This is a must-read for anyone who’s interested in how the White House works. It’s a well-researched, non-partisan history of every Chief of Staff since Sherman Adams, who first held the position under Eisenhower. The first “modern” Chief was H.R. Haldeman, who under Nixon developed the staff system that’s proved indispensable to every administration since.
The White House Chief of Staff is the second-most powerful man in Washington: it’s a little-understood but crucial job that determines the effectiveness of any administration. He’s first and foremost the “Gatekeeper”: the single person through which everyone – internal and external – communicates with the President. The most important resource of any administration is the President’s time, and a good CoS guards it zealously, while still providing face-time with numerous staff and other persons on important issues, being an “honest broker” who faithfully transmits ideas and positions to the President for his consideration without filtering them through any personal agenda of his own. The Chief of Staff must also impose discipline and focus on the staff, and ride-herd on any and all issues big and small, short- and long-term. Most ominously, he is the President’s “son-of-a-bitch”, telling him what he needs – not wants – to hear, and taking the heat for unpopular decisions, along with dropping the hammer on anyone and anything that becomes a liability to the execution of the President’s agenda.
Aside from the Presidency itself, it’s the worst job in Washington, and the most important.