At age thirty-eight Clark McAdams Clifford arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1945 to serve in a relatively minor position as an assistant to the president's naval aide. By 1946 Harry Truman was so delighted with Clifford's performance that he chose the lawyer from St. Louis to be special counsel to the president. Clifford was immediately responsible for preparing many of Truman's state papers, speeches, and memoranda.
Once at the center of power, Clifford displayed an intelligence and an instinct for power that made him Truman's most influential adviser and one of the handful of most important White House aides in history. Labeled a "golden boy," the elegant, handsome, and charming aide seemed an unlikely political and personal partner of the president. With the enthusiastic backing of Truman, Clifford prepared a memorandum that in general terms outlined a strategy for Truman to win the 1948 election. In November 1947 the forty-three-page document, "The Politics of 1948," was presented to the president. This bold report demonstrated that Clifford was a tough political pragmatist.
Recommending a "course of political conduct" for Truman, his aide emphasized that the approach was based "solely on an appraisal of the politically advantageous course to follow." Truman read the memorandum carefully, and agreed with Clifford's analysis and proposed victory strategy. The report became the blueprint for the 1948 campaign waged by the president. One section dealt with the various special interest groups that the Democrats hoped to attract, including Jewish voters.
The memorandum, "The Politics of 1948," from Clifford to Truman on 19 November 1947, stated:
The Jewish vote…is important only in New York. But (except for Wilson in 1916) no candidate since 1876 has lost New York and won the Presidency, and its forty-seven [electoral] votes are naturally the first prize in any election. Centered in New York City, that vote is normally Democratic and, if large enough, is sufficient to counteract the upstate vote and deliver the state to President Truman. Today the Jewish bloc is interested primarily in Palestine and will continue to be an uncertain quantity right up to the time of election.
Throughout the election year of 1948 Clifford recommended policies on the Palestine issue (involving the Zionist effort to establish a Jewish state in Palestine) that were intended to improve the president's standing with the American Jewish community. In the final six months of the campaign the president's decisions on Palestine bore the mark of Clifford's influence. Truman was increasingly willing to follow recommendations based upon domestic political considerations.