A well-researched, well-written review of a unique government position—informative for the general public and an insightful...

THE GATEKEEPERS

HOW THE WHITE HOUSE CHIEFS OF STAFF DEFINE EVERY PRESIDENCY

Peabody and Emmy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Whipple chronicles the roles as well as the successes and failures of White House chiefs of staff from the Richard Nixon to Barack Obama administrations.

The modern White House chief of staff, the gatekeeper to the president and manager of White House operations, emerged during the Nixon administration. While presidents Kennedy and Johnson preferred a more decentralized system with multiple advisers, Nixon’s chief, H.R. Haldeman, created a strong, focused organization that has endured for nearly a half-century. The author discusses subsequent administrations and their chiefs in chronological order. James A. Baker III, Ronald Reagan’s first chief of staff, is seen as the gold standard. Also successful were Gerald Ford’s two chiefs, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Among those whose performance fell short were Hamilton Jordan for Jimmy Carter, Donald Regan for Reagan, and Mack McLarty for Bill Clinton. Throughout the book, Whipple identifies several variables that affect performance: presidential access and support; management style; and whether the chief serves as an honest broker, allowing all arguments on issues to be presented, or as a strict advocate. Also pivotal is whether he—all the chiefs have been men—views himself as a principal, essentially a peer of the president, or as a staff member; invariably, the former is a recipe for failure. An unusual element was added when George W. Bush’s vice president, Cheney, experienced from White House politics during the Ford administration, was able to thwart the efforts of Bush’s chief, Andrew Card. Whipple also reviews the high and low points of the past eight administrations, and he greatly enhances the narrative with his many interviews, some of which were used for a documentary he did on the subject in 2013.

A well-researched, well-written review of a unique government position—informative for the general public and an insightful blueprint for the new administration.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3824-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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