American Elephants

Doing the Correct Thing for the Common Good by The Elephant's Child

William P. Clark who passed away on Saturday, August 10, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, was the only member of President Ronald Reagan’s inner circle who never wrote a memoir of his time with Reagan. He was known as “the Judge” from his tenure on the California Supreme Court to which Reagan appointed him when Reagan was governor.

William P. Clark was President Reagan’s most important and influential presidential confidante. He served Ronald Reagan as deputy secretary of state (to keep an eye on Al Haig), national security adviser, and secretary of the Interior. Steven Hayward did a nice memorial at Powerline, and a postscript this morning when the Oral History Project of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia released an oral interview that had not been available to researchers until  after Clark’s passing. Steven Hayward recommends a biography: The Judge, William P. Clark: Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand by Paul Kengor and Patricia Clark Doerner (Clark’s niece). Both the Powerline pieces are really worth your time.

At the end on the postscript piece was a comment about Derek Leebart’s idiosyncratic book on the Cold War, The Fifty Year Wound, a book that I greatly admire. From Hayward’s piece:

Clark: I mentioned Leebaert and his Fifty-Year Wound. In fact he didn’t know [Reagan], had no particular political philosophy, a Georgetown professor. I forget his exact words but effectively the two great Presidents of the 20th century were Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. The primary reason for that is that they had no self-agenda, they were not on a power kick. The power to them was at times anathema, but they were trying always to do the correct thing for the common good.

The last three sentences struck me, for they are such a comment on the current administration. That is the central problem of our time: the president has a major self-agenda.

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