For the past four decades, Ted Sorensen has led a distinguished career in international law. Despite his many achievements as an attorney, however, he is best known as the closest advisor to Pres. John F. Kennedy -- and is seen by many commentators as the greatest American presidential speechwriter.
Kennedy called Sorensen his "intellectual blood bank." And Sorensen was so close to JFK that some dubbed him the "Deputy President." In A Thousand Days, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., reported that both men "shared so much -- the same quick tempo, detached intelligence, deflationary wit, realistic judgment, candor in speech, coolness in crisis -- that, when it came to policy and speeches, they operated nearly as one."
Now 80, and with the residuals of a stroke that damaged his vision, Sorensen remains active in law and international affairs. He also advises presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama -- a bright, young, and hopeful politician who Sorensen sees as JFK's heir, and the person who can end the present "hideous, dangerous, reckless chapter in our foreign policy."
Sorensen's acclaimed new autobiography, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (Harper Collins, 2008), the product of six years of writing, reflects his idealism and hope for the future. The book recounts Sorensen's childhood nurtured by a progressive and idealistic family in Lincoln, Nebraska; his historic JFK years with challenges such as the Cold War, the civil rights struggle, and the space race; and his subsequent law career advising governments and multinational organizations and meeting with world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Anwar Sadat, and Fidel Castro.
Sorensen also wrote Kennedy, his bestselling 1965 biography of JFK, as well as several other books and numerous articles on law and politics. He lives in New York City with his wife, Gillian.
In a recent telephone interview, Sorensen discussed his new book, the coming election, his background, his relationship with President Kennedy, and more.
Is your autobiography in part a response to the belligerent policies of the Bush-Cheney administration?
Very much so. I state in the preface I was spurred to write this book by the dismal state of affairs in Washington and the fact that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration had repudiated and acted contrary to everything John F. Kennedy stood for and tried to do in foreign policy.
John Kennedy believed in international law, international organizations like the United Nations, international alliances, and therefore multilateral diplomacy. He did not think that in a world as ugly and complicated as this one that the United States could go it alone. He never would have dreamed of a unilateral, pre-emptive invasion of another country, particularly one that was not posing any specific threat to the security and survival of the United States, the way Bush and Cheney did with respect to Iraq.
We need a new team in Washington that will close this hideous, dangerous, reckless chapter in our foreign policy and a new administration that believes not only in international law, but in communicating with those leaders of other countries who are hostile toward us.
You've endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, and you obviously share his view that we must talk to our enemies as well as our friends.
Yes. Kennedy resolved the Cuban missile crisis -- the most dangerous 13 days in the history of mankind, as historians call it