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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' 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 18 living chiefs (including Reince Priebus) 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 a more effective chief.
Filled with shrewd analysis and never-before-reported details, The Gatekeepers offers an essential portrait of the toughest job in Washington.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Loren on 04-15-17
Great history of the Chief of Staff position
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.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
By Stephen Watson on 09-04-17
Interesting, but lacking in political objectivity
What did you like best about The Gatekeepers? What did you like least?
As a political junkie, the behind the scenes anecdotes were captivating. The least appealing aspect to the book was Whipple's lengthy absence of the actions of George W. Bush's chief of staff Andy Card while Whipple offered his criticism of the Iraq War and defense of those who were opposed to the war. An objective writing on the duties and influence of the chief of staff's position with each president would have made this an much better read for those who enjoy the behind the scenes accounts of the presidency.
What was most disappointing about Chris Whipple’s story?
Whipple's premise was a good one; looking at the influence and the way that presidential chiefs of staff helped define the presidency. It seems historically he was able to capture the who and what was happening during each presidency. Unfortunately, the book gets bogged down in Whipple's left-leaning non-objective looks at modern presidencies such as George W. Bush and Barak Obama. Bush's chief of staff Andy Card nearly disappears from the Bush presidency as Whipple writes. Instead Whipple supplies a defense of Colin Powell and spends more time discussing Dick Cheney as a warmonger than the chief of staff. Whipple spends little time on the Clinton's challenges in the White House and how the chief of staff navigated such events - and he offers a defense of Barak Obama's decision making following the Bush presidency. Oddly, the epilogue is an analysis of the Trump presidency before it actually begins. Whipple would have created a really great read had he remained objective with less editorializing support of the political left. I enjoy a good objective critique of both the left and the right. But Whipple showed his hand in many of his descriptions of various persons, editorial comments, and his lengthy criticism of the Iraq War. What could have been a really great book turned out to be a rather &quot;okay&quot; read. Whipple would have benefited from a strong editor to help him see his non-objective views and to tighten his writing in places.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful