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The author goes chronologically from the Nixon Administration through the Obama administration summarizing the tenures of each of the chiefs. He has excellent access to the principals and described many of the highs and lows of the administrations and how those related to the roles of the CoS. He also has good information about the personalities of each of the chiefs and how that either helped them serve their presidents or got in the way.
He makes the case over and over that the modern presidency cannot function without a strong CoS, which was attempted by Carter and Clinton. He also suggests that 'principals' -- CoS who take themselves too seriously do not function well in the job (Sununu and Regan). Finally, his stories also show that presidents are not generally well served by CoS who are too close, as that prevents them from giving bad news or tough advice to the presidents.
Extremely well researched and very interesting read, and each of his major points are generally well supported by interviews from those who were in the position.
The only loose end is that while these characteristics seem necessary, they are not enough to prevent disasters from occurring on their watch, which the author confronts most directly with Haldeman and Nixon. Not the fault of the book, but just a reflection of the fact that both people and the world of politics in Washington are very complicated.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
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.
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.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful