To Serve the President

To Serve the President: Continuity and Innovation in the White House Staff

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 450
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  • Book Info
    To Serve the President
    Book Description:

    Nobody knows more about the duties, the difficulties, and the strategies of staffing and working in the White House than Brad Patterson. InTo Serve the President, Patterson combines insider access, decades of Washington experience, and an inimitable style to open a window onto closely guarded Oval Office turf. The fascinating and entertaining result is the most complete look ever at the White House and the people that make it work.

    Patterson describes what he considers to be the whole White House staff, a larger and more inclusive picture than the one painted by most analysts. In addition to nearly one hundred policy offices, he draws the curtain back from less visible components such as the Executive Residence staff,Air Force OneandMarine One, the First Lady's staff, Camp David, and many others -135 separate offices in all, pulling together under often stressful and intense conditions.

    This authoritative and readable account lays out the organizational structure of the full White House and fills it out the outline with details both large and small. Who are these people? What exactly do they do? And what role do they play in running the nation? Another exciting feature ofTo Serve the Presidentis Patterson's revelation of the total size and total cost of the contemporary White House -information that simply is not available anywhere else.

    This is not a kiss-and-tell tale or an incendiary exposé. Brad Patterson is an accomplished public administrator with an intimate knowledge of how the White House really works, and he brings to this book a refreshingly positive view of government and public service not currently in vogue. The U.S. government is not a monolith, or a machine, or a shadowy cabal; above all, it ispeople, human beings doing the best they can, under challenging conditions, to produce a better life for their fellow citizens. While there are bad apples in every bunch, the vast majority of these people ply their trades honestly and earnestly, often in complete anonymity and for modest compensation. This book illuminates their roles, celebrates their service, and paints an eye-opening picture of how things really work on Pennsylvania Avenue.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0179-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Why a factual book about the White House staff?

    Because the 135 offices of the contemporary White House staff constitute the administrative center of the executive branch of our American government. There are books—many books—about the presidency, about presidential power, and about individual presidents, but it is the men and women on the president’s personal staff who first channel that power, shape it, focus it, and, on the president’s instructions, help him wield it. These 135 offices are the primary units of support for the president as he exercises executive leadership.

    To most Americans the White House staff...


    • 1 The Contemporary White House Staff
      (pp. 13-24)

      A president-elect can be expected to ask:

      How did the White House staff get to be what it is?

      How much of it is fixed in statute and how much of it can a new president reshape?

      What are its organizational elements? How much continuity has there been?

      What innovations have been made by recent presidents?

      How many men and women typically work there?

      How much does it cost to operate the whole White House?

      In fact, President George W. Bush did ask:

      How do you intend to get advice from people you surround yourself—who are you going to...

    • 2 The Cost of the Whole White House
      (pp. 25-34)

      Introductory note: This chapter was originally entitled “The Budget of the Whole White House.” Can’t do that. There is no such thing. It doesn’t exist. There is no sheet or document or brochure, produced by any executive or legislative author, that lays out all of the expenses of the complete White House. That will only be found here—and readers should prepare themselves for some surprises.

      What are the annual dollar costs, for a typical year, of operating the modern presidency—of running the White House, the whole White House? One of the reasons that question has never been answered...


    • 3 Javelin Catcher: The Chief of Staff
      (pp. 37-48)

      In 1986 presidential scholar Richard Neustadt admitted he was wrong.

      I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to make a confession to [former Carter chief of staff] Jack Watson. For years I have tried to hold open the possibility that presidents could have White House staffs small enough so they never had to designate anybody as the administrative coordinator of the staff itself. In that respect, I think I gave Jack worse advice than Dick Cheney did. He and Rumsfeld had experienced the effort to reduce the White House staff . . . to a size . . . comparable, say,...

    • 4 The Coordination Center: The Staff Secretary
      (pp. 49-55)

      The office of staff secretary, first proposed by the Hoover Commission in 1949, was instituted by President Eisenhower in 1953 and has been a quintessential part of the White House coordinating system since 1969. The staff secretary’s office has now become the switching center for all documents in the White House intended for presidential attention. Almost without exception every paper from any one of the elements of the White House staff, or from a cabinet officer, that is destined for either the attention or the action of the president must come into the staff secretary’s suite as a candidate for...

    • 5 The National Security Adviser
      (pp. 56-65)

      It is only George Tenet’s high rank in government that distinguishes the former CIA director’s bookAt the Center of the Stormfrom the recent blizzard of similar books, all of which have castigated the functioning of the National Security Council (NSC) during President Bush’s first term.¹ In his own interviews with senior federal officials who were closely and prominently involved in national security policy decisionmaking during Bush’s first term, the author has found almost unanimous concurrence with Tenet’s observation that the National Security Council was dysfunctional and should have been managed differently and more effectively. One exception to that...

    • 6 The “Just-Us” Department: The Counsel to the President
      (pp. 66-81)

      For nearly seven decades—since 1941—each president has established in the White House what Eisenhower counsel Gerald Morgan called the “Just-Us” Department: a personal office on his immediate staff that could give him legal advice directly—independently from the institutional resources of his Department of Justice. Over at the Justice Department, attorneys general and their associates have been skeptical. “The attorney general viewshimselfas the president’s lawyer,” was the warning that Truman’s attorney general reportedly passed on to Edward McCabe, Eisenhower’s newly appointed special White House counsel.¹ “They are not equipped to do painstaking research over at the...

    • 7 The Office of Legislative Affairs
      (pp. 82-92)

      The late and respected Bryce Harlow, an assistant to Eisenhower, called the White House Office of Legislative Affairs “an ambulatory bridge across a constitutional gulf.” It has been thus since 1953.

      While that gulf—between the executive and the legislature, between the president and Congress—is bridgeable, it is nonetheless wide and deep. No major new program a president-elect may promise, such as health care or immigration reform, can come into being without Congress enacting authorizing statutes. No dollars may be spent by the president or anyone in the executive branch without a legislative appropriation. No cabinet or near-cabinet-level officer...

    • 8 Control All the Way Down: The Presidential Personnel Office
      (pp. 93-106)

      Second to none in importance and priority at the White House is the selection of the men and women whom the president wishes to employ in policymaking positions in the administration. These jobs, clearly differentiated from the positions in the career civil services, are noncareer positions, meaning they are filled by taking political factors into account, as well as considerations of merit, and that the holders serve at the pleasure of the president. How many are there?

      There are four categories of noncareer positions—and the White House controls all selections to all of them.

      1. Full-time positions, almost all...


    • 9 Policymaking at the White House: Domestic and Economic Affairs
      (pp. 109-119)

      Two cardinal rules govern domestic and economic policymaking in George W. Bush’s administration:

      Rule One: Every important policy issue will have a home—in the White House.

      Rule Two: Even though the issue will probably be of crosscutting concern, it will still have, within the White House,only one home.One—and only one—assistant to the president will “own” it.

      As Joel Kaplan, Bush’s deputy chief of staff for policy, put it: “That was important for the president, so he knew to whom to turn to get answers and hold accountable, and also so that the rest of the...

    • 10 The Homeland Security Council
      (pp. 120-130)

      The catastrophe of 9/11 blew open a fourteen-month epoch of blindingly speedy change in the staid and tradition-bound world of White House and cabinet institutions. Only twenty-seven days after the 9/11 disaster, President Bush signed Executive Order 13228 creating a dramatically new element on the White House staff—the assistant to the president for homeland security—and appointed former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge to that position. Ridge’s mission: “to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks.” The executive order went on for several pages, repeatedly instructing the...

    • 11 Helping Religion to Do Good: The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
      (pp. 131-141)

      As governor of Texas, George W. Bush believed that religious organizations could and should be close partners of government in providing social services to needy Americans. He associated himself with Marvin Olasky, known as the “godfather of compassionate conservatism,” whose writings helped motivate evangelical groups to persuade private and religious charities to become more active in community service. Some of these groups were seen as having more expertise and more credibility than government agencies in meeting the needs of the underprivileged. But the First Amendment’s principle of separation of church and state gave pause to religious organizations that might want...

    • 12 Volunteerism and Community Service: The USA Freedom Corps Office
      (pp. 142-149)

      Volunteering is a practice as old as America. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that Americans’ ethic of service “prompts them to assist one another and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state.”

      In addition to the decades of private volunteer service given across the nation, government-financed volunteering began in the 1960s with the creation of the Peace Corps under President Kennedy and VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), Foster Grandparents, and other programs started under President Johnson. In 1973 the domestically oriented programs were consolidated under ACTION, which in turn...

    • 13 The Cabinet Liaison Office
      (pp. 150-156)

      Lloyd Cutler, who had been counsel to Jimmy Carter, was counsel to President Clinton when he made this comment on the changing relationship between the president and the cabinet; the observation has also been true for the presidency of George W. Bush. In the Bush administration, the cabinet has not been a policy-making body; its meetings have primarily been for information exchange. Discussion and debate about issues of presidential policy have been centered in the four White House councils (National Security, Domestic Policy, National Economic, and Homeland Security) and more specifically in the hands of the four assistants to the...


    • 14 “Strategery”: The White House Political Affairs Office
      (pp. 159-169)

      When Ronald Reagan’s political affairs director, Lyn Nofziger, was asked what in the White House he considered to be political, he reportedly replied: “Everything.” That one-word answer is an accurate summation of the White House environment. Every presidential issue is political, in the broad sense that the president’s decisions test the limits of consensus in the country. Politics, in the narrower sense of partisanship, colors each presidential action as well: it may excite—or threaten—support for the president’s party. Policy and politics are inseparable. The president is head of his party and a domestic political leader wherever he goes,...

    • 15 Partnership in Our Federal System: The Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
      (pp. 170-176)

      The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs had its beginnings under Dwight Eisenhower. He had appointed a Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, and in transmitting its 1955 report to Congress, Ike said:

      The interests and activities of the different levels of government now impinge on each other at innumerable points, even where they may appear to be quite separable. The National Government’s defense policies and programs, for example, have important repercussions on virtually every phase of State and local activity. Conversely, the effectiveness of our national defense policies depends on a myriad of State and local activities affecting the health, safety...

    • 16 Working with Coalitions to Push the President’s Agenda: The Office of Public Liaison
      (pp. 177-186)

      Out there in the public is a vast diversity of nonprofit advocacy groups that contend to represent “the general welfare.” They include racial and ethnic coalitions, religious organizations of every denominational stripe, issue-advocacy collectives like the Sierra Club and the American Cetacean Society (whales), and professional and trade associations such as the National Federation of Independent Business, the American Medical Association, and the American Society of Public Administration.

      Corporations knock on White House doors, too, but here a line is drawn: while the views of profit-making organizations are often invited and welcomed on issues of general public policy, White House...


    • 17 “Lipstick on a Pig”? The Office of Communications
      (pp. 189-198)

      The White House press secretary today, and at least since 1929, has had this challenge: day to day, some fifty journalists (out of the eight hundred accredited to the White House) have their desks in her immediate neighborhood and they demand that she tell them: What is the president’s view about the stories in this morning’s newspapers or TV broadcasts?

      The challenge to the director of the Communications Office, which first opened its doors as recently as the 1970s, is different: What should be—what is going to be—the president’s policy message next week and how can we arrange...

    • 18 The Cyber White House: Bush Innovations in Electronic Communications
      (pp. 199-206)

      The Office of Communications itself has sixty staff members in some sixteen subdivisions.¹ In one of these sixteen, the Office of Media Affairs, is the White House Internet and e-communications director. The communications techniques employed using the Website “” are quite recent—innovations unique to the administration of George W. Bush. President Bush launched the new website on August 31, 2001, saying:

      I’m very impressed. And I think the people who access this Web site will be impressed as well. . . . I appreciate so very much the Web site being available in more than one language. There are...

    • 19 Caught in the Crossfire: The Press Secretary
      (pp. 207-219)

      Seven times seven: seven rows of seven seats each: forty-nine chairs for journalists in the new James S. Brady Briefing Room. How long has the White House had a press briefing room? There was none when Herbert Hoover appointed George Akerson in March of 1929 to a new White House position called press secretary. Nor was there one until 1970, when the West Terrace area of the White House was set up as a press briefing room.

      Beginning with the Hoover administration, thirteen presidents have had a total of twenty-seven press secretaries. The duties and characteristics of press secretaries, as...

    • 20 The Speechwriting Office
      (pp. 220-224)

      Chief presidential speechwriter William McGurn sums up what the speechwriting office does: it is responsible for drafting the texts of all the formal, nonextemporaneous public utterances of the president that are covered by the press.¹ There is a wide variety in the categories of presidential speeches.

      Leading the list is the State of the Union message, delivered every January. Ideas and proposals are garnered from the cabinet departments as early as the fall and are reviewed and debated in the White House policy offices during October and November, three or four months before the speech is delivered. “My speechwriters and...


    • 21 First Special Counselor: The Vice President
      (pp. 227-240)

      Presidents William Clinton and George W. Bush have given their respective vice presidents, Albert Gore and Richard Cheney, a stronger and more active role than any of their antecedents and have made the vice presidential office the second most influential post in the executive branch. The vice president, once a laughingstock nobody, can now be at the right hand of the president in every area of public policy—developing national security policy, forming proposals to settle domestic issues, lobbying Congress, recruiting top-level personnel—while vigorously carrying the president’s political message to the public. This is a striking transformation in American...

    • 22 Second Special Counselor: The President’s Spouse
      (pp. 241-259)

      Besides being a marriage partner, the president’s spouse is a senior counselor to the chief executive, perhaps the president’s closest and most trusted. The Constitution is silent concerning the president’s spouse; the spouse is neither an elected nor an appointed officer of the federal government. She (or he) has a foot in officialdom, however, as evidenced by the following statement from a U.S. court of appeals: “We see no reason why a President could not use his or her spouse to carry out a task that the President might delegate to one of his White House aides. It is reasonable,...

    • 23 Loyal Shadow: The Presidential Aide
      (pp. 260-262)

      Immediately outside the door to the president’s office sits an assistant who, because of the requirements of the job, really has to be young, energetic, unmarried, and above all possessed by what presidential adviser Louis Brownlow long ago described as a “passion for anonymity.” This is the presidential aide, the loyal shadow, glued to the president’s side between scheduled events. He or she in effect needs to be single because no young person holding that position has time for anything else.

      The aide has custody of the daily briefing book assembled by the staff secretary (chapter 4) and is the...


    • 24 Management and Administration
      (pp. 265-271)

      The White House Management Office had its beginnings in 1977 in the administration of President Jimmy Carter when an officer was named special assistant to the president for administration. It continued under President Reagan; George H. W. Bush named the position assistant to the president for management and administration. In those years the White House Military Office reported to the management and administration assistant. Under George W. Bush, a new assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for operations was created and the Military Office reported to him, as does the deputy assistant for management and administration. This...

    • 25 The Executive Clerk
      (pp. 272-278)

      Every office in the White House handles presidential papers, but one category of papers is so special that it is under the exclusive care of a staff that handles nothing else: these are the original copies of the documents that, signed by the president, represent his official, public actions. Included among these documents are public laws, vetoes, instruments of ratification of treaties, executive orders, signing statements, nominations, proclamations, commissions, pardons, certificates of awards and medals, reports and messages to Congress, and public directives to executive branch departments and agencies. For all such presidential papers, the executive clerk is the next-to-last...

    • 26 Records Management
      (pp. 279-284)

      Every White House creates records—important in the present, to be sure, but even more important for the future as the building blocks for presidential history. Even amid the first day’s celebrations, a wise president will think of the last day’s legacy; the empty file cabinets of the inaugural afternoon will, in four or eight years, become the treasure vaults that contain the history of his presidency. In fact, the law requires preservation of the president’s records.

      In brief, the Presidential Records Act of 1978¹

      —Requires the president to ensure that his “activities, deliberations, decisions and policies . ....

    • 27 The Correspondence Office
      (pp. 285-293)

      Write the president!

      And people do. In the first six and a half years of the George W. Bush administration, the White House received over 11 million letters (a yearly average of 1,692,308). Even more people are sending e-mails, which may arrive at a rate of 850,000a month.The ratio of e-mails to letters is changing dramatically. In the same period of time—six and a half years—the Clinton White House received 20,521,715 pieces of mail (yearly average 3,157,187), but only 3,876,105 e-mails. (For comparison, using yearly averages: the Eisenhower White House annually received 700,000 pieces of mail;...

    • 28 Paving the Way: The Advance Office
      (pp. 294-308)

      Presidents never stay home. From Sarasota’s Emma E. Booker Elementary School to Baghdad, Iraq, from Katrina to the Kremlin, the president of the United States is visitor in chief, representing now his government, now his party, now all the people of the nation. As chief of state he greets the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast; as chief partisan he addresses a Senate candidate’s final rally; as chief executive he stands in New Orleans’ Jackson Square and promises help; as chief diplomat he joins the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney, Australia; as commander-in-chief he secretly flies to Iraq to meet...

    • 29 Achievements versus Activities: The Office of Appointments and Scheduling
      (pp. 309-313)

      The deputy assistant to the president for appointments and scheduling, backed up by the chief of staff, is much more then a mere keeper of the calendar. By allocating the president’s time, she makes possible—or impossible—the accomplishments by which he is judged: she helps shape his legacy for history.

      There is an inevitable progression for a president: from the goals he holds to the themes he emphasizes to the events in which he participates. If there is no long-range plan against which to evaluate the cascade of requests, his day will surely fill up, but instead of achievements...

    • 30 The White House Military Office
      (pp. 314-326)

      Few in the public—and few even in the White House—realize the extent to which the president is given hour-to-hour service by men and women of the U.S. military. Since the president is the commander in chief, military support for the presidential office is everywhere in the White House establishment; indeed, the military group is the largest part of thewholeWhite House staff family. It is also quiet, professional, and—except on a few occasions—almost out of sight.

      The White House Military Office reports to the deputy chief of staff for operations. The director of the Military...

    • 31 The United States Secret Service
      (pp. 327-337)

      The Secret Service is considered to be one of the premier law enforcement agencies in America, and it has the premier task: protecting the nation’s executive branch leadership. The protective units of the Secret Service are extremely close, physically and organizationally, to the president and all of the staff. They are in every corner of the White House; their function is of such importance that no meeting or plan about the president’s or vice president’s activities takes place without the Secret Service being part of the planning team—be it a visit to the Pentagon or a flight to Abu...

    • 32 The President’s Commission on White House Fellowships
      (pp. 338-340)

      In 1957 John Gardner, then president of the Carnegie Corporation, had an idea: “If we could take some of the best of our young people and put them in direct contact with the daily functions of government. . . .” He put the suggestion in a memorandum at the time, but nothing happened until 1964 when Lyndon Johnson (who, under Franklin Roosevelt, had been the head of the New Deal’s Texas National Youth Administration), was bewailing “the gulf between youth and government.” Gardner sent his memorandum to Johnson, who seized upon it and issued Executive Order 11183 of October 3,...


    • 33 The Executive Residence
      (pp. 343-353)

      This book has been describing the White House as aninstitution,the locus of the presidency at the top of the executive branch. As every tourist knows, of course, the White House is also a building, ahomewhere the president lives. To clarify the conceptual difference between institution and home, the building is properly identified as the Executive Residence. As a famous building, it has problems: it may be famous for too much. Many competing uses strain its facilities and pressure its staff.

      The Residence is a home for president and spouse, children, grandparents, grandchildren, guests and pets (once...

    • 34 The President’s Park and the White House Visitor Center
      (pp. 354-360)

      The White House—the Executive Residence and its accompanying staff offices—are of course the eighteen-acre headquarters of the presidency; is not their reason for being, therefore, to help ensure effective top-level administration by the chief executive? Yes,butthe White House is much more than that. It happens to be the principal structure on the eighty-two-acre President’s Park, which also includes Lafayette Park, the Ellipse, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and grounds, the Treasury Building and grounds, Sherman Park, the First Division Monument Park, and a slice of the Commerce Department building. And as a national park, its reason...

    • 35 The White House Historical Association: A Private, Independent Organization
      (pp. 361-364)

      Public Law 87-286, enacted in 1961, stipulated that “the principal public rooms on the first floor” of the White House are of “museum character” and that the National Park Service was in effect to be in charge of “all plate, furniture and public property” in the Residence. In the spirit of that statute, the National Park Service in 1961 proposed to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy the creation of an organization that would be dedicated to “enhancing the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House” by American citizens and visitors. Mrs. Kennedy enthusiastically supported such an initiative, and the White...


    • 36 Major Long-Term Innovations by the Bush Administration
      (pp. 367-380)

      During the George W. Bush administration, the White House has been outfitted with an impressive series of changes: organizational additions and physical upgrades.

      The three principal organizational innovations have been described in earlier chapters of this book: the Homeland Security Council, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and the USA Freedom Corps Office (chapters 10, 11, and 12). The White House has also dramatically increased its use of the Internet (chapter 18). In the author’s judgment these four add-ons will most probably be long lasting; the actual decisions in each case, of course, will be up to the new...

    • 37 The Essence of White House Service
      (pp. 381-392)

      This volume, so far, has given the reader an encyclopedic look at the contemporary White House Staff. It is now time to peer ahead. What can be said about the White House staff of the near future?

      The first two epigraphs at the opening of the chapter give rise to the question: Are the White House staff and the cabinet necessarily antagonistic bodies? Is the staff brimming with “impulsive, inexperienced aides,” “arrogant” and “grandiose” minions who ply their president’s trade, leaving the cabinet out of the loop—or wondering, as former secretary of labor Robert Reich wrote, whether “thereis...

  14. Appendix: Component Offices of the Contemporary White House Staff
    (pp. 393-398)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 399-424)
  16. Index
    (pp. 425-450)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 451-451)