tv Washington Journal Chris Whipple CSPAN November 21, 2018 7:15pm-7:46pm EST
billington, very much for joining us. that will be live monday starting at noon eastern on c-span. joining us from new york, chris whipple, author of the book, gatekeeper. thank you for being here. i want to begin with the president saying he is changes,ng white house staff shakeups. the brookings institution chart amows the president's a te turnover from year-to-year. the blue bar represents the president's first year. the green, his second year. the purple, third. 's first year,p
turnover is higher than any other president, almost double. in the green, his second year is pretty consistent with other presidents. what do you make of it? guest: it has been tremendous turnover. it is not the first time a white house has been riven by conflict. wasreagan white house sometimes a circular firing squad. they had anat case, empowered, very effective white house chief of staff named james a baker the third. he was considered the hated pragmatist. the guy who would not let reagan be reagan. but he was savvy enough to make the right alliances. and, therefore, he was very effective at making a functioning white house. thattunately, i'm afraid
donald trump has learned all the wrong lessons from his first two years as president. chief among those lessons is that he really needs to empower white house chief of staff who can tell him what he does not want to hear. that has not happened. host: did that happen with john kelly? guest: john kelly has really failed, i think, as white house chief of staff in a number of ways. you know, the title of least effective white house chief of staff in modern history used to belong to don reagan, hands-down. reagan's second ill-fated white house chief of staff, he was arrogant, he was imperious, he was politically inept. john kelly has been all of those things and in addition to that, john kelly has been unable to build of the most important thing every white house chief of staff must do to be effective, and that is looking at the oval office, closing the door, and telling the president what he does not want to hear.
just to give you a recent example, they would have signed off on the appointment of whitaker, as acting attorney general, compromised as he obviously is. and so it's just the latest example of kelly being very ineffective as white house chief. host: what characteristics does mr. kelly have that you think don't work as a chief of staff, and what characteristics does a successful chief of staff need to have? guest: i mentioned the arrogance. i mentioned that he has been politically inept. you know, there's another thing that i think he has as a real weakness, and that is that john kelly has reinforced all of donald trump's worst partisan instincts. donald trump has yet to learn that there's a difference between campaigning, which is dividing, demonizing, and disrupting, and governing, which is building coalitions and actually getting things done. the only legislative accomplishment in his first two cut, which,tax
frankly, went to multimillionaires. there is a reason for that. he has not learned that there's a difference between campaigning and governing and is a white house chief job, to help the president figure that out. john kelly has failed to do that. host: the president was on fox news sunday, and this is what he had to say about possible shakeups at the white house. >> are you happy with your to nielsen? trump: i like her a lot, she's very smart. i want her to get much tougher and we'll see what happens. but i will be extremely tough. >> what are the chances she will be secretary? trump: this a chance, that's what happens in government. you leave, you go. not left ofho have done very well, the people who have left have done very well from my white house. i like her very much, i respect your very much. i would like her to be much
tougher. on the border. much tougher, period. >> back in july, you said that john kelly will be here come 2020. do you still say that? trump: well, look. we get along well. there are certain things i love what he does and there are certain things that i don't like that he does. do --ot that he doesn't he works so hard, he's doing an excellent job in many ways, there are a couple of things where it's just not his strength. it's not his fault, it's not his strength. >> such as? trump: i have not even thought about john in terms of this. john will move on. >> the 2020 is no longer -- trump: it could be. but let's see what happens. i have three or four or five positions on thinking about. maybe it's going to end up being two. but i need flexibility. host: what do you make of the
president openly talking with the american people about what he likes and what he doesn't like? guest: you notice, he wasn't very specific about kelly. i suspect that one of the things he's referring to, one of the areas where he things that john kelly is weak as with his political ability. his ability to get things done on capitol hill. having said that, i really think that none of these changes will amount to much more than window dressing unless donald trump can get the first job right, and that's the white house chief of staff. it took clinton a year and a half to figure out that he needed a white house chief of differenceke all the to his presidency and frankly, without it, i'm not sure clinton would have got a second term. jimmy carter waited two and a half years before actually getting the title of chief of to that hamilton who up
point had been a defective chief. it wasn't until his last year in office that jimmy carter appointed a terrific white house chief, very effective, but it was too late for carter. if donald trump wants to be jimmy carter, he should just keep doing exactly what he's doing. failing to empower a white house chief to execute his agenda and tell him what he does not want to hear. i think it's critical that he gets that part right. oft: our guest is the author this book, gatekeepers, how the white house chief of staff defines every presidency. you have a new chapter on president trump. what do you write about? guest: that's true. well, it's the new chapter in the paperback, based on exclusive interviews with reince previous. preeince previous -- bus. the first thing he said to me when we sat down off the record
was, take everything you've heard and multiply it by 50. i was reminded of that when i read the new york times yesterday, that donald trump had know, had really wanted to prosecute hillary clinton and james comey. really, it's banana republic stuff. how just another example of you have to have an empowered white house chief to give you a reality check. richard nixone threatening to prosecute john kennedy or hubert humphrey or george mcgovern? absolutely unthinkable, outrageous, the auntie doubt. the kind of white house chief of staff should just drive a stake through the moment it's even broached. but that is coming with the job. host: what about the role of the vice president?
there's a kind of relationship he or she could have with a president. guest: it's funny you should bring that up, because i talked to dick cheney about it. dick cheney was of course, people forget, but he was gerald ford's 35-year-old white house chief of staff way back when, in the 70's. obviously, later became may be most powerful vice president in modern history. cheney told me that the white house chief of staff has more power than the vice president. that's true, except when cheney was vice president. general, vice presidents are really like spare tires. they really do not do much in terms of governing. they famously attend funerals. the vice president was once compared to a warm bucket of spit back in the day.
and that really has not changed very much. without important job any doubt as white house chief. host: the president recently tweeted about the vice president, vice president pence, his relationship, saying that the new york times has a phony story as usual about his relationship with him. they made up sources and refuse to ask me, the only one that would know, for a quote. the white house is running very smoothly and the results are obviously very good. we are the envy of the world but anytime i even think about making changes, the fake news media goes crazy. always seeking to make us look as bad as possible. very dishonest. respond to that? guest: like this has been for two years, the dysfunctional white house, whatever donald trump may say to the contrary. just look at history. it's not even a question about it in terms of the effectiveness. this white house was unable to pass any major legislation except for the tax cut and the
only way they were able to achieve that was by keeping president trump 100 miles away from it. they failed, they could not even issue executive orders that were enforceable as we saw with the immigration than from day one -- the immigration ban from day one. sadly, if you are a donald trump supporter, i think you have to look at this white house and conclude that it has really been enthralled with part right ideologues who have no idea how to govern. with the border policy, we saw it. with repeal and replace, where they had no idea what they were going to replace obamacare with, it has just been a continuing ineptitude for two years. of that on john kelly because he has not been politically effective. he has been politically inept. notion that the
president is a well oiled machine is frankly preposterous. let's get our viewers involved. what are your thoughts that the president is considering changes to his staff and the roles of the staff has played so far? democrats, (202) 748-8000. republicans, (202) 748-8001. independents, (202) 748-8002. first of all, what are the implications for the legislative agenda with this much turnover? guest: the implications are again, not good. unless donald trump can figure out how to get a white house chief in place to execute his agenda. -- if you asked most of us who the most effective white house chiefs are, the two best in modern history were under ronald reagan and bill clinton. these are guys who have been around the block.
they knew capitol hill very well. they were grounded. baker was a 50-year-old texas attorney who could walk into the oval office," or, and tell ronald reagan the hard truth. need to getyou stuff done on capitol hill. agenda,legislative there's been talk about the chief of staff to vice president byce, and i'm sure he is, all accounts, a very smart guy. and he's politically savvy, obviously, the bar is pretty low after john kelly. but i wonder if he is the guy who can walk into the oval office and tell donald trump what he does not want to hear. host: why do you wonder that? guest: i think that's a tough order for somebody with as much experience as he has had. dick cheney was 35 years old when he became white house
chief. but there are very few people who walk the face of this earth who can walk in, confront a donald trump, and tell him hard truth. order fort a tall anybody, much less somebody with his experience. host: texas, democrat. good morning. caller: good morning. thank you for this call. as far as president trump considering the changes, i mean, it's really difficult because he himself has to really want to change. it's him. you could put good staff and members in there, you could put the smartest, the most effective -- all the effective cabinet members. can see, his history, donald trump's history, he has lost so many good ones of the very start.
i mean, there were good people that were willing to work and make this nation a better nation, like he said, make america great again. i don't know where that is coming from, because it's a joke. chaotic ashouse is any that i have ever -- i mean, it's beyond belief. it's a joke. guest: that's certainly true. look, it may well be mission impossible with donald trump. but having said that, think about -- if you are wondering if you are a trump support you are wondering, what happened to the art of the deal? what happened to the infrastructure bill that democrats brought up against the fbi. those are the kinds of things that could happen if you have the right people around you. here's an example. when ronald reagan became president, he was hell-bent right out of the gate on
tackling social security reform. that's what he wanted to do. sat down with reagan and said mr. president, social security is absurd, touch it and you will be electrocuted, let's try something else. the rest is history. there would have been no reagan revolution without jim baker. we, i'm not suggesting that hired jim baker as donald trump's chief of staff, but i do think that trump needs somebody like him with enough gravitas to tell him what he thinks. host: let's go to mike in missouri, independent. caller: yes, mr. whipple. it's amazing, as politically astute as you come up to be, that you have not been snapped up by one of the president's chiefs. what amazes me is that somebody
in that position -- caller: pardon me? host: go ahead. guest: go ahead. caller: yeah. uh, it's easy to sit on the outside and criticize and criticize and criticize. i talked and he told me this. i configure and tell you i'm a four-star general of the united states marine corps and you don't know that for a fact. you have not been in that position of authority, you don't really know what goes on. you are taking your information on what people tell you. i think you do a little digging, i did it, it's hard to prove a lot of things that you say. i don't agree with you, but i appreciate your point of view. host: ok, let's get a response. guest: it's a further point. i have not worked in the white house. all i know is what i've learned from having sat down and interviewed extensively 18
living white house chiefs of staff who have done the job. you are right, i can't pretend to have done the job myself or even to have worked in the white that and i will concede for openers. but when you do talk to these white house chiefs of staff, it's really extraordinary how in hollywood, they say nobody knows any thing, in washington, nobody learns anything. lessons thatny these white house chiefs have to offer that i've tried to convey in my book. and all i can do is the best i can. host: missouri, democrat. caller: high, thanks for taking my call. trump one, i don't think could ever get a different chief of staff. do, he'ss them what to too arrogant, pompous, narcissistic. i mean, who else would go around
wants is the ego stroking -- it's pathetic. he wanted to have a parade. really? these republicans are so disappointing. they let him do everything and anything. 1/10,ma would have done but tip of the iceberg, they would still be talking about it. and they just are putting trump before the country. before the party, but for the country. and that's just wrong. host: mr. whipple? guest: it's a challenge as we said before, without question. him ford was punishing being in that job. it's not for the faint of heart. if donald trump is still convinced somehow that he can run the white house away he ran the 26th floor of trump tower, it just doesn't work that way.
know, donald trump is not the first president to come into power full of hubris and toxic -- intoxicated by his political victory, thinking he's the smartest guy in the room. most presidents get over that. they realize at a certain point that there's a difference between campaigning and governing. to me, that's donald trump -- one of his greatest failures. is that he still has not figured out that there's a difference between campaigning, which is dividing and demonizing and governing, which is bringing people together. and i think he had a chance to do that. i think this is almost the last chance for him to try to get to try to god, and in a different direction, and it will be interesting to see the pragmatists in the white house, and there are some -- if there are able to help them change course. host: mark is in seattle, independent. caller: yes, good show.
i'm wondering if mr. whipple has been to miami book fair, but the main point is, why is he studying the chief of staff and not presidents? has he found that the chief of to thes key effectiveness of the president? was that his main premise? and how far back to he go with presidents? with 18 chiefs of staff. host: ok. caller: huegel past fdr? -- did he go past fdr? guest: there's nothing in the constitution about a white house chief of staff. he's not elected. and he's really a modern invention. sherman adams was the first under eisenhower. he was the civilian version of the chief of staff.
but it really started with nixon because he really wrote the modern template for the white house chief being the power cheap who really executed the president agenda. that really starts with him and it goes all the way up to the trump white house. i didn't go in with any frequency -- preconceived idea but what stunned me about it is what i learned when i got through was that every president learns, often the hard way, that you cannot govern effectively without empowering a white house chief of staff to execute your agenda and tell you what you don't want to hear. lot, andon msnbc a lawrence o'donnell always gives me a hard time because he wants to white house chief of staff to define -- he always gets me that nobody but trump defines his presidency. and that is true. but it has not always been the
case. host: republican from new jersey, you're next. caller: hello? host: good morning. caller: good morning. yes, i just have such a problem with people, intelligent people consistently opining about what donald trump could do to be better. he is not normal. he is a 12-year-old. he would probably run it a little better. donald trump is incapable of doing better. and any chief of staff in the category of jim baker would not work for donald trump. because no one can tell them anything because first of all, he can't learn anything. anything you tell them, he can't retain it. because he sees incapable of it.
the man has deep psychological issues, and i'm not saying that to be dirty. host: we got the point. before, it said could be mission impossible. job, it'snkless absolutely all-consuming and you get all of the blame and none of the credit. and that's with an ordinary present. with trump, it's exponentially more difficult. so that's true. host: margaret in new york, democrat. caller: yes, good morning and thank you for inviting me under your program. do you haveed in -- three or four candidates, and how would you expect more decorah?
past, he said we need more decorah in the white house. -- [inaudible] host: ch -- mr. whipple? guest: it's a good question. picked to replace kelly if in fact from decides to replace them? and i think it's time. i think it has been like a bad marriage. trump and kerry are muddling through and i think that there is an understanding that there seems to become of a bargain in which kelly agrees not to tell trump stuff he does not want to hear, and trump keeps them there. and that's a bad formula for governing. i'm reluctant to name people or suggest people and quite frankly, as a said before, there are few people on the face of this earth who can tell donald
trump what he does not want to hear. it's a tough situation. host: what about his family? including the first lady, who has been vocal about her he hassure with staff, his son-in-law and daughter who are advisors. what about the role that they play? does that help or hurt? guest: i think it helps. i think family always helps. and i think with trump, clearly jared and a vodka -- ivanka and milani a have been helpful. i think they care about trying to make this white house unction more effectively. calledeagan was famously the white house personnel director. but she never suggested firing someone in public. as milani did recently. she may have more influence than we realize time the scenes.
forward,ll see going but family is important for every president. florida, george is a republican. good morning. caller: good morning. how are you doing? host: doing well, thanks. question or comment? caller: my comment and question is mr. whipple, what is named? host: yes. caller: i heard you talking, i've been listening to you go on and on about the bad things sounded. trump, and he much like stacey abrams, a crybaby down in georgia who can't find anything good to say about trump but it's always a bad thing. you have a problem with is a obama did nothing. 1%, he was just run
a terrible president. trump has accomplished more than obama has done in eight years in two years. and i don't know what your complaint is, because you sound like a crybaby. you don't like his attitude? i think his attitude is great, is putting people down who have no idea what going on. all you can do is sit there and complaint. host: all right george. guest: i'm just trying to give you my honest opinion having a look of 50 years of presidential history and the chiefs of staff who served. booming, trump has accomplishments on his watch. he has got judicial appointments. however, that obama, in his last 18 months, created more jobs in donald trump did in his first a team of jury so is a continuation of an economic boom. i just think that, given the potential for getting things
done, but donald trump had when he came into office. if i were a trump supporter, i would be sorely disappointed. and i would simply recommend to you if you think that i'm biased about this, i would simply recommend that you pick up the book and read it because i think i'm scrupulously nonpartisan and i give republicans -- republican sheets a hard time and democratic chiefs as well. let's go to the last call in idaho, republican. trumpism thing that's wrong with progressive liberal -- democrat and republican -- he he has madejobs -- the u.s. non-dependent on other he will not destroy this country and make it --
guest: what are you watching for? i have no comment on that. that's his opinion. i would simply say if you were a trump supporter, you may ever wonder what happened to the art of the deal when it came to repealing and replacing obamacare. when it comes to some of the other things. that a moreaying effective white house chief of staff might actually help trump achieve his agenda. whipple, author of "gatekeepers: announcer: when the new congress starts in january there will be more than 100 new house and senate members. democrats will control the house. republicans, the senate. new congress. new leaders. watch the process unfold on c-span. announcer: during the cyber talks conference, the attendees heard from suzanna kent
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