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Counselor [Kindle Edition]

Ted Sorensen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. SignatureReviewed by Michael BeschlossIn this modest, elegant, appealing and introspective autobiography, Ted Sorensen writes about his service to John Kennedy as senator and president with a candor that, he confesses, would have been inconceivable while writing his glowing 1965 reminiscence, Kennedy, or while Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was alive. The Nebraska-born Sorensen describes himself as a moralist not unlike his Unitarian father, C.A. Sorensen, a onetime state attorney general (and a Republican). He reproaches himself for still feeling shame and stigma about the emotional illnesses of his Russian-Jewish mother, Annis Chaikin Sorensen, and for his two divorces, which will make him feel embarrassed until my dying day.Sorensen does not spare the man who remains his old hero. He declines to defend or rationalize JFK's carefree misconduct and broken marriage vows, writing, It was wrong, and he knew it was wrong. He criticizes Kennedy's failure while a senator in 1954 to help censure the Wisconsin demagogue Joseph McCarthy. Unlike some of Kennedy's most extreme defenders, he does not insist that JFK would have withdrawn American troops from Vietnam after reelection in 1964. Excluded from Kennedy's glittering social life, Sorensen recalls the president's cool crowd regarded him with thinly veiled patronizing. New sidelights include Jackie's later private observation that her husband was truly frightened that Lyndon Johnson might someday become president. Sorensen knows that history will view him mainly as architect of much of Kennedy's enduring rhetoric—and the collaborator (at least) on JFK's famous 1956 book, Profiles in Courage. Such prominence unsettled the Kennedys, who wanted JFK's speeches and writings to be taken as his own. Sorensen reveals that after the commercial success of Profiles, Kennedy privately gave him a large share of the book's substantial royalties, and Sorensen wrote his boss a letter pledging not to push for recognition of my participation in its writing. The faithful Sorensen felt crushed in 1987 when Jackie Onassis wrote him an angry letter implying (unfairly) that Sorensen might be ambitious to seize credit for her husband's speeches. Sorensen says he never knew how much his old frostiness and protectiveness of his relationship with JFK estranged some colleagues. Blessed with a happy third marriage, he has clearly mellowed. But for Sorensen, as this book demonstrates, the 45 years since JFK's assassination—including an important New York legal career, a role advising Robert Kennedy during his presidential race, efforts to win the late Bobby's Senate seat and an aborted nomination to head Jimmy Carter's CIA—have been epilogue. As Sorensen painfully observes, when the Kennedy brothers died, it robbed me of my future. 16 pages of b&w photos. (May)Michael Beschloss is the author, most recently, of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789–1989, just published by Simon & Schuster in paperback.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“With eloquence and honesty, Sorensen takes us on a tour of many of the most important moments of the second half of the American Century, from who wrote ‘Profiles in Courage’ to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Dallas and its terrible aftermath. This is an illuminating and engaging book.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 2433 KB
  • Print Length: 580 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0060798718
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; 1 Reprint edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DPXI0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,862 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
119 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary personal history May 6, 2008
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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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Storyteller at his Best May 18, 2008
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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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Out of Nebraska May 11, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sorensen Hits Home Run May 9, 2008
I know Ted Sorensen through our common support of Barack Obama and was eager to read this magnificent biography. I bought it on Tuesday, May 6 the first day it was published and I didn't put it down ( with the exception of eating, showering and sleeping about four hours each of the last two nights) until a few hours ago when I finished reading it.

It is a magnificent opus. The writing is superb. Rarely do the heart and head come together so well without sacrificing or compromising either.

Modest without being falsely self effacing, this truly is an indispensable book for any American citizen or world citizen. And its an absolute must for any political junkie from Al Franken to Ann Coulter.

Stop what you're doing. Run out and get it. Its a great gift for anyone's birthday in May (June is too late -- its that good).

Ted Sorensen is a historical figure in his own right. He was indispensable to Kennedy and now to Obama.

There are many reasons to read this book. Not just for its great insights with an unobscured and unobstructed perspective, but because of new information into the life of JFK whose reputation will be enhanced by this near reverential but still candid volume.

A mutual friend of Ted Sorensen's just forwarded me the first reviews including the Wall Street Journal. To say they were raves is to understate them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Memories are so beautiful.
Published 6 days ago by Barbara Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and balanced
Very good information about life inside the white house with Jack Kennedy. No sensationalism. Well written
Published 2 months ago by General Phil Sheridan
5.0 out of 5 stars The fact that Ted Sorensen read his own autobiography was ...
The fact that Ted Sorensen read his own autobiography was spellbinding. One of the last of the "New Frontier" whiz kids. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bill Jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfied with both price and quality of product
I am very satisfied with both the price and quality of product. I surely will recommend this product to others.
Published 8 months ago by Kazadi Kiboko
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Insider's View...
This is a very good view of high-profile history from a participant in that history. Ted replays his life from his growing-up and college years in Nebraska, to his decade-plus JFK... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Todd Windyhill
5.0 out of 5 stars Great man and great writer
I well remember the Cuban Crisis and Ted Sorensen. I lived in Nebraska for 16-1/2 years and earned my MBA there. Ted Sorensen was a household name. Read more
Published 13 months ago by James
5.0 out of 5 stars "Ask not what your country can do for you..."
As a professional ghostwriter and speech writer, Ted Sorenson is something of a patron saint of our art. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Shava Nerad
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-Written, Humble at Times, Grounded Always
Ted Sorenson lived an extraordinary life, that much is clear. His exceedingly well-written autobiography is a study in how to put a long, compelling (and mostly political) life... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Gumboots
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
It is a great book about one of the most important people in US history and it is interesting to read about a person who have roots back to a place just 30 km from my home town
Published 22 months ago by Morten Christensen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, one of the best.
I really enjoyed this book. I was told about this old time classic abut JFK and his counselor and really enjoyed it.
Published 23 months ago by Christopher Rizzotti
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