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The Gatekeepers
Cover of The Gatekeepers
The Gatekeepers
How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency
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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 countryWhat do Dick Cheney and Rahm Emanuel have in...
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 countryWhat do Dick Cheney and Rahm Emanuel have in...
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  • 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 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.
    From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts-

  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

    Copyright © 2017 Chris Whipple

    Introduction

    "I Brought My Pillow and My Blankie"

    Rahm Emanuel was so cold he could see his breath as he crossed the White House parking lot and entered the West Wing lobby. It was December 5, 2008, an unusually frigid morning in Washington, D.C. But it wasn't the weather that sent a chill through Emanuel; it was the unbelievably daunting challenge that lay ahead.

    In just six weeks Emanuel would become White House chief of staff to Barack Obama, the forty-fourth president of the United States. But for more than a month, he had watched in astonishment as the world they were about to inherit was turned upside down. The U.S. economy was teetering on the edge of another Great Depression. Credit—the lifeblood of the world economy—was frozen. The entire auto industry was on the brink of collapse. Two bloody wars were mired in stalemate. There was more than a little truth, Emanuel thought, to the headline in The Onion: "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job." The stiletto-tongued infighter, former senior adviser

    to Bill Clinton, and congressman from Illinois felt apprehensive. "I brought my pillow and my blankie," he would later joke, looking back at that dark morning when the fate of the new administration seemed to hang in the balance. The truth was, Rahm Emanuel was scared.

    The unannounced gathering at the White House that morning looked like a Cold War-era national security crisis. Black sedans and SUVs rolled up; men in dark suits clambered into the Executive Mansion. Emanuel thought about the elite fraternity that was assem­bling here: Donald Rumsfeld. Dick Cheney. Leon Panetta. Howard Baker Jr. Jack Watson. Ken Duberstein. John Sununu. Sam Skinner. Mack McLarty. John Podesta. Andrew Card. Joshua Bolten. They were among Washington's most powerful figures of the last half cen­tury: secretaries of defense, OMB directors, governor, CIA director, majority leader, and vice president. But they had one thing above all in common. It was a special bond, a shared trial by fire that tran­scended their political differences: Every one of them had served as White House chief of staff

    As they gathered in the office they had all once occupied-now home to Joshua Bolten, George W. Bush's current chief-they min­gled and swapped stories. It had been Bolten's idea to bring all the former White House chiefs together after the election, to give his successor advice on how to do the job. Bolten guessed that of the thirteen living chiefs, maybe a half dozen would actually show up. But to his amazement, only Reagan's James Baker and Clinton's Erskine Bowles were no-shows.

    "It really was an amazing day," recalls John Podesta, Clinton's final chief, "because it was quite a collection of individuals: from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to me and Rahm. The span of ideology and politics, the span of history was all very present. And we all got the chance to give Rahm one piece of advice." Clin­ ton's gregarious former chief Leon Panetta, about to be tapped as Obama's CIA director, was in his element: "All of them were my close friends," he recalls. "And to have them together in that room to wish Rahm Emanuel the best in his entry into that rogues' gallery of chiefs of staff—that was a very special moment."

    The ghosts of presidencies past hovered around them. "It's a space where you feel the presence of history," Bolten would recall. "They were all transported back to their time in office."

    Dick Cheney, once the thirty-four-year-old chief of staff to Pres- ident Gerald Ford, pointed to the spot...

About the Author-

  • CHRIS WHIPPLE is an acclaimed writer, journalist, documentary filmmaker, and speaker. A multiple Peabody and Emmy Award-winning producer at CBS's 60 Minutes and ABC's Primetime, he is the chief executive officer of CCWHIP Productions. Most recently, he was the executive producer and writer of Showtime's The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 30, 2017
    Whipple, a documentary filmmaker and first-time author, surveys recent U.S. presidential history by profiling chiefs of staff from Nixon to Obama. He doesn’t quite justify his subtitle or even try particularly hard to prove its far-reaching claim, but he does recount a vibrant narrative of the real-world West Wing and give insight into the oft-mentioned but little-explained role of White House Chief of Staff. Repurposing original interviews conducted for a documentary film that Whipple cowrote, The President’s Gatekeepers, the book is peppered with stories and insights from many of the chiefs of staff and other key players including presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush. Whipple also draws from other histories and political memoirs, giving the book an insiders’ feel as it recounts historical episodes such as the Watergate break-in, the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, the 9/11 attacks, and the unsuccessful rollout of healthcare.gov. The confident and fast-paced narrative is enhanced by having actual historical players contribute well-rounded (and sometimes surprising) characterizations of presidents and other Washington luminaries. In this page-turner of a history, readers will discover new facets of historical events that they felt they already knew. Agent: Lisa Queen, Queen Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2017
    Peabody and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Whipple chronicles the roles as well as the successes and failures of White House chiefs of staff from the Richard Nixon to Barack Obama administrations.The modern White House chief of staff, the gatekeeper to the president and manager of White House operations, emerged during the Nixon administration. While presidents Kennedy and Johnson preferred a more decentralized system with multiple advisers, Nixon's chief, H.R. Haldeman, created a strong, focused organization that has endured for nearly a half-century. The author discusses subsequent administrations and their chiefs in chronological order. James A. Baker III, Ronald Reagan's first chief of staff, is seen as the gold standard. Also successful were Gerald Ford's two chiefs, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Among those whose performance fell short were Hamilton Jordan for Jimmy Carter, Donald Regan for Reagan, and Mack McLarty for Bill Clinton. Throughout the book, Whipple identifies several variables that affect performance: presidential access and support; management style; and whether the chief serves as an honest broker, allowing all arguments on issues to be presented, or as a strict advocate. Also pivotal is whether he--all the chiefs have been men--views himself as a principal, essentially a peer of the president, or as a staff member; invariably, the former is a recipe for failure. An unusual element was added when George W. Bush's vice president, Cheney, experienced from White House politics during the Ford administration, was able to thwart the efforts of Bush's chief, Andrew Card. Whipple also reviews the high and low points of the past eight administrations, and he greatly enhances the narrative with his many interviews, some of which were used for a documentary he did on the subject in 2013. A well-researched, well-written review of a unique government position--informative for the general public and an insightful blueprint for the new administration.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2017

    Journalist and documentarian Whipple has written a detailed account of the White House chief of staff's development. The current role started with the Nixon administration and H.R. Haldeman. Whipple demonstrates that the position can be a major factor in the success or failure of presidencies. Men have failed as chief of staff because they thought the power of presidency filtered through them, leading to inflated egos. Successful figures were those willing to see alternatives and check infighting within administrations. This is a worthwhile read that compares well with Bradley H. Patterson Jr.'s The White House Staff and Kate Andersen Brower's The Residence. Through firsthand accounts of the presidency, it gives valuable understanding of the position and would be a great tool for Reince Priebus as President Donald Trump's chief of staff. VERDICT Highly recommended for those seeking a history of the modern presidency or political insight. [See Prepub Alert, 10/17/16.]--Jacob Sherman, John Peace Lib., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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