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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,458 Ratings  ·  389 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 othe
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group
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Kimball The author does his best to stay neutral but you can definitely feel the tone of his bias in the last third of the book
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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 Clin
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
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 wa ...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 Pri ...more
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 be ...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 les
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 Bake
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
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 really liked it
If you are political wonk and want to go behind closed doors, this is the book.
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 b
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 emphasi ...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.
Nick Hardy
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
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 ch
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 presi
Gregory Baird
The success or failure of a presidency largely depends on whether or not the president is able to deliver on the agenda he or she sets upon taking office. Are they able to get things done? Can they focus and prioritize their goals so they don't waste time on something that isn't achievable or realistic (or try to do too much)? Can they maintain their public image as well as key relationships with Washington insiders? And can they do all that while running a functional office that will help them ...more
Michael Chen
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a fun, fascinating, and fast-paced romp through the last 50 years! (Warning: Political operatives use colorful language behind closed doors!)

And while it's about the chief of staff of the White House, one can apply it to other organizations (e.g., the COO at a company or the executive pastor at a church).

Biggest takeaways:

1. A President's effectiveness depends largely on his chief of staff. (For example, not having one hampered Carter's early administration; having the wrong one embroiled R
Jim Razinha
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was able to read an uncorrected proof courtesy of First to Read. BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): great book. Every chapter could have been a book in itself, but Chris Whipple does an excellent job with the chronology, choosing the key characteristics and significant events of each of the chiefs he covers, and tying the room together. This isn't West his Introduction, Whipple quotes Erskine Bowles:
In an average day you would deal with Bosnia, Northern Ireland, the budget, taxation, the e
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent. It's amazing how unprepared and uninformed so many of the men elected president have been about the way Washington operates. None more so than the current administration. This book ends before 45 took office, but there is a short follow-up article on Reince Priebius and John Kelly in the March 2018 issue of Vanity Fair (spoiler alert - they haven't exactly covered themselves in glory in this role).
Andy Klein
An excellent book. A really entertaining and informative look at the work of the presidential chiefs of staff. Two strange notes. The section on George W Bush was relatively thin compared to the other sections. And there was virtually no reference to Joe Biden in the Obama section. I wonder if it is because he had a much smaller role than it seems from the outside. Can't wait for the sequel about Trump's inevitable 10 chiefs.
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Things I learned from this book: holy cow COS have a lot of power (duh Lindsay), common characteristics successful chiefs have in common from the past 8 presidents, don’t bring your hometown buddies to Washington, and there’s still never been a female chief (sigh). History buffs and political wonks will enjoy this and so will your averagely aware citizen like me. Decently easy read.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it
The Gatekeepers is a well-researched look at the White House chiefs of staff under Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama; and their styles, abilities, accomplishments and failures in that role. The book explores the relationship between a chief's effectiveness and his president's ability to get things done during that time.

It talks about how the role has evolved into its modern reincarnation, what each president wants from their chiefs, and the consequences of that
Matt Lanza
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read, especially if you want to go deeper into the weeds of understanding politics and how things get done in Washington. This book could not have been more timely and underscores a lot of the struggles of the current administration (as well as some in the past). It's a good writing style and a fairly brisk read, at times entertaining with some of the stories.
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