Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Foul-Mouthed Anecdotes of America's Chiefs of Staff

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Foul-Mouthed Anecdotes of America's Chiefs of Staff

Article excerpt

Foul-Mouthed Anecdotes of America's Chiefs of Staff Chris Whipple. The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency. New York: Crown Publishing Group, April 4, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-8041-3824-6. $28.00. 364pp.

A common topic of gossip about White Houses is when power rests with somebody other than the President. Jokes and political cartoons and comedic sketches are written about powerful First Ladies or advisers. This book advertises itself as the first "behind-the-scenes look at the White House Chiefs of Staff," who are reported as being the true leaders behind the course of American politics. These chiefs are supposed to execute the President's agenda by leading the staff, which is made up of hundreds of people across the last century. At the same time, the Chief is a sort of secretary that screens visitors and communicates deals with Congress and other bodies on the President's behalf. The unique thing about this book is that it includes interviews with seventeen living chiefs, truly making it an exceptional collection.

In my years reviewing and studying political books, I have never seen one include interviews with so many key political figures. This promises a good read because books that only rely on interviews with a single personage tend to get boring, while books that rely on interviews with hundreds of people can digress easily and lose focus.

The book does not merely flatter these chiefs, but also finds them to be at fault for everything from the Monica Lewinsky scandal to Jimmy Carter's lack of a chief (well he had at least two, but perhaps they were not all there) led to overall failure to be an effective president. Andrew Card is blamed for failing to stop the infighting between Bush's advis- ers, thus muddling the decision to invade Iraq.

The author of this book, Chris Whipple, created a documentary on this subject, The Presidents' Gatekeepers (2013), before spending the following years on this research project. …

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