Relegated to a largely ceremonial role when he first arrived at the White House, Clark Clifford succeeded in parlaying proximity to power into an actual position of power. When President Harry S. Truman was confronted with his first major crisis, the labor wars of 1946, Clifford's wise counsel enabled the president not only to weather the storm but also to emerge a stronger leader. Clifford helped Truman sidestep a political disaster brought on by a wayward cabinet member whom Truman had usurped as vice president and who believed that by rights the presidency should have been his. A master at synthesizing the ideas of others, Clifford served as a conduit for getting policy proposals to the president while burnishing his own reputation. Initially relegated to what he called the role of a “potted palm,” Clifford soon ascended to a position commensurate with his talent and ambition: special counsel to the president.
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