Clymer worked for The New York Times from 1977 until July 2003, and served as its national political correspondent for the 1980 presidential election, polling editor from 1983 to 1990, political editor for George H. W. Bush's presidential campaign in 1988, and chief Washington correspondent from 1999 through 2003.
Clymer covered the 2000 presidential campaign for the Times and wrote at least one article that was considered unfavorable by the Bush campaign. Clymer wrote an analysis of Cheney's tax returns, including his conclusion that he only gave 1% of his $20 million earnings to charity.
Clymer may be best known for an incident on September 4, 2000, when Bush and running mate Dick Cheney appeared at a campaign event at Naperville, Illinois. While on stage before the event, Bush said to Cheney, "There's Adam Clymer, major-league asshole from the New York Times." Cheney responded, "Oh yeah, he is, big time." The remarks were picked up by a live microphone, causing a minor campaign controversy. Bush later publicly stated "I regret that a private comment I made to the vice presidential candidate made it through the public airways. I regret everybody heard what I said."
While he never apologized for the comment itself, Bush made an attempt to smooth it over, making light of it at the next Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner by referring to Adam Clymer as a "major-league ass...et." For his part, Clymer noted that Bush sent him a nice letter of condolences when his mother died in 2001.
In 1981, Clymer co-authored Reagan: The Man, the President with fellow New York Times journalists Hedrick Smith, Leonard Silk, Robert Lindsey, and Richard Burt. In 1999, he wrote Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography.
Born to children's book author Eleanor Clymer (née Lowenton) and Kinsey Clymer, Clymer attended The Walden School in Manhattan and then Harvard College, receiving an A.B. in 1958. Clymer's journalism career began when he was in high school; he wrote for the school newspaper and collected sports scores for The New York Times. He did post-graduate work at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. In 1960, he joined The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, a job which he followed up with work at The Baltimore Sun and the New York Daily News.
Adam Clymer was married to Ann Clymer from 1961 until her death on February 10, 2013. They had one daughter, Jane Emily Clymer, who was killed at the age of 18 by a drunken driver in September, 1985. The Clymers established a memorial scholarship at the University of Vermont in her name.
- Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress, 1993
- The Washington Monthly's Monthly Journalism Award, 2003, for his January 3, 2003 Times article, Government Openness at Issue as Bush Holds On to Records
- Carey McWilliams Award honoring a major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics, American Political Science Association, 2003
- Smith, Hedrick; Clymer, Adam; et al. (1981). Reagan the Man, the President. Pergamon Pr. ISBN 0-08-027916-3.
- Clymer, Adam (1986). "The New York Times" Year in Review 1987. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-8129-1632-8.
- Clymer, Adam (2000). Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography. Perennial (HarperCollins). ISBN 0-06-095787-5.
- Clymer, Adam (2003). Journalism, Security and the Public Interest: Best practices for reporting in unpredictable times. Aspen Institute, Communications and Society Program. ISBN 0-89843-387-8.
- Clymer, Adam (2008). Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch. University of Kansas Press. ISBN 0-7006-1582-2
- "Ask a Reporter: Adam Clymer". The New York Times. December 3, 2000.
- Clymer, Adam (September 10, 2000) "Correspondence/My Media Moment; A Bush-League Aside Vaults An Onlooker Into the Campaign's Glare", The New York Times, The Week in Review, p.3 of 3. Retrieved 2012-01-11.
- "Bush's disparaging remark about reporter picked up by microphone". The Independent (London). 2000-09-05. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
- Mikkelson, Barbara (2004-04-27). "Major League Remark". Politics: George W. Bush. Urban Legends Reference Pages. Retrieved 2006-07-19.
- Bouchard, Sarah (February 17, 2005). "Adam Clymer Reporter waxes nostalgic". The Hill.
- "Clymers Settle Lawsuit to Reduce Drunk Driving and Boost UVM Jane Emily Memorial Scholarship" (Press release). University of Vermont. 1992-05-21. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
- Biography from the University of Vermont, on the occasion of his commencement address and honorary degree in 2005
- Interview with Adam Clymer about the "major-league asshole" comment with CNN's Reliable Sources, September 9, 2000
- A "major-league asshole", Salon.com, 4 September 2000
- Cartoon on Bush's obscenity, 3 September 2000
- Opinion piece in National Review by Tim Graham, 5 September 2000
- Better Campaign Reporting: A View From the Major Leagues, Clymer's address in 2002 at Wesleyan University
- National Annenberg Election Survey