Nation: Out of the Back Room

As back-room Man Friday to three Presidents, Clark Clifford's demeanor has always been as discreet and distinctive as the double-breasted suits he continued to wear all through the two-button era. Last week, during his first center-stage performance as a Cabinet officer-designate, a 2½-hour appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he left the strong impression that Robert S. McNamara's succes sor as Secretary of Defense will be flexible in tactics but firm in strategy.

Clifford, 61, set the tone that is likely to dominate his Pentagon reign by taking a tough stand on Viet Nam. Unlike McNamara, who has questioned the military...

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