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The Gatekeepers Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

The first in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how the American presidency has hinged on the effectiveness of the White House chiefs of staff and how their decisions have dictated 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 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' agenda, and - most crucially - are the first in line to the leader of the free world's ear. Award-winning producer and journalist Chris Whipple demonstrates how those appointed to this lofty position have often served as de facto prime ministers and the surprising extent to which their tenures have set the tone for our political climate. Through extensive, intimate interviews with all 20 living chiefs of staff and two former presidents, The Gatekeepers pulls back the curtain to expose how the nation's levers of power are operated by these right-hand advisors and what each appointment reveals about its respective president.

©2017 Chris Whipple (P)2017 Random House Audio

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  •  
    john edewaard 04-20-17 Member Since 2014
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    "Oliver North was in The Marines"
    What made the experience of listening to The Gatekeepers the most enjoyable?

    Most of the book was anecdotal collection of this and that. I thought it was funny. However, not sure about the facts. Have to question the editing since one clear error in the story was the representation of Oliver North as an army officer. Research on such a widely known fact gone wrong makes me suspect that there are other errors affecting authenticity. As i said the book is very entertaining. Worth one credit.


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Loren Bethesda, MD, United States 04-15-17
    Loren Bethesda, MD, United States 04-15-17 Member Since 2011

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Great history of the Chief of Staff position"

    The author goes chronologically from the Nixon Administration through the Obama administration summarizing the tenures of each of the chiefs. He has excellent access to the principals and described many of the highs and lows of the administrations and how those related to the roles of the CoS. He also has good information about the personalities of each of the chiefs and how that either helped them serve their presidents or got in the way.

    He makes the case over and over that the modern presidency cannot function without a strong CoS, which was attempted by Carter and Clinton. He also suggests that 'principals' -- CoS who take themselves too seriously do not function well in the job (Sununu and Regan). Finally, his stories also show that presidents are not generally well served by CoS who are too close, as that prevents them from giving bad news or tough advice to the presidents.

    Extremely well researched and very interesting read, and each of his major points are generally well supported by interviews from those who were in the position.

    The only loose end is that while these characteristics seem necessary, they are not enough to prevent disasters from occurring on their watch, which the author confronts most directly with Haldeman and Nixon. Not the fault of the book, but just a reflection of the fact that both people and the world of politics in Washington are very complicated.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 04-23-17
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 04-23-17 Member Since 2017

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "Captivating"

    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 was unaware that President Jimmy Carter chose not to have a COS. Whipple reviews the high and low points of past administrations’ chief of staffs. I was most interested in H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon’s COS, and Leon Panetta, President Clinton’s COS. I had forgotten that Dick Cheney was President Ford’s COS.

    The book is well written and meticulously researched. The author interviews the seventeen-living chief of staffs. Apparently, there have been 28 COS’s since 1968. Whipple enhanced the narrative with his many interviews. Whipple’s writing style is very easy to read and he tosses in some humor. Whipple provides a valuable understanding of the positon and its duties. Whipple is a journalist and this comes through in his writing.

    The book is almost 12 hours long. Mark Bramhall does a good job narrating the book. Bramhall is an actor and award-winning audiobook narrator.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phil O. San Diego, CA, United States 05-15-17
    Phil O. San Diego, CA, United States 05-15-17 Member Since 2011

    Business Law Professor. Fan of history, finance, law, politics

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    "Great panorama in punchy moments; laugh-out-loud"

    This book accomplishes so many things, so many ways. It is a flyover of familiar US history through a new lens and with a new pivot:White House Chiefs of Staff. That was a wise choice, as is proven again and again. It gives us a new template or measuring stick to compare to our own times and leadership. We get the big sweep of events and re-experience those pivotal headline moments, as culled from many witnesses and memoirs. Yet, this is all done moment by moment, with a richly "you are there" feeling. Also, this is an excellent set of case studies in top-level organizational governance, good and bad. And it is a great way to spend an afternoon or a few, being enlightened and entertained.
    Though there are relatively "good guys" and bad, the author is great about giving scenes more dimensions through the words of several people present, sometimes clashing. (I always found memoirs troubling on account of the hundreds of pages of self-apologia, so I appreciate this author laboring among all those pages to stitch this together.) Here, I never felt I was having my nose rubbed too heavily in one point of view. The moments and the players are each marvelously carved out and given vibrant life. Many eyewitnesses get to roll out their best lines (often causing me to break into big smiles and laughter). I saw unknown sides of many people (such as the courtly James Baker III's repeated expression, "rat-****"). The narratives as delivered here are at once sobering, yet in the very same moment, eerily, tragicomically jarring and strange at turns. Wow, this is our country. Our way of staffing our top leadership plays out in very bizarre ways, and along weird trajectories from Day One of a term. (Some, I reflect, are more surreal than others.) We do need to refresh our leadership, and have a very open field from which to choose our leaders, but this has its costs. It is not ideal for staffing. Or maybe, in some incalculable way, it is good, somewhat like the constant disruption of economic competition and progress can be good. No facile answers are offered here; just great stories.
    History rhymes, right? Well, never in whole sequences, but pieces of it do. Many of these pieces bear comparison to current events. It was interesting to consider, for example, the outsider-stance and weaknesses of team formation (and overconfident perceptions) present in Jimmy Carter's administration, and the somewhat woeful results in the view of many Americans, though Carter in other ways could not be less like Donald Trump. The clarity of this book makes these thoughts easy for me to access. Likewise the crucial Nixon traits, and indeed the whole Watergate story, is worth revisiting now, dealt up in punchy vignettes here, especially through the lens of Nixon's COS H. R. Haldeman. Despite his great skills and setting a high bar in some ways, Haldeman failed to rein in the worst instincts of Watergate cowboys like Liddy. So too Reagan's seemingly offhand agreement to install COS Donald Regan seemed to lead to big fumblings on events running off the rails with a similar character, Oliver North, in Reagan's time. It is easy amid these tales to think of possibly similar characters in Trump's orbit. Management is SO important! And it is a many-faceted art, as we see here.
    This is a book I got caught up in, and burned right through. That's my best compliment.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark 04-19-17
    Mark 04-19-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Great insight"

    Really great insight into the COS role in shaping the White House, policy, and ultimate success of the Presidency.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph H. Rand Orlando, FL 04-29-17
    Joseph H. Rand Orlando, FL 04-29-17 Member Since 2011

    jrand

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    "Illuminating & Fascinating"

    An unvarnished look behind multiple U.S. Presidents and their Chiefs of Staff... an important role often in the shadows. The author provides enough depth to bring the COS from Nixon through Obama to life, both in terms of their successes and their failures. Well written and narrated.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Allen 04-27-17
    K. Allen 04-27-17

    KALA

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    "OKC bombing"

    In chapter 3, did he just say the OKC bombing memorial service was at the site in Kansas City?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen Great Cacapon, WV, United States 04-27-17
    Helen Great Cacapon, WV, United States 04-27-17 Member Since 2011
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    "Connects the dots"

    What a fascinating account of these remarkable individuals who clear the paths for our elected presidents to govern. It becomes clear that the COS has a make-or-break role in each administration...always walking the fine line between too much access and not enough. These are individuals who understand that to serve means parking their egos at the door, (At least most of them understood.) And I am always impressed how those serving in these capacities are generous with their support to the next administration....even when there has been a hard fought and bitter transfer. We are fortunate to live in a nation with such a tradition.

    Bramhall's reading was flawless. This is one of the better audiobooks I have enjoyed!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DB 04-16-17
    DB 04-16-17
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    "A must read for today's dangerous presidency!"

    Too bad '45 will never read it. For the rest of us, it's a quick picture of history through the eyes of chiefs of staff. Excellent.

    6 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt 07-08-17
    Matt 07-08-17 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent"

    Loved it. Great learning about these gentlemen and gave me a new perspective on recent history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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