Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Counselor or American Lightning

Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History

Author: Ted Sorensen

An intimate, deeply revealing memoir from John F. Kennedy's legendary right-hand man.

In January 1953 the newly-elected Senator John F. Kennedy hired a young Nebraskan lawyer named Theodore Sorensen as his legislative assistant. Sorensen quickly rose up the ranks in JFK's senate office, from research aide to speechwriter to campaigner and advisor, eventually working closely with JFK on his speeches and books, including Profiles in Courage, and encouraging JFK's interest in the vice presidential nomination. Though JFK's pursuit of that nomination fell short at the 1956 Democratic Convention, he had emerged as a prominent national figure; and JFK and Sorensen traveled over the next three years to all fifty states exploring his prospects for the presidential nomination in 1960. Upon his election, Kennedy appointed Sorensen as his Special Counsel-a role that allowed him to serve as the President's own lawyer, speechwriter, and trusted confidante.

Sorensen recounts in thrilling detail his experience advising JFK through some of the most dramatic moments in American history, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, when JFK requested that Sorensen draft a letter to Khrushchev at the most critical point of the world's first nuclear confrontation. Sorensen was immersed in everything from civil rights to the decision to go to the moon, and he also had a hand in JFK's most important speeches.

Illuminating, revelatory, and utterly compelling, Counselor is the brilliant long-awaited memoir from a man who shaped the presidency and legacy of JFK as no one else could.

The New York Times - Jack Rosenthal

Sorensen, much more than a speechwriter, grew so close that some came to call him the deputy president. After the assassination, his act of mourning was to write Kennedy, a rigorous history. Now, four decades later, just as he turns 80 and seven years after a stroke that virtually destroyed his vision, he has written a different kind of book. Much of it is inescapably about J.F.K., and it includes some discreet disclosures and funny historical footnotes. But primarily this is a book, a touching book, about a mellower Sorensen

The Washington Post - Ted Widmer

Sorensen has written on Kennedy before—his 1965 opus, Kennedy, was one of the first to etch the legend into stone, and he has been writing ever since on subjects ranging from foreign policy to table tennis…But this book is different from his previous efforts. It is as much about Sorensen as Kennedy, more personal than anything he has written before. It is full of new information about both men, and in a world saturated with Kennedy stories both over-familiar and apocryphal, that's saying something…This book is instantly essential for any student of the period. It fills gaps in the historical record; it vividly conveys life inside the administration; and it generously dishes anecdotes

Publishers Weekly

Sorensen begins this audio sounding like a tired old man, with a gravelly voice and narrow vocal range; but as he becomes livelier and more engaged in his own narrative, listeners do too. A legislative assistant to Senator John F. Kennedy, Sorensen became JFK's speechwriter and closest advisor throughout the Kennedy presidency. Sorensen is most animated describing what he sees as the three major legacies of the Kennedy years: avoiding nuclear war through his handling of the Cuban missile crisis, supporting the civil rights movement, and competing with the Soviets in space. He deplores the Bush administration and ends with the fervent hope for new Democratic leadership to restore America's moral authority in the world and aspirations for a better, more equal life at home. This is a piece of history told by a passionate participant who is a fine writer and most engaging reader. A HarperCollins hardcover. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents:

Prologue 1

Pt. 1 Lincoln, Nebraska, 1928-1951

1 Roots 13

2 Mother 22

3 Father 34

4 Childhood and Siblings 49

5 Education 59

6 Conscience 67

Pt. 2 Washington, D.C., 1951-1964

7 Move to Washington, D.C. 89

8 Joining Senator Kennedy 95

9 Relationship with JFK 102

10 My Perspective on JFK's Personal Life 116

11 My Evolving Role on JFK's Senate Staff 124

12 Speechwriting 130

13 My Role in Profiles in Courage 144

14 A Catholic Candidate for President? 156

15 Senator Kennedy's Quest for the Presidency 167

16 The 1960-1961 Presidential Transition 198

17 Special Counsel to the President 203

18 The President's Speeches 215

19 President Kennedy's Ministry of Talent 228

20 My Relations with Vice President Lyndon Johnson 241

21 My Relations with President Kennedy's Family 250

22 Kennedy's Civil Rights Initiative 270

23 The Cuban Missile Crisis 285

24 President Kennedy's Foreign Policy 310

25 My Role in Press Relations 341

26 Planning for JFK's Reelection and Second Term 346

27 The Death of President Kennedy 360

28 President Johnson's 1963 Transition 378

Pt. 3 New York City, 1965-2007

29 Return to Private Life and Authorship 397

30 New Life in New York 410

31 Practicing Law 422

32 My Continuing Involvement in Politics 452

33 My 1977 Nomination for Director of Central Intelligence 484

34 Family and Health 504

Epilogue: Reflections, Regrets, and Reconsiderations 519

Acknowledgments 533

Index 535

Books about: Final Salute or Culture Warrior

American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century

Author: Howard Blum

It was an explosion that reverberated across the country—and into the very heart of early-twentieth-century America. On the morning of October 1, 1910, the walls of the Los Angeles Times Building buckled as a thunderous detonation sent men, machinery, and mortar rocketing into the night air. When at last the wreckage had been sifted and the hospital triage units consulted, twenty-one people were declared dead and dozens more injured. But as it turned out, this was just a prelude to the devastation that was to come.

In American Lightning, acclaimed author Howard Blum masterfully evokes the incredible circumstances that led to the original “crime of the century”—and an aftermath more dramatic than even the crime itself.

With smoke still wafting up from the charred ruins, the city’s mayor reacts with undisguised excitement when he learns of the arrival, only that morning, of America’s greatest detective, William J. Burns, a former Secret Service man who has been likened to Sherlock Holmes. Surely Burns, already world famous for cracking unsolvable crimes and for his elaborate disguises, can run the perpetrators to ground.

Through the work of many months, snowbound stakeouts, and brilliant forensic sleuthing, the great investigator finally identifies the men he believes are responsible for so much destruction. Stunningly, Burns accuses the men—labor activists with an apparent grudge against the Los Angeles Times’s fiercely anti-union owner—of not just one heinous deed but of being part of a terror wave involving hundreds of bombings.

While preparation is laid for America’s highest profiletrial ever—and the forces of labor and capital wage hand-to-hand combat in the streets—two other notable figures are swept into the drama: industry-shaping filmmaker D.W. Griffith, who perceives in these events the possibility of great art and who will go on to alchemize his observations into the landmark film The Birth of a Nation; and crusading lawyer Clarence Darrow, committed to lend his eloquence to the defendants, though he will be driven to thoughts of suicide before events have fully played out.

Simultaneously offering the absorbing reading experience of a can’t-put-it-down thriller and the perception-altering resonance of a story whose reverberations continue even today, American Lightning is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.

Publishers Weekly

This fabulous tale by acclaimed investigative journalist Blum relates the events of October 1, 1910, when the Los Angeles Times building was bombed. America's greatest detective, William J. Burns, hits the scene to investigate and uncovers a massive plot by labor activists who will eventually be defended by Clarence Darrow and documented by legendary filmmaker D.W. Griffith. The story is entertaining and thoroughly engaging tale, and will have film and history buffs clamoring for more. Luckily, John H. Mayer's narration is equally engaging. Mayer reads with an air of old Hollywood: brisk, crisp and always attractive. The result is a true tale that reads like a superbly crafted novel and one that cries out for repeated listens. A Crown hardcover (Reviews, June 9). (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Deirdre Bray Root - Library Journal

On October 1, 1910, in the midst of a massive labor dispute, the Los Angeles Times building was destroyed in an explosion that left 20 people dead and many more injured. As other, similar bombs were found, it was obvious that this was not a single malicious act but a nationwide conspiracy by members of the national Iron Workers union. The hunt was on for the perpetrators. The ensuing investigation and trial brought in master detective William Burns on one side and famed attorney Clarence Darrow on the other. The trial pitted labor against management and the rich against the working class and brought out unethical behavior in both the prosecution and the defense. Adding to the carnival atmosphere were new developments in California's nascent moving picture industry, as D.W. Griffith was discovering that carefully crafted persuasive films could profoundly effect the emotions of the audience, creating a new medium for reformers-and propagandists. Though the ink given to Griffith here is somewhat out of proportion to his relevance to the story, it adds interest to this riveting account of 20th-century homegrown political terrorism. For public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/15/08.]

Kirkus Reviews

Two-time Pulitzer nominee Blum (The Eve of Destruction, 2003, etc.) cinematically explores the 1910 dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times building. The fierce fighting between labor and capital at the turn of the 20th century was especially intense in Los Angeles. Times publisher Otis Chandler was a bitter opponent of unions. Brothers J.J. and J.B. McNamara, both labor activists, were involved in a nationwide terror campaign that culminated in the firebombing of the Times headquarters and 21 deaths. Summoned west to solve the case, the country's most famous detective, William J. Burns, spent six months investigating and then arrested the McNamaras and a confederate, Ortie McManigal, who promptly confessed. Clarence Darrow, the era's foremost defense attorney, reluctantly undertook the McNamaras' defense. In luminous detail, Blum interweaves the stories of Burns and Darrow, leaving room for memorable walk-ons by labor leader Samuel Gompers, flamboyant attorney Earl Rogers, movie star Mary Pickford and muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens. Remarkably enough, Steffens's pro-labor battle cry-"justifiable dynamiting"-actually helped fashion a plea bargain in the case, whose political and economic ramifications were too great for either side to stomach an outright loss. The relevance to this drama of Blum's third major character, pioneering filmmaker D.W. Griffith, is not immediately apparent. Eventually, however, the author justifies Griffith's role in his text by demonstrating how the director's early films moved progressively toward the sort of socially important statement the McNamara case in all its dimensions embodied. The nascent motion-picture industry, Blum suggests, could capture in anew and powerful way the staggering cultural dimensions of this political and legal brawl. The author's eye for scene-setting and subtle explication perfectly mimics a Griffith-style camera. Blum is at his best when exploring the motivations, the genius and the deep flaws of his three principals, men who occupied the same room only once in their lives, but who are memorably linked in this book. Unfailingly entertaining. Agent: Lynn Nesbit/Janklow & Nesbit

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