Monday, July 2, 2018

Review: The Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple

The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency by Chris Whipple
Release date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Crown 
Pages: 384
Reading level: Adult 
Genre: Nonfiction/Historical/Political 
Source: Gift 
Links: Author GoodreadsAmazon

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars 
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.

I was incredibly excited to receive this book for Christmas, as it had caught my eye the first time I had seen it at the bookstore. Chris Whipple's in-depth look at the roles of chiefs of staff and the impact they have had on our own history is a must read. Incredibly well-researched, with first hand accounts from the surviving chiefs, THE GATEKEEPERS, at almost 400 pages, was a quick and engaging read. 

THE GATEKEEPERS was packed full of interesting facts and information that is still relevant to this day. The title of "chief of staff" is a relatively new position and each chief of staff has made a tremendous impact on the president they were serving. I found it fascinating to see where key political figures like Dick Cheney got their start and to see what role each chief of staff had in shaping the president they were serving. Certain presidents understood exactly what kind of person was needed to fill the role of chief of staff, while others (like Jimmy Carter) believed they were able to serve without a chief of staff. The biggest takeaway for me was the fact that each president often makes the same mistakes when selecting (or not selecting) the right person for the role. A chief of staff shouldn't necessarily be the person you're closest to or have grown up with. The position needs to be filled by the individual who understands the president's strengths and weaknesses and can assist them in making the administration the strongest and most organized it can be. 

Even if you think you know all there is to know about the various administrations, THE GATEKEEPERS provides a unique perspective on the president's and the men (so far only men have served as chiefs of staff) that have both failed them and lifted them up. Whipple's newest book was extremely well written and engaging and provided first hand accounts from the chiefs themselves. We have already seen the difficulty our current president has had in finding the right chief of staff, so it will be interesting to see what kind of impact John Kelly ends up having as time goes on. I highly, highly recommend taking the time to read this book. Even if you are frustrated with government or not interested in political history, this book is interesting enough that I think any reader would enjoy it and learn something in the process. 

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