Counselor LP: A Life at the Edge of History

By in Biographies on March 21, 2013

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In this gripping memoir, John F. Kennedy’s closest advisor recounts in full for the first time his experience counseling Kennedy through the most dramatic moments in American history.

Sorensen returns to January 1953, when he and the freshman senator from Massachusetts began their extraordinary professional and personal relationship. Rising from legislative assistant to speechwriter and advisor, the young lawyer from Nebraska worked closely with JFK on his most important speeches, as well as his book Profiles in Courage. Sorensen encouraged the junior senator’s political ambitions—from a failed bid for the vice presidential nomination in 1956 to the successful presidential campaign in 1960, after which he was named Special Counsel to the President.

Sorensen describes in thrilling detail his experience advising JFK during some of the most crucial days of his presidency, from the decision to go to the moon to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when JFK requested that the thirty-four-year-old Sorensen draft the key letter to Khrushchev at the most critical point of the world’s first nuclear confrontation. After Kennedy was assassinated, Sorensen stayed with President Johnson for a few months before leaving to write a biography of JFK. In 1968 he returned to Washington to help run Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Through it all, Sorensen never lost sight of the ideals that brought him to Washington and to the White House, working tirelessly to promote and defend free, peaceful societies.

Illuminating, revelatory, and utterly compelling, Counselor is the brilliant, long-awaited memoir from the remarkable man who shaped the presidency and the legacy of one of the greatest leaders America has ever known.

3 thoughts on “Counselor LP: A Life at the Edge of History

  1. Pranay Gupte "www.pranaygupte.com"
    1
    115 of 124 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Extraordinary personal history, May 6, 2008
    By 
    Pranay Gupte “www.pranaygupte.com” (Brooklyn, NY United States) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    I know Ted Sorensen well, so what I have to say about his extraordinary personal history is obviously being written as a friend and admirer. As a friend, I can say that Ted speaks truth to power; as an admirer, I can say that he speaks truth forcefully and candidly. He was arguably John Kennedy’s alter ego. At the very least, Ted was the man who shaped JFK’s lyrical, intellectually vigorous speeches. But Ted was also a canny adviser, the lawyer who marshaled his facts well, made the connections between random thoughts and workable ideas, and produced a consistent body of work for the president he loved and trusted. Ted once told me that not a day goes by without him thinking of JFK — of the man JFK was, and about what might have been. Like his late friend Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Ted occupied an honored place at the table in Camelot. What his memoir makes plain — in his own special, witty way — is how much Ted shaped JFK’s Camelot itself.

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  2. Scott Billigmeier
    2
    35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    A Great Storyteller at his Best, May 18, 2008
    By 
    Scott Billigmeier (Northern Virginia) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    I thoroughly enjoyed Counselor and especially appreciate the way Mr. Sorensen chose to organize his storytelling in a topical way (e.g., My Perspective of JFK’s Personal Life, President Johnson’s 1963 Transition, etc.). The author’s prose is tight and well turned, as anyone familiar with his writing would expect, but at over 500 pages this is rather like the magnum opus of his life. I have a first edition of his excellent 1965 book on Kennedy but, for the most part, this latest and perhaps final work is much more candid. There are some exceptions such as his very touch and go treatment of Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick. He well describes the consequences of the incident but then takes the opportunity to sing the praises of the younger Kennedy’s political skills, calling him “the most relaxed campaigner of the three…”

    Mr. Sorensen has lived an interesting life apart from his work with the Kennedys and inclusion of that material is a plus. The space he devotes to it is about right; the book remains primarily focused on his long association with JFK and that is what the typical reader wants and expects. Of particular interest to me was how Kennedy reached out to Republicans — described in a Chapter called “President Kennedy’s Ministry of Talent.” I knew it to be true (he appointed my uncle to the federal bench upon the recommendation of then Deputy Attorney General Byron “Whizzer” White) but didn’t realize the full scope.

    It would be easy to give this book the five stars it probably deserves but I went with four only because, from my perspective, the loyalty muzzle is still a little too evident. While I can come up with a few other petty critiques there is just much too much to like about this book to make that worthwhile. Some readers may disagree with Sorensen’s politics but it would be the rare iconoclast who cannot appreciate his insights and wonderful storytelling.

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  3. Christian Schlect
    3
    47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Out of Nebraska, May 11, 2008
    By 
    Christian Schlect (Yakima, Washington/USA) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

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    The well-written memoirs of a man forever to be identified with John F. Kennedy’s political career, especially the White House days. While not telling all, this book is the candid product of a bright, honest, but still politically driven man, a 1960s liberal, who writes in the twilight of his life.

    Mr. Sorensen is one of the last living central participants of JFK’s Administration and his story would have value for this fact alone. Readers wishing to learn about presidential political campaigning, the art of speech writing, and more on such important historical events as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the presidential transition from JFK to LBJ will profit from reading this book.

    While material on his later private law practice is not as interesting as the rest of the text, this is only to be expected. In terms of his post White House career, I did find of value his description of his ill-fated nomination by President Carter as DCI and noted the fact there is little mention of President Clinton’s years. (A prominent picture of Senator Obama and Ted Sorensen is in this book. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that the author sees the current junior senator from Illinois as his pick for this year’s Democratic Party nominee for president–and the direct and true successor to JFK’s legacy.)

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