Buy “The Gatekeepers How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency (Audible Audio Edition) Chris Whipple, Mark Bramhall, Random House Audio Books” Online
This is a fast-paced look at the men behind the curtain (and so far, they have all been men). Whipple touches on all the chiefs since H.R. Haldeman, but he focuses mainly on a few of the longer-tenured ones, as well as those who might have done great things if given the chance. (He makes a good case that an earlier selection of Jack Watson would have given Jimmy Carter a second term. ) He writes about the creation of the modern White House staffing system by Haldeman, and how — contrary to conventional wisdom — it was Nixon’s decision to circumvent that system, and not the top-down model itself, that created the failures that made Watergate possible. One of the more interesting facets is the relationship between Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, with the mentor ultimately finding himself beholden to the protegee. Whipple looks at how the laid-back, good-natured Cheney evolved into the "Darth Vader" of his vice presidency, though that is not a central theme. It’s also made clear that while a chief must have some flexibility to succeed, it’s really a job where nice guys finish last. Mack McLarty bears much of the blame for the disorder of Bill Clinton’s first two years, and it’s evident that Whipple would believe that Reince Priebus is heading for the same fate. Check it out!
The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency Audiobook – Unabridged Chris Whipple (Author), Review
Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office illustrate the danger when the White House staff is disorganized. While Reince Priebus holds the Chief of Staff title, news reports say he has only partial control of White House staff. Interlopers like Steve Bannon seem to have direct access to President Trump, as do his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Mr. Trump calls business friends for advice. The lines of authority within the White House staff seem to be fluid. Who among the staff has access to the President’s ear? It is a mystery. Chris Whipple assesses White House organizations from President Nixon to President Obama and finds a direct connection between an effective White House Chief of staff and Presidential success. A good Chief of Staff monitors staff activities, schedules the President and makes sure that every paper landing on his desk (1) deserves, indeed requires, Presidential action; (2) has been reviewed by the respective agencies involved; and (3) analyzes the political impact from the proposed action. In addition, the Chief of Staff must be "in the know;" he or she can’t permit unsolicited advice that might send the President off in some unexpected direction. Lastly, the Chief of Staff must be a truth-teller to the President, someone one with the stature and ability to say, "Mr. President, this plan of yours is a really bad idea. "From what one can read, Mr. Preibus seems to be Chief of Staff in name only. Other staff members have direct access to Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump generates huge news stories with Tweets any sensible Chief of Staff would quench, if he knew about them in advance (Obama tapped my telephone!) The President announces major initiatives (the tax plan) that take White House staff and concerned Departments (Treasury) by surprise. The President makes foreign policy statements based on fake facts (an armada is closing in on North Korea, although the aircraft carried is steaming in the opposite direction. )As a result of this White House chaos, President Trump’s orders on immigration have been stalled by the courts, the Republicans have been unable to repeal and replace Obamacare, allies like Canada and Australia have been insulted and rather than appear steadfast in his promises, Trump seems wishy-washy. He has not revoked NAFTA. He has changed his mind on NATO. He won’t brand China as a currency manipulator as long as it takes care of North Korea. Mr. Whipple would predict that this is not a recipe for Presidential success. I agree. Mr. Trump would be wise to read Chris Whipple’s study of White House Chiefs of Staff, The Gatekeepers, How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every President. The position of Chief of Staff is a relatively new invention. President Roosevelt famously kept his aides in a state of turmoil, sometimes giving multiple staff members the same project, to see who would perform the best. No one really knew what was on the President’s mind. His reasoning process was opaque. When his wife Eleanor was asked how the President reasoned, she is supposed to have said: "Franklin doesn’t think, he acts. "Eisenhower was the first president to set up a staff system and used his military experience to create lines of authority. Sherman Adams wielded great power in the role of Chief of Staff; he was referred to as the "Assistant President. " But Sherman got caught up in a scandal during Ike’s second term and was sacked, bringing the Chief of Staff system somewhat into repute. President Kennedy rebelled against the staff system and acted as his own chief of staff, with unfortunate results, including the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Afterwards, at Camp David, the old World War II hero berated Kennedy for not have grilled his generals over the Cuban invasion plans. Whipple sees Nixon’s Chief of Staff, Bob Haldeman, as the model for a modern Chief of Staff. Haldeman told his staff:"Our job is to to do the work of government, but to get the work out to where it belongs–out to the Departments,,,Nothing goes to the president that is not completely staffed our first, for accuracy and form, for lateral coordination, checked for related material, reviewed by competent staff concerned with that area–and all that is essential for the Presidential attention. "Nixon emphasized Haldeman’s power by saying that when Haldeman spoke, he spoke for the President. Nixon labeled Haldeman "The Lord High Executioner. "Today, Haldeman is mostly remembered, if at all, for his role in Watergate. Whipple says Haldeman did not know of the break-in in advance and is at a loss to understand how Haldeman failed to control the developing crisis. Perhaps this is because Nixon was directly involved and dealt with the actors without Haldeman’s knowledge. Whipple’s message is that well organized White House staffs can make the difference between Presidential success and failure. President Ford began his "unexpected Presidency" without a Chief of Staff, fearing there would be a comparison to Nixon and Haldeman. He blundered badly, in the first instance by granting his predecessor a pardon, something that marred his Presidency from the beginning. Eventually he realized he needed help and called in Donald Rumsfeld (who in turn summoned Dick Cheney as his assistant. ) These Chiefs (Cheney succeeded Rumsfeld) were strong organizers. Ford was able to advance his agenda and rose in the public’s estimation and might have been elected President in his own right until his debate fluff, in which he denied Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Jimmy Carter retained the Chief of Staff position but made a disastrous choice for the post: Hamilton Jordan. In the first place, Jordan was chronically disorganized himself. He liked to hole up and write long (and brilliant) memos on the political state of affairs. He kept his office door closed (a non-no) and refused to answer phone calls (a bigger no-no. ) Secondly, he was a longstanding member of Carter’s old Georgia mafia. He was too good a friend to be able to confront Carter when mistakes occurred. Whipple writes that it is important for a Chief of Staff to have distance from his boss. Friendship (and family relations) will warp good judgment. Carter made a number of gaffes, including his "malaise" speech and cabinet reshuffle, but became a more efficient and productive President with Jack Watson as Chief of Staff. Ronald Reagan’s first Chief of Staff, James Baker, represents in Whipple’s view "the gold standard" for Chiefs of Staff. Baker had run George H.W. Bush’s Presidential race against Reagan, but Reagan took advice and the advice was to hire Baker, although his old California crowd wasn’t happy, wanting Ed Meese instead. But Baker was astute, persistent and polite. He got things done without ruffling feathers. He was totally loyal to the President and totally truthful when he thought Reagan had made a mistake. I won’t review all of the Chiefs (Whipple goes through to Obama. ) Some were good (Leon Panetta for Clinton,) some not so good (John Sununu for George H.W. Bush,) and many in Whipple’s estimation (Rahm Emanuel for Obama) fall somewhere in the middle. But Whipple writes that taking on the chief of staff role is the highest form of public service. Every occupant of the position relished his job (no women in that role, yet) in the role of a lifetime. But who could fill this role for President Trump? Is President Trump temperamentally suited to "structure" in the White House staff and is he willing to constrain his undisciplined behavior, both as President and as Tweeter in Chief?A Chief of Staff can’t impose his will on a President. It is the President who must delegate authority to the Chief and back the Chief up. Once a President "cuts off the legs" of a Chief (as Obama did to his Chief of Staff, Bill Daley,) the chief of staff’s power evaporates. Is Mr. Trump capable of making such a delegation of power? Would he support his Chief of Staff in the face of criticism?There seems to be precious little evidence that President Trump is prepared to delegate authority. He seems to want his fingers in everything. Rather than back up a staff members in the face of criticism, he tends to distance himself from the controversy lest it tarnish his self-image (Steve Bannon "is just a guy who worked" for him. )Does President Trump understand the importance of staff work? Good staff work by definition requires consultation and review by a variety of persons with different and sometimes conflicting roles. You get in trouble listening to one voice without consulting a wider audience (Steve Bannon on the first Trump immigration order. ) Without internal debate and tough questions, the President winds up in an echo chamber. The surprises come when the proposal is leaked and appears on the front page. Trump appears to pick individuals to accomplish tasks almost without regard to their experience and capabilities for the role (a la FDR. ) A pertinent example is sending his son-in-law Jared Kushner to the Middle East to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Mr. Kushner may be well-intentioned, but I am not aware that he has any diplomatic training or experience. Does Mr. Kushner understand the history of the region? How well is Mr. Kushner versed in the military issues involved? Does he communicate with the Department of State and the Defense Department, or just his father-in-law?Would President Trump tolerate anyone willing to tell him no? The White House staff seems to scurry around in nervous fear that Mr. Trump will ream them out for some perceived failure (probably publicity over one of Mr. Trump’s own tweets. ) The current staff falls all over itself to praise President Trump and shout, "You’re the Greatest!" This is not a brew that will produce an effective Chief of Staff. Mr. Whipple would tell the President that his success or failure will largely be determined by the strength and courage of his Chief of Staff and the efficiency and ability of the staff that reports to the Chief. If President Trump wants to succeed, his first step should be to read this excellent book. -Read Reviews-
Terrific book! Chris Whipple does an excellent job detailing the background of many of the issues of our times and how the Chief of Staff affected the outcome. Good insight into each President while keeping it all factual. Reader of the audio book, Mark Bramhall, has a smooth voice and didn’t get bogged down with any dramatics while reading. ..just kept it steady and clear – great job! Overall I found the book well worth the price and only wished Chris had added another 50-100 pages.