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The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  4,238 ratings  ·  568 reviews
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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group
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Steve Catanese I'd challenge the notion that there was a "bias" against Bush/Trump in this Bush, at least in terms of politics. There are opinions on how effective…moreI'd challenge the notion that there was a "bias" against Bush/Trump in this Bush, at least in terms of politics. There are opinions on how effective the White House structures were in making things work, good or bad, but the there's pretty much zero editorializing on the policy decisions.

The Bush term is kind of the major crux of the book as you're able to compare the Cheney/Rumsfeld relationship from the Ford era and see the characters having change significantly and how that impacted operations.(less)

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Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Chris Whipple offers a stunning look behind the curtain and into the depths of the West Wing, wherein resides some of the most powerful unelected figures in the American political machine. At the pinnacle of this group is a man (for there has yet to be a woman in the role) who wears the moniker Chief of Staff (CoS). Charged with keeping the various factions at bay and protecting the President of the United States (POTUS), the CoS serves primarily as a gatekeeper, but also as the one whose job it ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book on American politics, covering nearly 50 years of U.S. presidents and their White House chiefs of staff.

I was keen to pick up The Gatekeepers after seeing it referenced in a news story when Reince Priebus, Donald Trump's chief of staff, was fired in July. The book explains why the role of White House chief of staff is so important, and has fascinating stories from the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill
I found this a most interesting book to read. I learned a lot of information not only about the chief of staff but also about the president and his administration. The chief of staff(COS) is the highest-ranking White House employee. According to Whipple the chief of staff can make or break an administration. The author states the chief of staff is the second most powerful job in government. I found it most interesting to learn about the lessor known and written about but very important men. I ...more
Steven Z.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At a time when the oval office is occupied by a man who seems to know no bounds of decency when it comes to race, hounds people who disagree with him on twitter, and vilifies individuals who he views as disloyal or refuse to do his bidding like former FBI head James Comey or Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, it is refreshing to read Chris Whipple’s new book THE GATEKEEPERS: HOW THE WHITE HOUSE CHIEFS OF STAFF DEFINE EVERY PRESIDENCY. Recently President Trump fired his Chief of Staff, Reince ...more
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book describes the evolution of the position of the modern White House Chief of Staff from the presidency of Richard Nixon to that of Barak Obama. (The book was published in 2017, and there is the briefest of epilogues taking a superficial view of the first few months of the Trump presidency during the tenure of Reince Priebus and on into the beginning of John Kelly’s service. It’s almost unfair to make judgments about a presidency that was not yet a year along.) Whipple had interviewed
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book because of its inside look into one of the most powerful (and most difficult) positions in the world, the White House Chief of Staff. Chris Whipple is an excellent journalist and in his hands, this book reads like a fascinating documentary. He interviews all 17 living Chiefs of Staff and throughout the book, I found myself turning to my husband and saying, "Did you know...? and "Listen to this..." This is probably one of the first books that I've ever read aloud parts to him ...more
Randal White
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Whipple created an accounting of the White House Chiefs of Staff from Nixon through Obama. The successful and the not so successful. The successful ones were given the authority to actually control the fire hose of information coming into the President. And to prevent the people who attempted to go around them to reach the President with what they thought were unique and special needs. Similar to the military, a lieutenant does not jump the chain ...more
Frank Theising
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
I’ve been on a bit of a Presidential bio kick lately, working towards a goal of reading at least one biography on each of our 45 Presidents. Those biographies, naturally, tend to focus heavily on the President and his decisions, with only a cursory examination of the other key players in a presidential administration. With a few exceptions, the Chief of Staff did not figure prominently in the narrative (the two exceptions being H.W. Brands’ Reagan: The Life and James Cannon’s Gerald R. Ford: An ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
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As I was reading Chris Whipple’s book, The Gatekeepers, I couldn’t help but notice how much access he had to the group of 17 White House Chiefs of Staff since Nixon’s H.R. Haldeman. Then I learned that the book was the byproduct of a documentary series on Discovery. That explains a lot about the number of interviews Whipple was given by this large group of political insiders. However, it should only serve to make you more interested in reading the book, not
Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing” was the first that I recognized what the title “Chief of Staff” meant. This book really brings home that a good chief of staff is fundamental to a President’s administration.
Chris Whipple, gives a brief history of the first named Chief of Staff under President Eisenhower before looking at all of the Chiefs from Richard Nixon’s H. R. Haldeman to Barack Obama’s Denis McDonaugh.

Some were excellent at the job (e.g. James Baker for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Summary: A study of the White House Chiefs of Staff, from the Nixon through Obama administrations, and how critical the effective execution of this role is to an effective presidency.

During the final weeks of the Bush (43) administration, an unprecedented meeting took place in the office of Josh Bolten, Bush's last Chief of Staff. Eleven of the thirteen living former Chiefs showed up (absent were James Baker and Erskine Bowles). People like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Leon Panetta, Howard
This is such a good book. Very informative. It has great stories and gave a great overview of the chiefs of staff from Nixon on.
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The media obsessively scrutinizes the records of key presidential appointees, including cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court judges, and ambassadors. These positions require Senate confirmation because we deem them so important that we do not trust them to the president alone. Yet, ironically, the appointment most critical to the success of the presidency, the chief of staff, requires no Senate confirmation and often receives little public scrutiny. In "The Gatekeepers," Chris Whipple looks at the ...more
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
One of my favorite do-it-yourself therapies for the everyday grind is to put on my grungy clothes, plug in my headphones, and fire up the lawn mower. I mow, and I listen to a book, and then when I start to run out of grass, I find other yard work. On a good Saturday, I can crank through a novel or a history and get some yard work done, and it makes for a good Saturday.

As I listened to "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency" this last week, I couldn't help
Quick read filled with plenty of interesting anecdotes across several administrations, but (perhaps because of the key role the chief of staff plays across a host of issues) the book often tends to get side tracked into more discussions of the major challenges or scandals that consumed those administrations, leading the nominal focus on the chiefs to drift. Underscores the importance of the role, but aside from a few highly generalized takeaways - chief of staff has to be an honest broker of the ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a worthwhile read. From Nixon to Obama, the book reviews the highs and lows of each presidential term. Presidential legacies can be damaged or greatly facilitated by a president's chief of staff. The book is very readable.
Verna Carre
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
If you are political wonk and want to go behind closed doors, this is the book.
Christopher Saunders
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
The Gatekeepers examines the role of White House Chiefs of Staff from Nixon through Obama, and the impact they had on their respective Presidents and the day-to-day maintenance of government. Impeccably researched (featuring interviews with most of the surviving chiefs of staff), Whipple emphasizes the role of Chief of Staff as combination office manager handling staff, "Lord High Executioner" enforcing the President's orders, diplomat and negotiator with Congress, Cabinet and others. He ...more
Brendan Grubb
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Up until about three days ago, the position of White House Chief of Staff was little more than the answer to a trivia question or an unimportant title attached to a name in a news story. I had no idea how integral this position was to a functional White House. This book does an excellent job describing the roles performed by the Chief of Staff, and I enjoyed the straightforward organization Whipple used of giving each presidency its own chapter (unless you're Ronald Reagan, in which case you get ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Gatekeepers gives a fascinating look "behind the curtain" at the responsibilities of the White House Chief of Staff, whose role in any administration can make the difference between success and failure. In brief, it's not a job for the faint of heart, nor for someone who can't speak truth to power.
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really fascinating, iin-depth chronological look at the inner workings of the White House since Nixon, and what really went on during each administration. Highly recommend to political junkies and history buffs alike.
Jan 17, 2019 marked it as maybe  ·  review of another edition

Meeting with staff, Mulvaney brandished "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency" by @ccwhip, sharing passages about successful management models from past administrations.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would've given this five stars were it not for the feeling that Whipple digressed during the W. Bush years and centered his discussion more on the Iraq War than on the efficacy (or lack thereof) of Andrew Card. Also, he seems to hold Obama's circumventing of Congress in favor of a greater reliance on executive orders after the 2014 mid-terms as an example of Denis McDonough's effectiveness as a chief. This detracts from his argument since it suggests powerful chiefs should shun Congress rather ...more
Nick Hardy
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm interested in how the White House system works, so looked forward to reading this account of how Chiefs of Staff from Nixon to the present handled the flow of information and decisions. There were some engaging insights and the author seems to have had great access to talk to many former occupants of the role. However, while the internal workings of the system are the subject of the book I felt that often more time was taken discussing the external process or events than what the Chief of ...more
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I finished it so it meets that bar but I wouldn't say it was compelling. As a work of history I felt like it went over ground that was already pretty well known with few exceptions. I was looking for something hat made these relationships really come alive and this didn't really do it for me.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book was the assigned book for my local League of Women Voter's book group, I'm glad I read it despite it's being "required reading." I learned a great deal about the Presidential Chiefs of Staff since Nixon - how their styles differed, who was effective and who wasn't. It appears that the Chief admired most by both Democrats and Republicans was James Baker III, first Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan. He appeared to be the consummate professional, efficient and loyal, despite his ...more
Nick Guzan
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In this terrific history of the role of chief of staff in modern American politics and the presidency, Chris Whipple discards bias to take an honest look at how each chief of staff - from Nixon's ruthlessly loyal H.R. Haldeman to Obama's competitive yet self-effacing Denis McDonough - has impacted the presidency and the nation at large, often using anecdotes both humorous and inspirational to accessibly tell each player's story while also refocusing each presidency of the last 50 years through a ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book! I found it to be very short when you consider the subject matter. I feel like the author could've make the book twice as long and still be missing something. It merely touches on some of the big events that have shaped our country since Nixon.

Gatekeepers covers the Chiefs of Staff for the President from Nixon to Obama, each with his own chapter (the Reagan Era earned 2 mostly due to his first Chief of Staff, James Baker), highlighting a known but not too well known
W. Whalin
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read This Book to Learn More of the Inside the White House Dynamics

The White House Chief of Staff is a key position to define the actions of the President of the United States. Journalist Chris Whipple through extensive interviews examines every Chief of Staff from Richard Nixon through Barak Obama. THE GATEKEEPERS is a behind-the-scenes, inside look at these presidents. The storytelling and information is well-done and filled with insights.

As this book was published, Donald Trump won the
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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.
“It has the most awesome responsibilities of any corporation in the world, the largest budget of any corporation in the world, and the largest number of employees. Yet the entire senior management structure and team have to be formed in a period of seventy-five days.” 2 likes
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