THE GATEKEEPERS by Chris Whipple
How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency
- Imprint: Crown
- On sale: April 4, 2017
- Price: $28.00
- Pages: 384
- ISBN: 9780804138246
THE FIRST IN-DEPTH, BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT HOW THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY HAS HINGED ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE WHITE HOUSE CHIEFS OF STAFF, BASED ON UNPRECEDENTEDLY CANDID CONVERSATIONS WITH ALL 17 LIVING CHIEFS
Select Praise for THE GATEKEEPERS and Chris Whipple
“Chris Whipple takes us deep inside one of the most important and demanding jobs in Washington—White House chief of staff. Here we get to know how great power is managed, and exercised by those who have held the job. If you’re a political junkie or merely curious, this is the book for you.”
“A vivid, enthralling, and brilliantly reported account of White House chiefs of staff, who are—with all respects to U.S. vice presidents—the actual second-most-powerful people in Washington. This is U.S. history through the fascinating prism of the men who guard the door to the Oval Office, and a learned, welcome, and important addition to the study of the executive branch.”
—Christopher Buckley, author of Thank You for Smoking, No Way to Treat a First Lady, and The Relic Master
“Understanding how government really works, what Presidents actually do, and what is the range of ‘normal’ versus ‘unprecedented’ behavior, is more important now than ever before. As The Gatekeepers makes vividly clear, White House chiefs of staff are at the center of the process that determines how presidents succeed or fail. This is an enlightening work of history with important lessons for our immediate future.”
—James Fallows, The Atlantic, former White House speechwriter
“Chief of Staff is a role of recent vintage—the most powerful job in government never mentioned in the Constitution. Chris Whipple has done a wonderful job humanizing the crushing nature of the 24/7 job (literally 24/7) in which all credit or blame goes to the President who is served. This is a book of insights, but so too is it an important manual on how the executive branch of our government functions.”
—Charles Gibson, former anchor, ABC World News Tonight
“Having interviewed all 17 living former chiefs of staff and two former presidents, Whipple offers a scintillating behind-the-scenes look at an office that is all but invisible to the public. This is page-turning catnip for political junkies, who will read it with an eye to what lies in store for Reince Priebus and the Trump administration.”
—Booklist, starred review
“A vibrant narrative of the real-world West Wing…confident and fast-paced…in this page-turner of a history, readers will discover new facets of historical events that they felt they already knew.”
Our country has just endured one of the most divisive elections in modern history. Now well into his first 100 days in office, President Trump has surrounded himself with an inner circle of advisers who are determined to execute his outsider agenda, but who have little governing experience. Foremost among them is White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. His position is one the framers of the Constitution could not have envisioned. Unelected and unconfirmed, the chief serves at the whim of the president, hired and fired by him alone. And yet the chief’s job is so critical that the presidency cannot function effectively without one. Will Priebus be able to hold the president’s ear, or will he be outplayed by louder voices in the room, such as Stephen Bannon’s? Will he—like history’s most successful chiefs—be empowered to execute Trump’s agenda, and prove himself capable of harnessing the president’s chaotic, combative, and even reckless instincts? Or will he be remembered as a “yes man,” incapable of telling the president what he doesn’t want to hear, thereby spelling disaster for Trump’s administration—and for the country?
Based on extensive, intimate interviews with all seventeen living chiefs of staff and two former presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, THE GATEKEEPERS: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency (Crown, on sale April 4, 2017), by award-winning producer and journalist Chris Whipple, is the story of men who defined the presidencies they served. In THE GATEKEEPERS, Whipple explains how every president needs an empowered chief of staff in order to govern effectively. Our most successful presidents understood the importance of a strong chief (Ronald Reagan, for example, knew that he needed a consummate Washington insider, James Baker, in order to get things done). Yet as Whipple’s book shows, our political age is also littered with the wreckage of presidencies that failed to understand this lesson. From Watergate to the Iran-Contra affair to the Iraq War to the bungled rollout of Obamacare, Whipple illuminates the past, shedding light on moments in our nation’s history that take on new meaning in this current climate.
The book has been years in the making, starting when Whipple began to research his acclaimed 2013 documentary film The Presidents’ Gatekeepers. But the film only scratched the surface of a rich and consequential story that has never been told. For the next three years, Whipple conducted dozens of additional interviews—including follow-up interviews with the chiefs themselves and people who worked alongside them in the White House, as well as cabinet officers, congressmen, and staffers. He also spoke with experts—historians, journalists, and others—who specialize in the chiefs and the presidents they served. The result is a methodically detailed, compelling, and dimensional history that changes our perspective on the presidency, told by people who have had front-row seats to the last eight administrations.
In THE GATEKEEPERS readers will discover how:
-Richard Nixon’s infamous chief H. R. Haldeman, often blamed for Watergate, actually tempered Nixon’s self-destructive instincts and wrote the template for the modern White House chief of staff.
-Two ambitious chiefs, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, brought Gerald Ford back from political disaster to the brink of victory over Jimmy Carter—forging a political alliance between themselves that would take them to the pinnacle of power decades later.
-Jimmy Carter tried to govern without a chief, and thereby crippled his presidency.
-James A. Baker III redefined and mastered the job—making the Reagan Revolution possible.
-Leon Panetta, along with his deputies Erskine Bowles and John Podesta and with strong input from First Lady Hillary Clinton, resurrected Bill Clinton’s struggling presidency, fixing a dysfunctional White House and setting the stage for Clinton’s reelection.
-George W. Bush’s long-serving chief Andrew Card would be unable to quell the infighting among the president’s feuding advisers. As the decision to invade Iraq loomed, no one was acting effectively as the president’s honest broker.
-Barack Obama’s presidency was profoundly affected by his chiefs of staff. With Rahm Emanuel at the helm, Obama succeeded in staving off another Great Depression, saving the auto industry, and passing his landmark Affordable Care Act. And Emanuel’s successors helped achieve the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran Nuclear Agreement, and the diplomatic opening to Cuba. But Obama’s inability to pass legislation, his failure to get a grand bargain on the budget, and the bungled health-care rollout can be attributed not just to political gridlock, but to his chiefs.
The seminal moments of a presidency don’t unfold on a public stage. It’s the intimate conversations, the backroom bargains, and the closed-door debates that often determine history. When the president makes life-and-death decisions, often the chief is the only other person in the room. In THE GATEKEEPERS, Whipple pulls back the curtain to expose how the nation’s levers of power are operated by these right-hand advisers, offering us a new way of measuring the presidency.
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. As a print journalist, Whipple has covered stories ranging from apartheid in South Africa to presidential campaigns in the United States. He has been published in Newsweek, LIFE, People, Politico, The Daily Beast, and American History, and on ABC.com. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in history from Yale College. He lives in New York City with his wife Cary.