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The White House Mess

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,144 ratings  ·  90 reviews
At last, a White House reminiscence that pulls no punches! Herbert Wadlough, personal assistant to President N. Tucker (TNT), offers his unique and utterly self-serving inside view of the historic years 1989-1993 of the ill-fated Tucker administration, in which he played such a crucial role. From the inauguration crisis--when President Reagan refused to vacate the White Ho ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1986)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  1,144 ratings  ·  90 reviews


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Mal Warwick
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: trade-fiction
Proof that Republicans Can Tell Funny Stories

Christopher Buckley is a very funny man. I know this not just because I’ve read a few of his books, which generally “kept me in stitches” (whatever that means), but also because I actually spent much of an evening with him a few weeks ago. He’d come to Berkeley to do a “reading” from his newest book, They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?, and somehow I’d been invited to introduce him to the audience of about 150 people who were there to hear him. I managed to
...more
Elizabeth
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 52-in-2009
The White House Mess by Christopher Buckley (pp. 224)
One of Buckley’s earliest novels is a clear miss. While microscopic bits of the satirical style that makes his later novels such fun are evidenced in this work, they are few and far between. This may be because the material is just too close to his personal experience as a White House aide. The main character, Herb Wadlough, is a long time friend and now advisor to the President. The White House Mess is supposed to be a personal memoir of his
...more
N N
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Spoof political memoir written in 1986. The world was monumentally sane then, comparatively speaking, so one feels this barely scratched the surface of the genre. But hilarious in its limited way.
David Hogg
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Until last November, I'd have laughed this book off as comedy fiction, but actually this is almost a portentous novel with some parallels to the current US administration.

It reminds me a little of the Adrian Mole books, in that the narrator is naive and not entirely honest with himself, but that is no bad thing as the Adrian Mole books were also good fun.
...more
Luke
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Buckley has written any number of satirical books. Most of them can be fairly classified as "quite droll".
This one stands out from the pack in that it doesn't cause wry chuckles, but actual laughter.

It is, in a word, fun.
Absurdity is piled upon absurdity with enthusiasm and joy.
...more
Marion Granigan
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, comedy
I have to admit - I only got through about two thirds of this. I found it mostly amusing, with the occasional chuckle out loud and one or two loud guffaws. Then it kept on going, and became tedious. It seemed to keep just missing the acerbic wit and keen insight that I expect from Christopher Buckley.
Stephen
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Buckley perfectly captures the feel and tone of the typical Washington memoir. His sardonic sense of humor is more witty than funny, but I laughed out loud at several situations. It's told more as a series of remeberances rather than a linear plot, but once I got into the flow of storytelling, I enjoyed it. ...more
Fatima Siddique
Aug 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
The "humor" in this book did not age well. A lot of the jokes rest entirely on the assumption that the reader will find minorities, women, and gays as inherently funny as the reader. If you don't, there's not much to laugh at. ...more
Lara Seven
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
now's a good time to read about fictional presidents... ...more
Dana
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I think I might have enjoyed this more if I didn’t suspect some of the same insanity was currently going on
Kristi Woody
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I normally love Buckley’s work, but I could not get into this. It was boring, to be honest.
Tracy
Sep 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Fairly short read. Hard to ignore the "casual" racism and sexism sprinkled throughout. I kept waiting for the story to pick up. It did not. For me, anyway. ...more
Charlotte B. Cocchiara
Nothing like sticking it to the Swamp

So on point, so true, unlike DC itself. As a retired fed, long may Buckley use his sharp satire! Carry on, brother!
Phillip
Dec 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This is not Buckley's best, but it is still worth reading. Since it begins in an alternate history with Reagan refusing to leave the White House (he is lured out still wearing his pajamas), that makes the book very timely now. The book is an account by a narrator who is the new president's chief of staff, illustrating the kind of nonsense I think we all know is life inside the Beltway and at the White House. ...more
Rebekkila
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inauguration Day 1989: President-elect Tucker's limousine pulls up at the White House to escort President Reagan to the ceremonies. But what greets the incoming president is his first situation of "extreme criticality": Reagan is still in his pajamas. His back is bothering him. He's tired. He just doesn't feel like moving today. In fact, he doesn't; think he'll want to move until spring...So begins Thomas Nelson Tucker's Presidency. And so begins this riotously funny addition to the long line of ...more
Amrith
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
All the President's mens.
...more
John Lucy
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It's not often I suggest books to my parents that aren't about the Civil War. Outside the Civil War we don't share the same tastes. But this book is deliciously hilarious. Anyone who has any interest in reading at all should absolutely love this book and then highly recommend it to all people everywhere.

The fact that Buckley was once involved in White House affairs and hits upon some serious truths about politics and White House politics only lends the story deeper humor. You'll often read this
...more
Regina Lindsey
The White House Mess by Christopher Buckley
2-1/2 stars rounded to 3

Positioned as a memoir by Herbert Wadlough from within the Democratic Tucker administration, the fictional successor to President Reagan, the political satire revolves around a foreign policy crisis, a struggling marriage, and political in-fighting.

Son of National Review's William Buckley and staff writer to George H Bush, Christopher Buckley certainly understands the world inside the loop to pull off a political satire book. The
...more
Elisabeth Wallace
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
After completion of this novel, I look forward to reading "Thank you for Smoking," finally. I have had so many terrible experiences with the book to movie, movie to book disparity, that I had been loath to put myself into such a potentially painful situation again. I had never read any of Buckley work prior to this, so the only information I had to go on was how much I liked the movie adaptation of "Thank you."

Speaking of the book to movie translation process, with all it's hazards, I feel that
...more
Claudia
I read Buckley for the snark, and this delivers. A novel pretending to be a memoir of a Chief of Staff to a fictionalized President...it begins with the new President and his 'people' going to the White House to pick up President Reagan for the Inauguration. But Reagan doesn't want to leave. He likes it here...he's sick. He'll be better in the spring.

Herbert Wadlough is a little man, and he sees life in the White House as a little man would -- full of petty revenges, useless chores, back-biting
...more
Joe
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Buckley’s first novel, The White House Mess, is the memoir of Herbert Wadlough, Special Assistant and Deputy Chief of Staff for President Thomas Tucker – Ronald Reagan’s successor in the Oval Office. (The opening Inaugural is priceless and classic Buckley.) Wadlough is a prudish goody two shoes; his favorite exclamation “Oh dear”; and nicknamed “Auntie Herbert”. So he’s the perfect insider to “narrate” this Buckley “satirical spoof”; appropriately “shocked” at his peers’ behavior, particularly t ...more
Scott
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: West Wing fans
'The Washington Mess' by Christopher Buckley is hilarious. I found myself giggling, chuckling, and several times outright laughing as I read it. If you liked West Wing, I can't recommend this book highly enough. The only way I can describe it is as a hybrid mating of West Wing and well, pick any of the funnier sitcoms of the last half-century.


It opens with a Democratic president-elect arriving at the White House to escort President Reagan to the Inauguration ceremonies. Reagan is still in his pa
...more
Jack
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Not nearly as witty as many of Buckley's other books, all of which I have enjoyed hugely, most notably THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. He clearly understands the internecine warfare of egos and perks which fuel the petty daily infighting among the senior White House staff; I am certain he has plenty of well-placed friends who have given him some of the juicier tidbits of Oval Office brawling for influence and access.

But the story and the story-telling are far more cursory than in his past endeavors. Cha
...more
Alan Chen
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fun
Just plain awesome. Loaded to the brim with snappy dialogue that translates what press releases might actually be about. Some slow parts, but more than enough to keep you locked in until you reach the end. A hilarious non-partisan send-up of political memoirs, turf battles and government.

The best quotes:

-Trying to streamline the decision making process
-Facilitate spatial automotive requirements in the office of the Chief of Staff
-Exhaling purposefully
-"Request"
-Go out on the road
-You know how it
...more
ryan parr
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All
The brilliant Christopher Buckley, who served as the chief speechwriter for Vice President George H. W. Bush, lampoons the self-serving banalities of political memoirs in an outlandish political satire that is buoyed by unflagging zest. From the inauguration crisis, when President Reagan refused to vacate the White House, to the War on Bermuda, President Thomas N. Tucker (TNT), his staff, movie-star First Lady and incendiary son, Firecracker, run amok from one farce to the next in The White Hous ...more
Stefanie
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Christopher Buckley
Shelves: humor-and-satire
Overall, the White House Mess is an enjoyable political satire pretending wearing the mask of a political memoir. The context would have probably been appreciated more at the time of its original publishing, but Buckley skewers timeless characteristics of politics--governmental and inter-office. Buckley fully inhabits the voice of Herb Wadlough even in the Acknowledgements stating, "I should also thank Christopher Buckley, who rendered editorial assistance in the preparation of the manuscript." ...more
Jim Butler
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The man never misses. This one is told as a memoir by the kind of old-friend White House regular who is usually scorned as a freeloader, but has personal value to the president anyway. It’s bright and witty and insightful with a feeling of parody written by one who was an insider. (Buckley was a Vice-President Bush speechwriter, after all. He has redeeming social value in spite of that.) Except for a pretty painful and seemingly endless story about the President’s tiresomely naughty son which d ...more
Bookreaderljh
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Christopher Buckley novels always make me laugh. Sitting at the beach chuckling and not even caring. His books could be true - they are certainly written like one of many genres. This is the memoir of a presidency from the point of view of a staffer and it reads partly like it could have really happened but otherwise is so tongue in cheek. I think basically, though, I liked it because it was funny. All the possible scenarios that might happen and how the politicos "spin" those situations. It act ...more
Jess
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Christopher Buckley is a hilarious, honest, and intelligent author, and "Boomsday" does not disappoint. Buckley writes factually about political jobs and climates. Buckley is amazing at saying, hilariously, what everyone else is too afraid to say. This was the first of Buckley's books that I read, it pokes fun at the less-than-lucid mind of President Reagan as he was leaving the White House. It sounds utterly revolting, but I assure you that Buckley keeps respect and distance to keep the reader ...more
Mike
Sep 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Buckley writes the autobiography of an aide of his President Tucker who comes into office after President Reagan. You basically follow through his term in office and the catastrophes and calamities that occur during it. All the bucking for power and access are probably pretty close to how it realy happens...with childlike nonsense throughout. Not the best effort from Buckley. This is almost too tongue-in-cheek. If I hadn't read a number of others books by Buckley that I've loved I likely wouldn' ...more
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Christopher Buckley graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1976. He shipped out in the Merchant Marine and at age 24 became managing editor of Esquire magazine. At age 29, he became chief speechwriter to the Vice President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. Since 1989 he has been founder and editor-in-chief of Forbes Life magazine.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Good
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