A unique experience transferred to book form--the meeting of the minds of eight former Chiefs of Staff of the White House from six previous presidencies. The book consists of actual conversations conducted at a symposium earlier this year--moderated by John Chancellor--between Andrew Goodpaster, H. R. Haldeman, Jack Watson, Harry McPherson, Donald Rumsfeld, Alexander Haig, Ted Sorenson, and Richard Cheney, the chiefs of staff of all presidents from Eisenhower through Carter. The editors, Kernell (Brookings Institution) and Popkin (Political Science/ UCal/San Diego), are unobtrusive, evident only in their helpful footnotes to jar the memory, when necessary. Chancellor, not believing in saving the best for last, starts the discussions off with a rousing question: ""How do you talk the President out of a damn fool idea?"" The answers range from McPherson's ""Well, very gingerly--if your president is Lyndon Johnson,"" to Sorenson's statement that in dealing with JFK, ""the short way was to say, 'That sounds like something Dick Nixon would have suggested,'"" to Haig's ""What I usually did was to say, 'Right, boss. I wish I had thought of that,' and then go back and be sure he had time to think about it."" All agree, ultimately, on the importance of the chief of staff position to the modern presidency. Rumsfeld demonstrates by recounting how Ford embarrassed himself by agreeing in private conversations with his labor secretary on the laws governing the picketing of construction sites, only later to realize that he could not follow through. An intriguing look behind the curtains of government.