Aaron Sorkin s The West Wing was the first that I recognized what the title Chief of Staff meant This book really brings home that a good chief of staff is fundamental to a President s administration.Chris Whipple, gives a brief history of the first named Chief of Staff under President Eisenhower before looking at all of the Chiefs from Richard Nixon s H R Haldeman to Barack Obama s Denis McDonaugh.Some were excellent at the job e.g James Baker for Ronald Reagan and George H.W Bush and Leon Panetta for Bill Clinton allowing a smooth running administration Others Jimmy Carter s Hamilton Jordan were erratic at best resulting in divided loyalties among the administration staff Some were prima donalds aspiring to BE the president and others truly understood that ego was anathema to the job and therefore to the President and the country.Well written Well researched Full of information about personalities that can be surprising Dick Cheney wasn t always considered to be Darth Vader Oh, and don t miss the story of Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth riding horses.Politics aside, this book is for everyone interested in the inner workings of the White House. 4 5 This book describes the evolution of the position of the modern White House Chief of Staff from the presidency of Richard Nixon to that of Barak Obama The book was published in 2017, and there is the briefest of epilogues taking a superficial view of the first few months of the Trump presidency during the tenure of Reince Priebus and on into the beginning of John Kelly s service It s almost unfair to make judgments about a presidency that was not yet a year along Whipple had interviewed all the living former chiefs of staff for his 2013 documentary called The President s Gatekeepers, and this book doubtless arose out of that film The book is clearly written and easy enough to follow along As someone old enough to remember all these characters, reading the book served as sort of a walk down memory lane Whipple s approach is largely pragmatic He calls the chief of staff the second most powerful job in Washington The chief is first a gatekeeper, but he all of them were men also serves to speak for the president, to speak the truth to the president, and to keep channels open with Congress and others with the power to enact the president s wishes The job is brutally demanding by any standard Whipple doesn t choose favorites by party line affiliation instead, he looks at how well the chief has served his president Ronald Reagan s second chief, Howard H Baker Jr., is clearly everyone s favorite As Reagan was not an expert in many things he needed to be an effective president, Baker s work filled in and made Reagan into a successful president Reagan, for his part, knew enough to name Baker and to work well with him On the other hand, Jimmy Carter s view of himself as the one who ought to do everything prevented him from naming a chief for quite a while, an action which fatally damaged his presidency Carter s chapter is aptly titled The smartest man in the room I don t usually read too many books of this sort, so it s difficult for me to evaluate how accurate or insightful it really is On the other hand, I enjoyed reading it, and most of what Whipple wrote made sense And most of what the chiefs themselves said during their meetings to discuss the position and to offer assistance to a new president also made sense I especially enjoyed the introduction to the book, which describes a December 5, 2008 meeting of twelve of the former chiefs with Rahm Emmanuel, who was about to become Obama s chief They all saw the severity of the economic situation and were there to offer advice Whipple titles this short chapter I brought my pillow and my blankie, a statement attributed to Emmanuel and indicative of how frightened he was of the enormity of the job ahead 2 And I also could not help noticing what the former chiefs who showed up eight years later on December 16, 2016 to advise Reince Priebus had to say Ten chiefs, Republicans and Democrats, showed up and as they gathered around the long table in McDonough s Denis McDonough was Obama s fourth and last chief office, none doubted the enormity of the challenge facing Priebus We wanted to help Reince in any way we could, said Jack Watson, who served Jimmy Carter But I don t think there was a chief in the room that thought he was going to be able to do the job, given Trump as his president Most of the former chiefs believed Trump was intellectually and temperamentally unfit for office and few thought Priebus could rein him in or tell him hard truths We were thinking, God bless him, Godspeed, and Good luck, said Watson But he doesn t have a prayer 297 98 All in all an interesting book and a good read I bet the documentary was a pleasure too, although I have not seen it. I found this a most interesting book to read I learned a lot of information not only about the chief of staff but also about the president and his administration The chief of staff COS is the highest ranking White House employee According to Whipple the chief of staff can make or break an administration The author states the chief of staff is the second most powerful job in government I found it most interesting to learn about the lessor known and written about but very important men I was unaware that President Jimmy Carter chose not to have a COS Whipple reviews the high and low points of past administrations chief of staffs I was most interested in H.R Haldeman, President Nixon s COS, and Leon Panetta, President Clinton s COS I had forgotten that Dick Cheney was President Ford s COS The book is well written and meticulously researched The author interviews the seventeen living chief of staffs Apparently, there have been 28 COS s since 1968 Whipple enhanced the narrative with his many interviews Whipple s writing style is very easy to read and he tosses in some humor Whipple provides a valuable understanding of the positon and its duties Whipple is a journalist and this comes through in his writing.I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible The book is almost 12 hours long Mark Bramhall does a good job narrating the book Bramhall is an actor and award winning audiobook narrator. At a time when the oval office is occupied by a man who seems to know no bounds of decency when it comes to race, hounds people who disagree with him on twitter, and vilifies individuals who he views as disloyal or refuse to do his bidding like former FBI head James Comey or Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, it is refreshing to read Chris Whipple s new book THE GATEKEEPERS HOW THE WHITE HOUSE CHIEFS OF STAFF DEFINE EVERY PRESIDENCY Recently President Trump fired his Chief of Staff, Reince Pribus, a man who had little influence over the President Since Trump is enad with generals, he finally convinced John Kelley, a former Marine general to become his new Chief of Staff Kelly made it clear his role was not to reign in the President, but to bring order and efficiency to the West Wing It is clear that Kelly does not totally subscribe to the historical role of the Chief of Staff as defined by Leon Panetta, who successfully rescued Bill Clinton s presidency who states that, you have to be the person who says no You ve got to be the son of a bitch who basically tells somebody what the president can t tell him If you had hoped that Kelly would influence or temper Trump s tweets and actions all you have to do is evaluate the President s reaction to events in Charlottesville, his rally in Phoenix, his reaction to the ongoing Russia investigation, and his pardon of Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of Maricopa, AZ.Whipple does the American people a service by describing and evaluating the men who have served as Chiefs of Staff dating back to the presidency of Richard Nixon In each case we see individuals battle to keep the Chief Executive on message, fully briefed on issues, and to project themselves as presidential unlike the dysfunctional situation that currently plagues the White House The key for the Chief of Staff is to instill discipline and focus on the West Wing as Leon Panetta was able to do to get Clinton reelected in 1996 The most important task for the Chief of Staff is to always tell the President what he may not want to hear Whipple is correct that the role of the Chief of Staff is to translate the president s agenda into reality When the government works, it is usually because the chief understands the fabric of power, threading the needle where policy and politics converge For example, without James Baker who stood between the press, Congress, and internal factions, Reagan s presidency would have been a failure Further, without Leon Panetta to bring discipline and order to the White House Clinton would have been a one term president without Robert Kennedy, John F Kennedy had to deal with the Bay of Pigs Lyndon Johnson did not have a strong Chief of Staff and he was swallowed by Vietnam As President Eisenhower told Richard Nixon, every president has to have its own son of a bitch One of the most surprising points that Whipple makes is that the most advanced model of organizational structure at the White House was developed by H.R Haldeman the problem is that he did not follow his own ideas resulting in Watergate For later Chiefs of Staff eventually they would fall back to Haldeman s structure Other surprising points include the career of Dick Cheney who was a sensational organizer during his tenure as Chief of Staff under President Ford, and almost got Ford reelected in 1976, but when he became Vice President under George W Bush his entire world view had changed as he morphed into the defacto chief Many have conjectured why, and point to 9 11 s impact as being responsible.The chief that one should not model was Hamilton Jordan who served under Jimmy Carter Jordan was not interested in the nitty gritty of policy and found basic White House protocol incomprehensible Jordan exacerbated his situation by his continual offending of Congressional leadership What made matters worse for Jordan was when Carter was elected the new president believed he was the smartest person in the room and acted as his own chief and the net result was the seeming failure of the Carter presidency despite his energy policy, the Camp David Accords, arms control, and the Panama Canal Treaty The opposite of Carter was Ronald Reagan who didn t think he was the smartest person in the room, and knew how to delegate and have a strong Chief of Staff Apart from Iran Contra, Reagan s presidency is seen as a success as Baker made Reagan understand the political process of the presidency would be closely linked to his acceptance in Washington, something Carter never bought into, and navigating between the ideologues and pragmatists that served the president.The strength of Whipple s book is how he reviews the highs and lows of each administration by focusing on the actions of the diverse Chiefs of Staff who organized the West Wing and made it run efficiently By doing so Whipple explains the strategies and actions taken and judges whether their approach to governance was effective or not In the process the history of each administration is dealt with, and at times Whipple uncovers nuggets that have not been covered effectively by other authors A case in point is the reputation of Leon Panetta and by turning the Clinton administration around he proved you didn t have to be a bully or an attack dog to be an effective Chief of Staff You just have to be very smart You have to know when to be tough, and also when to let the reigns be a little looser The Clinton administration also produced Erskine Bowles and John Podesta who demanded that Clinton treat them as peers despite their friendships and were able to be honest and upfront with him which led to a balanced budget, the States Children s health Insurance Plan and the survival of the Lewinsky Affair.Andrew Card who would have the longest tenure as a chief saw James Baker as a role model, but 9 11 would produce a new Dick Cheney Whipple explores why this occurred conjecturing with CBS Bob Schieffer that it could have been his heart condition that was responsible Whipple reviews the debate and actions that led to the ill fated invasion of Iraq He does not really add anything new to the discussion, but what emerges is a marginalized Card who could not navigate between Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and the Vice President One of the most controversial chiefs was Rahm Emanuel who served under President Obama Whipple does an excellent job explaining the different factions within the Obama administration and Emanuel s role particularly guiding legislation through Congress as he was able to overcome the scars left over from the Clinton administration in gaining the passage of the Affordable Care Act Once Emanuel is replaced, Whipple is dead on in explaining why Emanuel s replacement William Daley was a failure in his short stint at the White House, and how Dennis McDonough was able to counter Obama s Chicago crowd as like Emanuel he was a strong communicator, something that Daley was not In a sense by reviewing each Chief of Staff s tenure Whipple has created a handbook for President Trump s Chief of Staff He does so by presenting a theoretical approach to the position, but also the realities that each man faced The political pragmatism that is needed to be successful emerges under the auspices of Baker, Emanuel, Panetta, and others, a characteristic that seems to be missing in the current White House Whipple writes with the journalistic flair one would expect from a multiple Peabody and Emmy award winner and in the current environment there are many people in power who should consult it If the Trump presidency eventually is unsuccessful in reaching its goals, Whipple has already explained why. Awesome I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book Whipple created an accounting of the White House Chiefs of Staff from Nixon through Obama The successful and the not so successful The successful ones were given the authority to actually control the fire hose of information coming into the President And to prevent the people who attempted to go around them to reach the President with what they thought were unique and special needs Similar to the military, a lieutenant does not jump the chain of command and go directly to the general, he goes through channels Otherwise, the General President would be overwhelmed with opinions and subject to following the most influential talker, regardless of facts As I finished reading this book, I was left with a feeling of awe in how well some of the Chief of Staffs could herd cats successfully It takes a real talent I read a lot of political history books, and this one ranks up there with the best It fills in a lot of holes and explains a lot of actions that I wondered about in my reading of presidential memoirs Highly recommended I loved this book because of its inside look into one of the most powerful and most difficult positions in the world, the White House Chief of Staff Chris Whipple is an excellent journalist and in his hands, this book reads like a fascinating documentary He interviews all 17 living Chiefs of Staff and throughout the book, I found myself turning to my husband and saying, Did you know and Listen to this This is probably one of the first books that I ve ever read aloud parts to him because it was so fascinating and full of newsworthy information and some juicy tidbits that was simply new to me If you enjoy reading about American politics and Presidents or if you just enjoy watching the West Wing , you ll definitely want to read this well written book I predict that The Gatekeepers will win some literary honors for non fiction in 2017 and will definitely be included on the best of year end lists Many thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for allowing me to read an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I ve been on a bit of a Presidential bio kick lately, working towards a goal of reading at least one biography on each of our 45 Presidents Those biographies, naturally, tend to focus heavily on the President and his decisions, with only a cursory examination of the other key players in a presidential administration With a few exceptions, the Chief of Staff did not figure prominently in the narrative the two exceptions being H.W Brands Reagan The Life and James Cannon s Gerald R Ford An honorable Life Naturally, I failed to grasp what a huge role the Chief of Staff plays in the success or failure of a presidential administration I try not to give a lot of books 5 stars and only do so if it meets some specific criteria One of those criteria, is if a book significantly influences my way of thinking about a subject This book did that It s fair to say that the information in this book will remain in the forefront of my mind as I continue my journey through presidential biographies Indeed, it comes to mind constantly as the drama of the Trump Administration unfolds daily before us The version I read ends with Obama but the author recently published an article covering the first year of the Trump Administration.That said, the book is not perfect A few times, I felt the author was overselling his case a bit in order to defend his thesis After reading this, it would be all too easy to conclude that every failure was the result of the Chief of Staff when that is clearly not the case Still, that is a minor quibble The only truly disappointing section of the book is the chapter on George W Bush The author barely mentions Bush s two chiefs of staff at all, choosing instead to cover the blunder of the Iraq War Andrew Card was chief of staff for five years, yet we learn next to nothing about what he actually did The author implies that Cheney kind of took over but doesn t follow that aspect of the story through to a satisfying end He should have kept coming back to what Card was or was not doing, what Cheney had wrestled away, and why that wasn t working for the Bush Administration Instead we get a rehashed account of the decision making leading up to the Iraq War I thought about knocking my rating down to 4 stars for this but I feel the book truly did revolutionize the way I look at a presidential administration and think that alone justifies the 5 star rating.What follows are my notes on the book The fate of every presidency arguably hinges on this little understood position The chief of staff translates the president s agenda into reality When government fails, it can often be traced to the shortcomings of the chief The executive branch has the most awesome responsibilities of any corporation in the world, the largest budget of any corporation in the world, and the largest number of employees Yet the entire management structure has to be formed in a period of 75 days.H.R Bob Haldeman and Richard NixonNeither Kennedy nor Johnson had a true chief of staff Kennedy achieved little and Johnson was driven from office defeated Nixon brought in a lot of strong, idiosyncratic personalities and needed a tough SOB to keep them in line Haldeman would be that man Haldeman read everything he could on how to organize the White House He devised the staff system used by every president since Nothing would go to the president that wasn t staffed out for lateral coordination and reviewed by competent staff No one was to be permitted to end run the staff process and pitch their own agendas directly to the president An image sprang up that Haldeman was isolating the president and preventing him from hearing diverse views he needed to make informed decisions But that narrative wasn t true Haldeman actually worked to get people in to see a president who was pathologically shy and who preferred memos to meetings Haldeman had become adept at shelving many of Nixon s orders that were beyond the pale But some of the president s other confidants were less squeamish People like Chuck Colson and Ehrlichman began meeting with the president privately creating the end run situation Haldeman had worked so hard to prevent The Watergate Scandal ensued not because Haldeman had isolated the president but because people stopped following his system.Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Gerald FordWhen Ford came in, he initially kept the overbearing General Alexander Haig in place during his transition From the start Ford announced that he would govern with eight or nine advisors reporting directly to him, a spokes of the wheel approach Inevitably, his White House resembled a kids soccer game, everyone running toward the ball The undisguised contempt between Ford loyalists and the Nixon holdovers didn t help the situation, meaning Haig was often cut out of the loop Staffers and cabinet secretaries would come and go into Ford s office as they pleased to get him to sign things The free for all meant there was no way to record what was discussed or decided Donald Rumsfeld, who had been running his transition, warned him that the approach he had used in congress would not translate to the executive branch but Ford was adamant Rumsfeld left for his new job at NATO Ford s surprise pardoning of Nixon created a firestorm in both the White House and the across the country The chaos that ensued led Ford to conclude that Rumsfeld was right and he was brought back in as the new Chief of Staff in exchange for a promise to be appointed to a cabinet post at a future date Rumsfeld curtailed the free for all access to the president and made it clear the trains would run on time The workload was tremendous and Rumsfeld brought in Dick Cheney to be his deputy Rumsfeld was the tough SOB that the nice guy Ford needed to keep things in order Rumsfeld clashed with VP Rockefeller and convinced the President that his promise to let Rockefeller be in charge of the administration s domestic agenda was ludicrous Rumsfeld would staff Rockefeller s proposals out which killed many of his big spending proposals Cheney, then genial and self effacing, proved to be a valuable deputy and his eventual promotion to Chief of Staff when Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense was universally welcomed He had a softer management style but was every bit as firm as Rumsfeld had been The performance of Rumsfeld and Cheney kept the administration moving and almost won the president a second term in spite of the overwhelming odds.Hamilton Jordan, Jack Watson, and Jimmy CarterAttorney Jack Watson was one of Carter s closest advisors Watson believed Carter was always the smartest man in the room and was quite possibly the smartest president we ve ever had Cheney had warned the incoming president that the whole spokes of the wheel approach was a recipe for disaster but Carter and his advisors were suspect of anything that resembled Nixon s imperial presidency They wanted a return to the JFK LBJ model of a White House without a chief Carter chose not to appoint Watson as chief of staff Watson s rival, Hamilton Jordan, didn t want the positions or its responsibilities yet he moved into the chief s office next to the president s Jordan would also antagonize congressional leaders by refusing to return phone calls Carter was unable to prioritize and without a chief of staff, there was nobody to sort through the thicket and force him to stay on track Carter s response was to work even harder As the crises continued to mount, Carter realized the spokes of the wheel approach wasn t working and even the true believers were becoming disillusioned with the president As the Iranian Hostage Crisis dragged on and Reagan gained in the polls, Carter finally appointed Watson as his chief Watson belatedly got the White House Staff functioning again but it made little difference with all the mounting crises inflation, unemployment, sky high interest rates, Iran Hostage crisis, etc Reagan beat Carter in a landslide James A Baker III and Ronald ReaganEd Meese was the likely candidate for Reagan s chief of staff but he was habitually, horrendously disorganized Baker was a close friend of Bush and worked on his campaign Baker impressed both Ronald and Nancy and he accepted the job While Carter was the smartest man in the room, Reagan was considered an affable dunce Baker was brilliant and a pragmatist he would spend the next four years battling the ideologues in the administration Baker worked out a deal with Meese, Meese would be special counselor to the president and in charge of policy while he would control the paperwork, speechwriting, and access to the president Under this arrangement Baker cleverly seized control of the levers of power Baker met with his predecessor Watson for lessons learned Reagan had a few core beliefs reducing government, a strong military, and cutting taxes but he needed a chief of staff to work out the details on how to achieve these goals After the assassination attempt, Baker sensed an opportunity and he helped to push through tax reform Reagan was prepared to make deals with Democrats in order get some of his priorities through Baker facilitated that give and take kept the president from touching any third rails that would harm his presidency like Reagan s desire to make social security voluntary The infighting wore Baker down and he kept his eye open for an off ramp When Secretary of Treasury Don Regan proposed they swap jobs he agreed and they went before the president who accepted the plan without question.Don Regan, Howard Baker Jr., Kenneth Duberstein and Ronald ReaganUnlike Baker, Regan focused on the Chief part of his title and not the staff part Regan began constantly appearing on TV and in pictures next to the president instead of working behind the scenes The first big controversy was on the 40th anniversary of WWII when Reagan was to lay a wreath at a German cemetery that, unbeknownst to them also held the graves of some Waffen SS Regen ducked responsibility and a rift grew between Regen and Nancy Reagan The NYT published stories saying Regan was the power behind the throne and angry phone calls began to grow between Regan and Nancy The press picked up on a story in a Lebanese newspaper that the US had traded weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages held in Lebanon Unbeknownst to Reagan, members of the NSC were taking some of that money and clandestinely diverting it to the Contras in Nicaragua It is almost impossible to imagine this scandal occurring if Baker had remained as chief In a heated phone call, Regan hung up on Nancy, sealing his fate Former Senate Majority leader Howard Baker was brought in as the new Chief Baker s wife had cancer, so Duberstein was brought in as an assistant and began carrying much of the load They began to turn the ship back around The President s televised speech admitting mistakes with the Iran Contra scandal appeased the American people Reagan was a people person, that s how he learned Regan had closed the door to the Oval Office Baker and Duberstein filled their rolls as gatekeepers but got people moving through again With Reagan s tear down this wall speech in Berlin, Duberstein had returned Reagan to the starring role.John Sununu, Samuel Skinner, James A Baker III, and George H.W BushSununu was the opinionated and pugnacious governor of New Hampshire He already had two strikes against him that should have been warning signs he had already been a principal as Regan had, and he was an outsider to Washington Bush recognized Reagan was different, that he needed a director, but Bush wanted something different The press had accused him of being spineless and uninspiring Bush was determined to be seen calling the shots, not his chief Many of Bush s decisions like his VP selection were often total surprises known only to himself Sununu had a hair trigger, was overbearing, and often cussed out the staff, thinking everyone would view him as tough His deputy Andy Card thought otherwise and when Sununu s troubles mounted, had few friends to back him up On foreign policy, Bush s team worked together harmoniously Bush adroitly managed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War Though his calm handling of these situations was portrayed as emotionless and uncaring in the press But when trying to pivot to his domestic agenda, Sununu proved a liability His scorched earth approach was alienating his own staff and members of congress Oblivious to the sharks circling, Sununu was caught using military aircraft for personal travel and resigned Samuel Skinner, a Chicago businessman was brought in who was immediately overwhelmed Bush was in the midst of his annus horribilis throwing up on the Japanese prime minister, an economic slump, and faced third party challenger Perot To save his presidency he turned to a trusted friend, James A Baker III Baker began to turn the ship but was brought in too late to make a difference and Bush lost to Clinton Thomas McLarty, Leon Panetta, Erskine Bowles, John Podesta, and Bill ClintonClinton was a brilliant politician but undisciplined In a last minute, seat of the pants move he brought in Thomas McLarty, a friend from Arkansas, to be his Chief of Staff The White House would start out without any organization Meetings would go on for hours, people would just wander into the Oval Office it was a mess McLarty would prove too nice to enforce discipline or tell the president no Ambitious aides and liberal factions began jostling for the president s favor Clinton was easily knocked off message A frustrated Hillary brutally critiqued the chief s management of the staff Clinton had some successes NAFTA but his signature issues were stalled and his administration paralyzed Clinton was still trying to be everything to everyone McLarty was out and OMB Director Leon Panetta was brought in Panetta was shocked how informally the White House was run McLarty didn t even have an organizational chart of the staff Panetta brought in Bowles as his deputy They analyzed the president s schedule, showing him where his time was going and comparing that to what he said his priorities were Panetta also too charge as gatekeeper After the Republicans retook the House in 94, Panetta and Bowles helped Clinton prepare for his faceoff with Gingrich and the month long government shutdown that followed Little did Panetta know, Dick Morris had slipped in behind his back as Clinton s ghost advisor Panetta recognized Clinton needed Morris and worked out a compromise where Morris stayed on as an advisor but did not have any power over the staff As Panetta put the ship back on course, Clinton won reelection When Panetta left after his second year, Bowles moved up to be the new chief Bowles constantly fought to keep the President on track whenever he came out of his office with his next great idea Bowles was devastated when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke Bowles couldn t bring himself to deal with it and left in the fall of 98 Clinton s fourth and final chief was John Podesta Podesta was determined to keep the presidency moving but had to deal with the challenges of Gore running for president and Hillary running for the Senate Podesta championed the use of executive power to achieve smaller objectives Andrew Card, Joshua Bolten, and George W BushWith Bush s election, Cheney and Rumsfeld were coming home to the White House Andrew Card, a close friend of the family, was the new Chief of Staff Card was organized and efficient Baker was his role model but understood that Bush, like his father, didn t appreciate the idea of the chief of staff being the power behind the throne Traditionally, the chief of staff has power than the Vice President The events of 9 11 transformed Bush s presidency and vaulted Cheney into a position of prominence Typically, the VP has trouble even getting into the Oval Office for lunch, but now decisions were flowing through Cheney Cheney and Rumsfeld would lead the push for the Iraq Invasion Despite serving than five years in the position, Card is barely mentioned again in the rest of the chapter and the author dives into the Iraq War After Card resigned, OMB Director Joshua Bolten was called in as the new chief Bolten felt Bush was not well served by his security apparatus Rather than bringing him options they were bringing him a strategy to bless Bolten was instrumental in pushing Rumsfeld out as Secretary of Defense 9 11 started his presidency, the financial crisis would end it Bush was told by his advisors that we were on the brink of another Great Depression Despite it violating his beliefs, he swallowed the medicine being offered and signed the 700B Troubled Asset Relief Program TARP to bail out Wall Street.Rahm Emanuel, William Daley, Jacob Lew, Denis McDonough, and Barack ObamaA month before the election, Obama held a secret meeting to begin considering who would hired by the administration Panetta and Bowles both turned down offers to be his chief of staff Congressman Rahm Emanuel quickly gained the attention of Obama With control of both houses of Congress there was a tremendous opportunity to generate change While Rahm certainly filled the tough SOB character the job required, he too struggled with keeping factions of moderates and true believers in check After pushing through the stimulus package, Obama overrode Emanuel to focus on healthcare reform Once given his marching orders, Emanuel was laser focused and relentless, twisting arms and cutting deals with congressmen and the pharmaceutical industry James Baker believed Obama blundered in his hands off approach, letting Congress write the legislation for his 1 priority The bill passed on a party line vote and the Democratic majority was wiped out in the next election When Chicago Mayor Daley retired, Emanuel left to pursue that position Former JPMorgan executive Bill Daley was brought in as the new chief in hopes of countering the anti business image of the administration With no knowledge of the government s inner workings, he was a bad fit from the start When the Grand Bargain fell apart over the intransigence of the Tea Party, the focus shifted overseas toward the Bin Laden raid It was a rare moment of triumph for Daley In 2011, the White House announced Daley would share responsibilities with Pete Rouse, cutting his legs out from under him Frustrated and bitter, Daley resigned OMB Director Jack Lew was brought in Lew remained only a short time before being nominated to replace Geithner as treasury secretary Denis McDonough came in and instilled some discipline it probably didn t hurt that Jarret and the Chicago Mafia had departed by this time Still, Obama was too much like Carter, smart but unsocial They never mastered the give and take needed to get things done in DC McDonough argues that the environment shifted and this criticism is unfair they didn t have to deal with the hyper partisan environment like he did McDonough s greatest failure involved the botched rollout of healthcare.gov Obama had been asking for months if everything was good but McDonough never ensured the system was properly tested It was an embarrassing failure on the President s signature issue Obama focused on executive orders to get his agenda through Obama s decision not to enforce his red line in Syria occurred after one of his wrap sessions with McDonough on the White House lawn. More reviews at TheBibliophage.com.As I was reading Chris Whipple s book, The Gatekeepers, I couldn t help but notice how much access he had to the group of 17 White House Chiefs of Staff since Nixon s H.R Haldeman Then I learned that the book was the byproduct of a documentary series on Discovery That explains a lot about the number of interviews Whipple was given by this large group of political insiders However, it should only serve to make you interested in reading the book, not less We spend so much time in history class discussing the accomplishments of various Presidents But unless you re a political wonk, you may not know much about the Chief of Staff, who s essentially the Chief Operating Officer of the White House The President is the visionary, and the Chief is the guy who takes the vision and translates it to action And as we know from experience during the last eight plus years, creating results from those actions isn t easy or quick I think that s what struck me the most from Whipple s research and interviews Being Chief of Staff is a massive amount of work It s truly 24 7 365 So much so that most Chiefs are only in that position for two years The Chief needs to be political, and have connections all over Washington It s how things get accomplished But some Presidents have chosen people from their home territory as their Chief Whipple explains the pitfalls of such a choice The other thing Whipple makes clear is the relationship that Presidents have with their Chiefs The Chief is the guy who s willing to tell the President when something is a bad idea Again, the interviewees shared the good, the bad, and the ugly Reading the book felt like I had a side chair alongside the Oval Office s iconic Resolute desk Whipple s writing style is conversational and smooth He takes one long chapter for each administration, starting with the transition period where one administration plans to replace the last He finds just the right balance between details and overview, never getting lost in the minutiae Somehow Whipple remains focused on the Chief s perspective, which was unique and enlightening for me After reading The Gatekeepers, my appreciation for Chiefs of Staff especially those holding the position for than two years has grown exponentially This unelected and unconfirmed by the Senate position is held by men with tremendous power and responsibility They are wranglers, negotiators, power brokers, and insomniacs I highly recommend this captivating view into the corridors of the West Wing.Thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for the opportunity to read the digital ARC in exchange for this honest review. This is a fantastic book on American politics, covering nearly 50 years of U.S presidents and their White House chiefs of staff.I was keen to pick up The Gatekeepers after seeing it referenced in a news story when Reince Priebus, Donald Trump s chief of staff, was fired in July The book explains why the role of White House chief of staff is so important, and has fascinating stories from the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama When I started reading this book, I didn t expect to get as engrossed in it as I did The stories were so interesting that I raced through it in two days, amazed at how our political history continues to repeat itself Some of the players involved were so arrogant and egotistical that it damaged the administration other times the president himself was so disorganized that even a disciplined chief of staff couldn t keep order After finishing this book, I better understand how difficult that staff position really is, and why it s considered such a powerful post.While reading, I frequently paused to marvel at how connected everyone is in Washington it really is its own little world, with the same people sticking around for decades So it shouldn t be a surprise that the young up and comers in the Ford administration, two fellas by the names of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, later became such huge players in the G.W Bush administration One of the biggest shocks I had reading this book was seeing Cheney described as a pleasant, humble guy in the 70s Surprising, right Cheney was so despised and controlling during the GWB years that several people in the book commented on how much he had changed Sidenote I was also shocked by how presidents and their chiefs kept making the same mistakes often despite warnings from previous administrations and of hearing the same names pop up over and over again that I could have put on a tinfoil hat and run around shrieking, WAKE UP, PEOPLE EVERYTHING S CONNECTED There are so many great stories from recent history in The Gatekeepers that I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American politics I d also recommend it as a guide to managers, often for examples of what NOT to do Favorite Quotes You have to be the person that says no You ve got to be the son of a bitch who basically tells somebody what the president can t tell him Leon Panetta, chief of staff to Bill Clinton Somebody s got to be in charge Somebody s got to be the go to guy who can go into the Oval Office and deliver a very tough message to the president You can t do that if you got eight or nine guys sitting around saying, Well, you go tell him Dick Cheney, chief of staff to Gerald Ford A great president can get away with a mediocre chief of staff a mediocre president can t possibly Robert Reich The first in depth, behind the scenes look at the White House Chiefs of Staff, whose actions and inactions have defined the course of our country.What do Dick Cheney and Rahm Emanuel have in common Aside from polarizing personalities, both served as chief of staff to the president of the United States as did Donald Rumsfeld, Leon Panetta, and a relative handful of others The chiefs of staff, often referred to as the gatekeepers, wield tremendous power in Washington and beyond they decide who is allowed to see the president, negotiate with Congress to push POTUS s agenda, and most crucially enjoy unparalleled access to the leader of the free world Each chief can make or break an administration, and each president reveals himself by the chief he picks.Through extensive, intimate interviews with all seventeen living chiefs and two former presidents, award winning journalist and producer Chris Whipple pulls back the curtain on this unique fraternity In doing so, he revises our understanding of presidential history, showing us how James Baker s expert managing of the White House, the press, and Capitol Hill paved the way for the Reagan Revolution and, conversely, how Watergate, the Iraq War, and even the bungled Obamacare rollout might have been prevented by aeffective chief.Filled with shrewd analysis and never before reported details, The Gatekeepers offers an essential portrait of the toughest job in Washington.