The Gatekeepers Book Summary By Chris Whipple

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The Gatekeepers (2017) by Chris Whipple is an insightful book that challenges the standard view of US government operations.

Rather than focus on the President, who appears in media, this book examines the job of Chief of Staff - a powerful yet often overlooked figure who gatekeeps what or who reaches the President.

This must-read book brings to life many stories from past and present Chiefs of Staff for readers to gain insight into their responsibilities and legacy.

Through anecdotes and interviews, readers come to understand why some Chiefs have been successful and others less so.

With expert detail, The Gatekeepers is sure to provide an interesting perspective on how decisions are made in the White House by these "gatekeepers".

The Gatekeepers Book

Book Name: The Gatekeepers (How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency)

Author(s): Chris Whipple

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Chris Whipple is a renowned author, documentarian and journalist who loves exploring the unknown.

He has received some of the most prestigious awards for his work, such as the Peabody- and Emmy-award.

His recent project was Showtime’s The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs -- a piece of work that reflects Chris' unyielding curiosity.

He has now released his latest book, The Gatekeepers, which delves into the hidden workings of America's political powers and how leaders navigate their boundaries, with exclusive interviews with White House chiefs of staff to President Obama, Bush and Clinton.

The Role Of The White House Chief Of Staff: Gatekeeper To The President’s Power

President's Power

The Gatekeepers book offers insight into the inner workings of the White House, showing us what it really takes to get things done.

We learn about the vital role of the White House chief of staff and how their decisions can have far-reaching consequences.

We can learn about how structures were put in place by Eisenhower to ensure everything was kept organized, allowing for no surprises when something reached him.

We see how this role has evolved from one of relative informality to now being seen as one of the most important positions in the White House.

This book gives us a look at the power dynamics and influence that are present within the walls of the White House and how strategic decisions made by its key members over time have impacted both US politics and geopolitics alike – such as how President Ford’s gaffe cost him an election or how a particular chief of staff helped avoid an even more catastrophic financial crisis in 2008.

H.R. Haldeman’S Impact On The Modern Presidency: Establishing A System Of Formalized Procedures And Restrain For A Paranoia-Driven Leader

The modern structure and role of a chief of staff takes its roots from Richard Nixon’s presidency.

In the early days, Lyndon B.

Johnson – better known as LBJ – was opposed to the concept of having a single chief adviser control all aspects of the presidency, instead opting to personally immerse himself in every organization aspect.

While grand in scale, this approach proved to be too time consuming and inefficient for LBJ, leading Nixon to recognize its limitations and turn towards H.


Haldeman as his chief of staff.

Haldeman set the standard when it comes to organizing White House procedures; he stopped those in search of meeting the president directly from doing so by establishing a single command procedure that went through him first.

This allowed Nixon to stay focus on his main policy endeavors while also allowing Haldeman to provide guidance and keep him straight; though not always successful, as evidence within Oval office tapes suggested Nixon wanted to illegally break into Brookings Institute during the Watergate scandal.

Even though this resulted in his eventual downfall, it also solidified the current state of the chief-of-staff role as we know it today – ensuring power is monopolized by one individual capable of keeping an eye on presidential conduct without becoming overburdened with laborious tasks himself.

Donald Rumsfeld Tried To Turn Nixon’S Resignation Into Something Positive For The Ford Administration

After President Nixon resigned, Vice President Gerald Ford took office.

He knew he needed someone with a strong discipline and a knack for organization to prevent similar scandals in the future.

Donald Rumsfeld stepped up to the plate and became Ford’s new chief of staff.

Rumsfeld had some conditions before accepting the role: he wanted absolute control over managing the president’s schedule, to be his top adviser in all decision making, and he wanted to take a place in the cabinet as soon as one became available.

Ford agreed, seeing how Rumsfeld had an impressive history of running a tight ship from his days in Congress.

In order to get things back on track, Rumsfeld decided to delegate some responsibilities to his young deputy Dick Cheney.

The two men kept close tabs on what was being done by applying Haldeman’s strategy – keeping schedules strict, agendas meticulous and only giving the president information related solely to the situation at hand.

Unfortunately, they were unable to prevent some embarrassing moments by Ford – notably during a 1976 presidential debate against Jimmy Carter where Ford claimed there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe – leading it so that Carter won by 9,000 votes in Ohio and Hawaii single-handedly taking office as President.

Jack Watson: The Unsung Hero Of Carter’s White House

Jack Watson

Jimmy Carter’s presidency was seriously affected by him acting as his own Chief of Staff.

Initially, he had chosen Jack Watson, a Harvard Law graduate and Washington insider, and Hamilton Jordan, a political strategist who’d been Carter’s primary advisor when he was Governor of Georgia, to lead his successful presidential campaign team.

After taking office in 1977, Jordan was given an office in the White House but not the title of Chief of Staff until 1979.

This decision meant that Carter took on many responsibilities himself instead of delegating them to a single individual or team.

Unfortunately for him, it became increasingly clear that this plan wasn’t working as events began piling up one after another – with the Iranian Revolution of 1979 leading to higher oil prices and 66 hostages taken at the American embassy in Tehran being held captive for 444 days.

As matters went from bad to worse, the personal life of Hamilton Jordan also unravelled while his marriage fell apart under public scrutiny.

All these issues clearly prevented him from fulfilling his professional duties effectively.

Ultimately, Jimmy Carter’s approval rating plummeted down to 34 percent before finally appointing Watson as Chief of Staff just four months prior to the 1980 election – which he still lost heavily to Ronald Reagan despite Watson’s competent handling of the post during such challenging times.

How James Baker Saved President Reagan’S Legacy With His Political Pragmatism

President Ronald Reagan went through four different chiefs of staff during his two-term presidency.

His first chief of staff was James Baker, a pragmatist who knew Capitol Hill inside out, and acted as Reagan’s co-president.

He was responsible for pushing through the policies later known as Reaganomics.

However, when the $750 billion tax cut began to trigger an economic recession, Baker found himself having to convince a stubborn Reagan to raise taxes in order to fix it.

The second chief of staff was Don Regan, whom Baker swapped jobs with in 1984.

While initially successful in passing legislation, Regan’s suggestion that the government secretly sell weapons to Iran caused great scandal and resulted in his resignation.

He was followed by Howard Baker, former senate majority leader who convincingly got Reagan to apologize for what had become known as the Iran Contra Scandal.

Before leaving due to his wife’s cancer treatment he was replaced by Kenneth Duberstein, who stayed until the end of the administration and helped forge a foreign policy legacy – famously convincing the president give “tear down this wall” speech in West Berlin.

One Chief Of Staff Too Many: How George H. W. Bush’S Missteps Cost Him A Second Term

The missteps of George H.


Bush’s Chief-of-Staff derailed his presidential campaign, leading to him becoming a one-term president.

Initially, Bush found success with the appointment of John Sununu as his Chief-of-Staff who seemed confident and connected on Capitol Hill.

But this confidence skewed closer to arrogance and alienated staff members, causing issues for the reelection effort when the media revealed that Sununu had been using military aircraft for personal trips costing taxpayers $615,000.

To replace Sununu, Bush appointed Samuel Skinner as chief of staff whose reserved demeanor meant he was incapable of rallying the staff.

In desperation, Bush turned to James Baker who greatly lacked time before election day making it impossible for him to work any sort of miracle in what little time he had.

This late minute change combined with the tanking economy and Clinton’s charisma ultimately caused the downfall of George H.

W Bush’s attempt at reelection due in part to his chief-of-staff woes

Leon Panetta Saved Clinton’s Presidency By Restoring Order To The Oval Office

Leon Panetta

Bill Clinton’s two terms as president were certainly turbulent, with the White House seeing four different chiefs of staff throughout his eight years in office.

First, Mack McLarty was appointed chief of staff.

Despite being Clinton’s childhood friend and confidante, McLarty could not refuse his president.

This resulted in absolute chaos in the Oval Office with staffers sprawling on couches and donut boxes littering the floor.

Enter Leon Panetta who had some non-negotiable conditions before he took helm–absolute authority in reorganizing the White House, and to only do so for two years.

Almost immediately, he turned order into chaos and reinvented the president as a more charismatic leader despite the Democrats receiving a huge blow in Congress during the 1994 midterms.

In 1998 Erskine Bowles took over as chief of staff but bowed out after Clinton lied to both him personally and to all of America regarding his affair with an intern.

His deputy, John Podesta replaced him and served for years beyond that until Obama was elected president.

With Podesta at the head, Clinton was able to use executive powers for good–creating new national parks and pardoning 177 people from legal consequences.

From Cheney To Card: How The White House’S Chief Of Staff Shaped And Tried To Limit Bush’S War On Terror Agenda

During President George W.

Bush’s tenure, Vice President Cheney essentially acted as the White House chief of staff.

Though Bush had chosen former adviser Andy Card to fill the role, it was actually Cheney who set the president’s agenda, especially on national security matters.

For instance, it was Card who informed Bush of the 9/11 attacks in his ear, but Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed for a War on Terror.

It was also these men who encouraged Bush to launch the Iraq War in 2003 despite shaky evidence for weapons of mass destruction–even disregarding advice from former President Reagan’s chief of staff James Baker.

Bush soon tired of Cheney and Rumsfeld’s influence and replaced Card with Joshua Bolten as the new chief of staff in 2006.

Bolten helped bring more order to the divided White House and even convinced Bush–over Cheney’s wishes–to oust Rumsfeld due to mistakes made during the Iraq War.

Finally, he calmly guidedBush through the 2008 financial crisis, convincing him to purchase $700 billion in assets from major financial institutions to prevent disaster.

Obama’s Chief Of Staff: From Change Through Crisis To Legacy Preservation

Legacy Preservation

When Barack Obama was elected president on a platform of change, he and his advisers understood that they would need to learn from the past in order to create an impact.

Thus, they chose an insider Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff and set out to pass legislation in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

However, this ambition was met with mixed results.

While Emanuel successfully sought bipartisan support for these reforms, heavy losses in the 2010 midterms and pushing Obama towards a more centrist position meant that momentum dwindled.

When Emanuel resigned in order to pursue his dream job of becoming mayor of Chicago, William Daley stepped into his shoes as chief of staff – but it didn’t go quite as planned.

Once again, efforts were made towards establishing strong ties with the business world, resulting in a false step due to Daley’s CEO management style not being compatiable with senior advisors more toward liberalism.

The search for an effective chief of staff ended when Denis McDonough took office during Obama’s second term – alongside Podesta from Clinton’s team – enabling Obama to restore good relations with Cuba, negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran and sign the Paris climate accord despite Congress being Republican-controlled.

In this way, Barack Obama was determined to learn from history – but met with mixed success in achieving this goal.

Wrap Up

The Gatekeepers: A Book Summary is a great summary of the mysterious and often overlooked job of White House Chief of Staff.

This position helps to define each White House administration since Nixon, as they have the responsibility to organize the president’s agenda and daily schedule, providing excellent access-constrained services.

It’s a job that holds immense power, but is often overlooked.

This book provides advice on how you can manage the information flow in your own life, just like the chief of staff does for the president.

To do this effectively, why not spend half an hour setting up some proper filters for emails or other subscriptions? That way you won’t feel overwhelmed with all the incoming information.

Overall, The Gatekeepers is a great read that provides insight into one of the most important jobs in politics today.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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