republican Congress.
So, rather than making it a contest between
Truman and Dewey, President
Truman wisely dramatized and accentuated the difference between the Democratic
Party, which wanted to do something for the people, and the Republican
Party which had demonstrated by its actions in the Congress that it was
not interested in the people. It was interested in special privilege.
HESS: Do you recall if that decision, or the decision to have a policy
such as this was hammeredout and articulated at a particular meeting,or
is this something that evolved?
CLIFFORD: It evolved. It was evolving in ‘47 as the Congress got the
bit in its teeth and went one way. It became more accentuated in the early
half of ‘48, so that by convention time it had become set policy. In an
effort to highlight the outstanding differences that
existed, and possibly
to get some constructive legislation, President Truman called the socalled
"Turnip Session" of the Congress. Congress again thumbed their noses at
him and the public had another demonstration of what they could expect
from a Republican administration.
HESS: All right, now in August, Leslie Biffle, Secretary of the Senate,
went out on a trip disguised as a chicken farmer, do you recall that?
Did you ever talk to Leslie Biffle about his experiences?
CLIFFORD: Yes, Les came back and reported on the attitude of the people
HESS: Do you recall the general tenor of his report?
CLIFFORD: It was rather encouraging. It came as something of a bright,
fresh lift to our
sagging spirits. He was finding a different attitude
among the ordinary folks in the country than we were being led to believe
existed by the press; they were not cottoning up to Governor Dewey very
well. They were impressed by President Truman's position and his concern
for them. I think he accentuated the attitude of the farmer and the farmer's
dissatisfaction with the treatment that he had received from the Republican
Congress. And my recollection is that he performed a valuable service
in giving a lift to the spirits and hopes of all of us at a difficult
HESS: And later on in the campaign, David Noyes and Albert Carr were
brought in as speechwriters during that campaign. Do you recall who suggested
bringing them in, why they were brought in?
CLIFFORD: I don't know. I don't know. They came in and I
think they helped. I know we were glad to get any kind of help that we possibly could.
I think some of their material we used and some of it we didn't use. We'd
become by that time very familiar with the President's attitudes and where
we thought we ought to go. But . . .
HESS: Did they travel on the train or did they stay over here in the
Executive Office Building?
CLIFFORD: I have no recollection of their being on the train. I believe
that they were assigned speeches. They would send material to us and we'd
work on it on the train. As I say, some of it we'd take and some of it
I don't remember Carr very well. I do remember David Noyes. That was
the beginning of a relationship between him and President Truman
I think was quite important to both of them. After President Truman left
the Presidency, Noyes began to give quite a lot of time to the presidential
library, he was helpful in that regard.
HESS: What do you recall about the proposed mission of Chief Justice
Vinson to Moscow? This occurred during October of 1948, and do you recall
where the proposal originated? As you know it was just proposed. President
Truman proposed to send Chief Justice Vinson to Moscow.
CLIFFORD: Oh, I remember very well.
HESS: It didn't come off.
CLIFFORD: One reason I remember it was because of my personal involvement.
I have some recollection that by that time Noyes was already in the picture.
I cannot be sure of this, but I think maybe the
idea came from Noyes.
HESS: Robert Ferrell in his book on George Marshall, it's in the series
on Secretaries of State,said it "apparently" came from Noyes and Carr.
CLIFFORD: Well, I have some recollection that it came from Noyes. Did
this occur in late October of '48?
CLIFFORD: I thought it was earlier than that. But I believe what they
had in mind at the time was developing a dramatic move that would greatly
appeal to the people in this country and show the people that we were
making progress in working toward peace with the Soviet Union. The Soviet
Union had acted very badly, I might say, during the time President Truman
had been in. I think they had this notion that this would be a great coup
at that critical time in the
campaign if the President could announce
he was sending a personal emissary to sit down with Stalin.
Now the reason I remember it so well is Time magazine in their
lead story that week attributed this "plot" to me. I was guilty of a good
many of them, but I didn't happen to be guilty of this one. And I'll take
a minute to tell the story I recall so clearly.
Time magazine wrote the piece and in it said that the whole world
was in the most sensitive and delicate posture. Further, the article stated
that Clifford who was taking such an active part in the campaign, had
come up with this scheme. It was obviously for political reasons. It said
we were in effect, playing fast and loose with the peace of the world
for domestic political gain.
Well, the mail that came in to me was awful.
Miss Weiler would come
in one morning and say, "Well, there are seventy-two letters this morning,
all very critical." I even remember the caption on one. It started off,
"You fascist fat cat faker," which I thought had certain merits from the
standpoint of alliteration. Oh, they were so abusive. That went on for
about a week, but one morning Miss Weiler came in with a bright look on
her face and said, "We had a friendly letter this morning."
And I said . . .
HESS: At last one arrived.
CLIFFORD: That's right. And I said, "Well, by all means get it." So
she brought it in, I remember. I still have it in my file. It was on lined
paper, and it was written in crayon. It said, "Dear Mr. Clifford, I have
read the article in Time magazine. I am familiar with what you
been doing. I think you are a real patriot. I do not
believe that you were playing with the peace of the world. I think that you honestly
felt that some accomplishment towards peace could be gained and I want
to tell you that you have my support." Signed with a man's name. And then
the P.S. said, "Please excuse the crayon, but I am not permitted any sharp
So, that was my one fan letter. I remember the incident well.
It got nowhere. General Marshall was unalterably opposed to it, of course.
It was not a really good idea and it was unfortunate that it was leaked.
I don't know how it was leaked. It was too bad because it caused a great
deal of critical comment and I think . . .
HESS: General Marshall was in Paris at that time.
CLIFFORD: General Marshall was in Paris. When the
President suggested it to him he blew his top and said, "Nothing doing. Under no circumstances
should such an idea be considers.
So the whole abortive idea was unfortunate, and I think was part and,parcel
of the reaction to some new people coming in rather late in the campaign
with ideas that had a tendency to blow up in our faces.
HESS: Did Noyes and Carr seem to get along all right with the other
members of the staff?
CLIFFORD: As far as I know there was very little contact. They were
off to themselves. They prepared speech suggestions and memoranda and
fed it on to us.
HESS: And another gentleman that was brought in to help write speeches
was John Franklin Carter, do you recall anything about him?
CLIFFORD: Very little. At one stage he came in and I think
he wrote a speech. And I have some recollection it was pretty good, but I don't
know what happened to it. Nothing much came of it. I can say only that
we were always searching for talent because we were terribly overworked.
We needed a larger staff, and we needed new ideas. We were all exhausted
and if anybody showed any kind of talent at all we'd try him out.
HESS: I believe Mr. Murphy told me that he stayed back at the White
House at this time to work on speeches.
CLIFFORD: He did. He would work on matters where it was relatively quiet
and removed from the daily exigencies of the campaign train and then his
material would flow right out to us. They kept a courier service going
between the White
House and the Democratic Committee that fed material
to those of us who were working on the train. Murphy was a very valuable
HESS: Did you have good liaison, good assistance from the Democratic
National Committee that year?
CLIFFORD: Only that one--as far as I was concerned, only that one unit
which would be called the Research . . .
HESS: The Research Division.
CLIFFORD: The Research Division. They had a group of young fellows there
who did a really good job.
HESS: Now I have . . .
CLIFFORD: Now I don't believe the rest of the committee did much.
HESS: Did they work very hard for Mr. Truman or did
they just not--did J. Howard McGrath think that Mr. Truman would be defeated?
CLIFFORD: I don't know. I liked Howard McGrath and I think he did well
under very difficult circumstances. I'd have to say to you that I doubt
that in an election either of the national committees plays much of a
part. They just don't.
HESS: Is their role mainly between the elections . . .
CLIFFORD: I think their role is mainly between keeping the . . .
HESS:. . . and keeping the conventions . . .
CLIFFORD: . . . keeping the organizations going and so forth. It's up
to the President and his organization to run the campaign; the committee
doesn't really do that.
HESS: Now about the Research Division, I have been told
that it was set up in the Democratic National Committee merely as an administrative
function, because the White House needed more writers. Is that correct,
or to . . .
CLIFFORD: I don't recall that detail. We needed help and it seemed appropriate
to set it up there. There wasn't room in the White House, and at that
particular time the State, War and Navy Building was being used by the
State Department. I have some recollection that it was decided to put
this unit in the Democratic National Committee and also that they were
to finance it.
HESS: Was the State, War and Navy in the EOB as late as this?
CLIFFORD: I think so.
HESS: Is that right?
CLIFFORD: I think so.
HESS: Now the White House did have some offices there.
CLIFFORD: I think they did, but I ...
HESS: David Niles, Philleo Nash . . .
CLIFFORD: Yes, I believe they had some; I know that Secretary
of State Byrnes was in the old building, and . . .
HESS: Oh. Was the Bureau of the Budget there?
CLIFFORD: Yes, the Bureau of the Budget was there. And my recollection
is that Secretary Marshall was there also. Now, I'm sorry I can't be positive
HESS: Do you recall Jonathan Daniels coming backand providing some assistance
CLIFFORD: I knew him well. He had been there for a while
as Assistant Press Secretary or something of that kind earlier. I think he offered
his services and I have some recollection of his sending some material
in, but it was . . .
HESS: Mr. Truman took one trip into the South, more or less, excluding
HESS: He did fly down to Miami for the American Legion convention. Mr.
Truman took one trip to Raleigh, North Carolina where there was a state
fair, and he spoke on the state capital steps. And I have been told that
Mr. Daniels (being from North Carolina) was somewhat instrumental in setting
up that trip for the President.
CLIFFORD: I don't recall the incident, but I would think quite clearly
that if the President were
going to North Carolina he certainly would use
the services of Jonathan Daniels, whom he knew and liked.
HESS: Do you recall what Bill Boyle's role was in the 1948 campaign?
Jack Redding in his book Inside the Democratic Party, says that
he was set up in Washington to direct a central operating headquarters
for the train. Do you recall anything on that?
CLIFFORD: I remember Bill Boyle, but I don't remember him during the
HESS: Okay. Do you recall anything about Mr. Truman's final major address
in Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis?
CLIFFORD: Yes. I had been working on it for some time because it was
to be our final effort. I got it in to him about two days before we got
to St. Louis. We had a speech conference on it and
decided that that wasn't to be the speech at all, and it was discarded entirely. And . . .
HESS:At that time?
CLIFFORD: At that time, about two days before St. Louis.
HESS: I have heard that he carried the speech with him up to the podium
and then closed it on the podium.
CLIFFORD: No. No, I'm afraid somebody's dramatized that for you. But
I have a recollection (unless my recollection is at fault), that we'd
been talking about a certain kind of speech and we thought maybe it would
end the campaign appropriately. I submitted the speech, we had a speech
conference on it and it was decided that that was not the kind of speech
It was felt that what we needed was more of a recapitulation
of a general nature of all the issues that had been touched on. Instead of
having a written speech at that time, he had developed the facility and
we got it up mainly in the form of an outline; it was really quite effective.
I think it was a wise decision to discard the speech that we'd worked
up and go ahead and use this other approach.
HESS: And read from the outline.
CLIFFORD: Yes, and give it more on his own. It was more spontaneous.
He developed a greater rapport with the audience that way and he wanted
to do that.
HESS: Well, since the St. Louis area is your home, did you stay there
when President Truman went on to Independence?
CLIFFORD: No, I had been gone a long time and what I wanted
to do was to get back to Washington. I wanted to vote, and felt it was awfully important
that I vote. So that night I stayed in St. Louis because the next day
was election day. I got up early and voted and then came back to Washington.
I had talked it over with him and he thought that was the reasonable thing
to do. But I wanted to be sure to vote. There was a principle involved
I came back to Washington after voting in St. Louis, and I remember
talking to him on the phone after getting back to Washington. Something
came up and I called Independence and talked with him. I got back so I
could be with my wife and children and they stayed up almost as late as
we did while we got the returns in. Then I was on the phone with him in
the cold gray dawn the next morning when finally it came
through that he had won.
HESS: You talked to him then after he got back to the Muehlebach? Recall
that night he went up to Excelsior Springs.
CLIFFORD: Yes, I don't know where he went. I remember talking to him
when we finally learned the results; it must have been 5:30, 6 or 6:30
a.m. It seems to me it was that late because at one stage during the night
the whole election depended upon Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and California
as I remember. Of course some of those were late. Of course California
HESS: Ohio was the very important swing state, that late in the game.
CLIFFORD: Oh, it sure was. Plenty! I guess of those four I mentioned,
Ohio and California were the two most important. Those four states were
very critical. And curiously enough, my recollection
is, he carried all
four, but by a very slight margin.
As the final result turned out, it was not a particularly close election
as far as electoral votes are concerned.
HESS: Why do you think it turned out that way?
CLIFFORD: Oh I . . .
HESS: The premise was that at the time so many Republicans took it for
granted that Mr. Dewey was going to win they just didn't bother going
CLIFFORD: Well, I think there might have been two reasons for it. I
think that's one, and as I said before, there was some ferment going on.
There was something that last month of the campaign that was so noticeable
that everybody who came on the train was conscious of it.
And I think
this campaign was very successful. It was a personal type of campaign
where millions of people saw him. They talked in turn to millions of other
people who didn't see him.
I think Dewey's campaign was a dismal flop. This was one of those instances
in which a man pretty well won his own election. He fought, and fought,
and fought; he worked like a dog. He worked sixteen hours a day, day after
day, week after week, and month after month. And at no time during the
whole campaign did I ever hear him utter a word which indicated
that he had the slightest doubt that he was going to win.
HESS: Do you think he really thought he was going to win?
CLIFFORD: I will never know. I only know what his
attitude was toward
all the rest of them. Now I have the gravest doubt that Mrs. Truman
thought he was going to win.
HESS: Did you ever hear her say so?
CLIFFORD: No, but I heard remarks and had conversations which indicated
that she thought that it was right for him to make the fight. That's the
way she was. But I just would have to say to you I just gained the impression
during the campaign that she thought it just wasn't going to stretch.
HESS: Did you think that he was going to win?
CLIFFORD: I would have to say to you that until a month before I had
the gravest doubts. Until two weeks before I had doubts. And right up
to election I had doubts. Those doubts were reflected to some extent by
a comment I previously
made. I have said I had the feeling then that if
we had had another week we were going to make it. There was still a real
chance that we could make it, but I believe that by election time I felt
the odds were against us.
There is another incident. About ten days, or twelve days before the
election we were back in Washington for a day or two, to get new laundry
and new material and get started again.
HESS: To take a deep breath.
CLIFFORD: Yes. And I had luncheon with Arthur Krock of the New York
Times. I still have the envelope that I wrote on the back and listed
the states we were going to win and the states that we were going to lose.
And it was really remarkably accurate.
MISS MARRY M. WEILER: Yes.
CLIFFORD: Could you possibly put your hands on that
rather famous envelope
on which I wrote down the states that I thought President Truman would
win or lose? It would obviously be in a President Truman file.
I can't recall exactly whether I firmly believed this or whether that
was my inclination, or whether I was simply whistling in the graveyard.
I am not going to say to you that I was absolutely sure that President
Truman was going to win. It was too much of an uphill struggle. I'm sure
that we all had a hope, our hopes were increased substantially the last
few weeks of the campaign, and . . .
WEILER: It's getting a little worn looking, it's kind of old.
HESS: I wonder if we could have a xerox copy of that to include in the
appendix to our interview?
CLIFFORD: Would you make a xerox of this please?
WEILER: I'd do both sides because I think the date
is on there on that envelope that you wrote on.
CLIFFORD: She'll bring that back and we'll take a look at it. It's very
HESS: That's right, I have a list of statistics that shows who won and
who lost and then we'll compare them when she comes back.
CLIFFORD: Compare them, yes.
HESS: All right, after the election Mr. Truman took a trip down to Key
West. And now wedo have several questions on Key West that we will come
back to at a later date, such as how was the staff work carried on in
Key West? What did the President seem to like to do? That we will come
back to. But on this particular trip he went down on the 7th I believe
back on the 21st. What seemed to be Mr. Truman's
attitude after this big upset? Was he more relaxed, more elated, any different than any
other trip to Key West?
CLIFFORD: Oh yes, it was marvelous. It was a time of complete relaxation.
We had just one happy day after another. I remember, I went about ten
days or two weeks without shaving just as part of the general celebration
and to be relieved of any onerous duty. And we loafed; we didn't discuss
any business. I don't know how the Government ran during that time; we
were all utterly exhausted!
I remember going down for awhile sleeping about fourteen hours a day
and then lolling around on the beach. That was just about the happiest
trip that any group ever had. He had pulled off the greatest political
coup, I believe,
in American history, and had done it practically single
handedly. It was a marvelous trip. He was relaxed and happy and we were
greatly amused by people getting back on the wagon. There were letters
coming in from people saying, "I sent my contribution. Apparently it was
never received." So that caused great merriment among the group.
The activities consisted of sitting around first at breakfast and reminiscing.
They were very happy reminiscenses about the difficulties here and how
they were overcome. And we would go down to the beach and spend the morning
there. Then we'd come back, and have luncheon.
HESS: There's a list of the people who were along on that trip.
HESS: All right, let's check and see how accurate
you were on the envelope
now that we have the xerox copy.
CLIFFORD: There's your xerox copy.
HESS: Fine and we will use this in the appendix and we will just footnote
it at this point.
CLIFFORD: All right. Now those are the states I told Krock we were going
to carry. And now do you have . . .
HESS: Yes, I have a list.
CLIFFORD: Do you have the list?
HESS: I have a list of Dewey states. I'll just start at the top and
read them. Dewey carried . . .
CLIFFORD: Well now, let's take this list and compare it.
HESS: Missouri, of course, that was 15 for Mr. Truman.
Oklahoma was 10 and that's correct.
HESS: Texas was 23, and that is correct, that went to Truman.
CLIFFORD: All right.
HESS: Kentucky was 11, and that is correct. Tennessee is 11, you have
12 here, I have 11 on this. It doesn't make--well, no, one went-that was
the split one. One for Thurmond you know, 11 for Truman and one for Thurmond.
HESS: And Ohio, the very big one, 25, you were correct on that. Michigan,
here's one you missed, 19 for Dewey . . .
CLIFFORD: Oh well.
HESS: . . . but a very close vote. And Illinois
was 28 for Truman, that's correct. Indiana you missed, that's 13 for Dewey.
HESS: Florida you are correct, 8 for Truman. Arizona correct, 4 for
Truman. Montana correct, 4 for Truman. Utah correct, 4 for Truman. New
Jersey ... you missed New Jersey.
HESS: New Jersey, it was close, 895,455 for Truman and 981,124 Dewey.
And West Virginia is correct, that's 8 for Truman. Rhode Island, that's
correct, that's 4, and at least J. Howard McGrath got his state in there
anyway, you know.
HESS: And then Massachusetts 16, that is correct, and
Georgia 12, and that is correct. That's one of the southern states that stayed for Truman.
HESS: And North Carolina 14. North Carolina is 14 for Truman, and they
HESS: And Virginia 11. Now, I believe that was the last time that Virginia
has been in the Democratic column in a long time, isn't it?
HESS: And in Maryland, and I believe that's in the other column, Maryland
is 8 for Dewey. And then Minnesota has 11 for Truman. Wyoming 3 for Truman,
and Colorado, and Oscar Chapman
carried his state of 6 for Truman. So . . .
CLIFFORD: I note there that date of the luncheon is October 20, 1948.
I wrote it on there, you see that little square box?
HESS: That's right.
CLIFFORD: The checks are by Arthur Krock. Those checks, he took his
pen out. I wrote mine in pencil; he took his pen out and he disagreed.
Where he wrote one check he disagreed mildly; where he wrote two checks
he disagreed completely.
HESS: Oh, well that's good to know.
CLIFFORD: That's what those are.
HESS: Texas, Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina have two
checks, so he thought those were definitely going for Dewey. And
the one checks: Rhode Island, West Virginia, New Mexico,
Missouri. He even thought Mr. Truman's own state was a little doubtful.
CLIFFORD: That's right.
HESS: Okay, fine. Well, we'll include this in the appendix.
CLIFFORD: Now how many electoral votes did Mr. Truman end up with, does
your schedule show?
HESS: Three hundred and three.
CLIFFORD: All right, I gave him 289. Do you see that written there?
HESS: Yes 289. Dewey got 189, and Thurmond got 39.
CLIFFORD: I did not give President Truman California. Did you notice
I didn't give him New York?
HESS: That's right.
CLIFFORD: I also did not give him Pennsylvania.
HESS: Well, he didn't win Pennsylvania.
CLIFFORD: That's right. I didn't give him those three big states.
HESS: That's right. You didn't give him the three big ones.
CLIFFORD: But California did go for him.
HESS: That was a very interesting thing since Earl Warren was running
as Vice President that year and did not pull his own state.
CLIFFORD: That's right, he didn't.
HESS: What went right? We have discussed what went wrong in New York
what went right in California? Anything in particular?
CLIFFORD: I believe that California is the most
difficult state in the
Union to analyze. President Truman's personality and his populist approach
apparently served him well there. They just didn't take to Governor Dewey.
Now, I remember one interesting development in California. President
Truman did not attack Governor Warren. He went all through the state saying,
"The fact is, Governor Warren's in the wrong party; he really should be
a Democrat. And I could accept him because he's that kind." You see he
had had a really quite a liberal administration and I believe that was
a very definite factor. It proved to be wise strategy and yet at the same
time (as was oftentimes the case with President Truman) it was said with
great sincerity. He was an admirer of Governor Warren.
HESS: They got along rather well. In this particular campaign the Governor
did not meet him. But in
1952, as you will recall, when Mr. Truman made
a swing in support of Adlai Stevenson, Governor Warren met him at one
of his first stops in California on his campaign trip. So they were good
CLIFFORD: They were definitely good friends. I recall when the Truman
Library was dedicated the main speaker was, I think, Chief Justice Warren,
who had gone on the Court. He came out and made a great speech. And I
recall that former President Herbert Hoover came out there also.
HESS: That's right.
CLIFFORD: I recall the day. I was there.
HESS: I understand it was rather hot that day. I wasn't there but I
have heard it was.
CLIFFORD: Well, it was the kind of day where if you're
a Missouri farmer,
you say to your friend, "Lem, this sure is great corn growing weather."
It must have been a hundred in the shade, and there wasn't any shade.
We all sat out in the open. And on my honor, I'm not exaggerating, it
must have been a hundred and fifteen as you sat in the sun. Herbert Hoover
was there and he must have been up in his late seventies or eighties at
that time. He also was a very real admirer of President Truman's and President
Truman had friends everywhere. It was just one of the great marks of his
personality and character.
HESS: Fine. We thank you very much sir.
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