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Nerve Center

Lessons in Governing from the White House Chiefs of Staff

Edited by Terry Sullivan; Foreword by James A. Baker III

Publication Year: 2004

In what James A. Baker III has called the “worst job in Washington,” the chief of staff orchestrates the president’s conduct of the U.S. government. He holds the unique responsibility to magnify the time, reach, and voice of the president of the United States. “You need a filter, a person that you have total confidence in who works so closely with you that in effect he is almost an alter ego,” Gerald Ford has said. In this volume, resulting from the Washington Forum on the Role of the White House Chief of Staff held in 2000 in Washington, D.C., twelve of the fifteen men who have held the office of chief of staff discuss among themselves and with a select group of participants the challenges, achievements, and failures of their time in that role. Their purpose is to find lessons in governing that will help future chiefs of staff prepare to assume the office and organize the staffs they will lead. These pages of frank and uncensored discussion present in straightforward question-and-answer format the voices of the chiefs of staff themselves concerning the transition from campaign to governance, with its reorganization and refocusing of the president’s team, the reelection drive four years later, and eventually, the closing out of an administration. The group also addresses the place of the White House chief of staff within the larger governing community of the Executive Branch, Congress, interest groups, and the press. The American White House sits at the nerve center of world history, and at the core of this nerve center, a massive bureaucratic operation exists to process the flow of information and policy. The White House chief of staff manages that operation. So important has that office become, that to ignore its requirements risks presidential fate itself and indeed, the fate of the republic.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

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Governing from the White House

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pp. xiii-xvii

We created the Baker Institute to organize eVorts just like the Forum on the Role of the White House Chief of Staff, bringing scholars and journalists into a dialogue with those who have carried the burdens of office, in this case governing from the White House. It was an extraordinary gathering. I doubt that there have ever been this many former chiefs of staff in the same place at the...

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Two Operational Dilemmas

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pp. 3-13

The American White House sits at the nerve center of world history. Its policies reach into every part of the American experience. Its bustling daily routines become the subject of serious conversations the world over. At the core of this nerve center, a bureaucratic operation extends the reach and magnifes the voice of the American president. The White House chief of staff manages...

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Chapter 1. Members of the Forum

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pp. 15-21

The Forum represented the largest gathering of former White House chiefs of staff since the inception of the offce in the post–World War II era. They came together for one extraordinary day to accomplish two goals: First, they wanted to publicly share their thoughts on governing from the White House and to demonstrate that regardless of partisan differences, the experience presented a...

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Chapter 2. Starting the White House

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pp. 22-46

In the spring of 1999, Governor George W. Bush decided two things. First, he decided to run for president. Second, he decided to begin planning for what to do after he had won. For the latter job, he called on his longtime friend and associate Clay Johnson III. The governor charged Mr. Johnson with learning all that he could about how to create a successful transition. When the opportunity...

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Chapter 3. Refocusing the White House

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pp. 47-76

The demands placed on the president’s staff, the character of the nerve center itself, make staff turnover inevitable. Often that change begins with the chief of staff. When a chief of staff leaves, the president finds someone new to take on the core functions of the White House, its organizational routines, its divided and probably sputtering operation, a likely crisis, and its inevitable tensions. ...

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Chapter 4. Campaigning, Routine,and Closing Out

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pp. 77-107

At its simplest, every successful presidency begins with winning another term. Yet, the limits of tenure inevitably close in on an administration. These two phases—governing while campaigning and closing out an administration— are the challenges that “third generation” chiefs of staff often take on. The third discussion between former chiefs of staff covers this relatively unique set of...

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Chapter 5. In the Governing Community

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pp. 108-124

As Secretary Baker notes in his foreword, many of the former chiefs of staff who attended the Forum came to the White House with previous experience in Washington. Some of those participating in this final discussion have played a number of roles inside each of the Constitution’s governing institutions. Some, like Secretary Cheney and Congressman Panetta, have held positions...

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Assessing Transition 2001

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pp. 125-166

Only one person has ever repeated as White House chief of staff. Given this simple historical fact and the propensity of a new president’s team to arrive in town bearing the triple curses of arrogance, adrenalin, and naiveté, managing to govern can easily become a matter of on-the-job training. Assuring the smooth transfer of authority in spite of these probabilities prompted the former...

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Sponsors’ Acknowledgments

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pp. 167-169

The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University is pleased to have presented this forum on the role of the White House chief of staff. It was the very Wrst program that the Baker Institute hosted in Washington, D.C. Since then, the Institute has hosted similar forums on the national security advisor and the secretary of the treasury. In each of these forums, as with the...

Index

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pp. 171-176


E-ISBN-13: 9781603446440
E-ISBN-10: 1603446443
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585443499
Print-ISBN-10: 1585443492

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: Index.
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Presidents -- United States -- Staff.
  • United States. White House Office -- Officials and employees.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1989-.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.
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