tv Washington Journal Chris Whipple CSPAN November 21, 2018 4:05pm-4:37pm EST
[applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] on our companion network c-span2, but db is in primetime over the four-day thanksgiving holiday weekend. we begin tonight focusing on readers and publishers at 8:00 p.m. eastern, james mcbride. that is followed by author karen pryor. book tv in primetime starts at 8:00 eastern on c-span two. also tonight on c-span3, american history tv on world war ii. 8:00 p.m.t 8:00 p --
eastern. 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 considering white house changes, staff shakeups. the brookings institution chart shows the president's a team turnover from year-to-year. the blue bar represents the president's first year. the green, his second year. the purple, third. president trump's first year, 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? chris whipple it has been tremendous turnover. it is not the first time a white house has been riven by conflict. the reagan white house was sometimes a circular firing squad. in thatin that case, they had an 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. unfortunately, i'm afraid that 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. did that happen with john kelly? chris whipple 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. he was ronald 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. greta brawner 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? chris whipple 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 years was a tax cut, which, 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. greta brawner 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? 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? this a chance, that's what happens in government. you leave, you go. the people who have not left of 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? 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. it's not that he doesn't do -- 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? i have not even thought about john in terms of this. john will move on. the 2020 is no longer -- 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. greta brawner what do you make of the president openly talking with the american people about what he likes and what he doesn't like? chris whipple
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 staff to make all the difference 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 staff to hamilton who up to that 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. greta brawner our guest is the author of this book, gatekeepers, how the white house chief of staff defines every presidency. you have a new chapter on president trump. what chris whipple that's true. well, it's the new chapter in the paperback, based on exclusive interviews with reince previous. -- reince previous -- pre 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 tried -- you know, had really wanted to prosecute hillary clinton and james comey. really, it's banana republic stuff. it's just another example of how you have to have an empowered white house chief to give you a reality check. can you imagine richard nixon 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. greta brawner what about the role of the vice president? there's a kind of relationship he or she could have with a president. chris whipple 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 hisry. 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. in 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. the more important job without any doubt as white house chief. greta brawner 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? 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 fromay d 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. some of that on john kelly because he has not been politically effective. he has been politically inept. i think that the notion that the president is a well oiled machine is frankly preposterous. greta brawner 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? chris whipple 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. who -- 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. that's what you need to get stuff done on capitol hill. for the legislative agenda, there's been talk about the chief of staff to vice president pence, and i'm sure he is, by 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. greta brawner why do you wonder that? chris whipple 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. that's just a tall order for anybody, much less somebody with his experience. greta brawner texas, democrat. good morning. 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. but as you can see, his hisry, 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. this white house is chaotic as any that i have ever -- i mean, it's beyond belief. it's a joke. chris whipple 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. he 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. now, i'm not suggesting that we 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. greta brawner let's go to mike in missouri, independent. 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 -- pardon me?
greta brawner go ahead. chris whipple go ahead. yeah. uh, it's easy to sit on the outside and criticize a 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. again, 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. show less greta brawner ok, let's get a response. chris whipple 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 house and i
will concede that 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. there's so many lessons that 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. greta brawner missouri, democrat. high, thanks for taking my call. number one, i don't think trump could ever get a different chief of staff. that tells them what to do, he's too arrogant, pompous, narcissistic. i mean, who else would go around and -- all he 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. if obama would have done 1/10, 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. greta brawner mr. whipple? chris whipple it's a challenge as we said before, without question. maybe god was punishing him for 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. you 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 things changed, and to try to go 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. greta brawner mark is in seattle, independent. 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 staff is key to the effectiveness of the president? was that his main premise? and how far back to he go with presidents? with 18 chiefs of staff. chris whipple 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 th 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. now, i'm on msnbc a lot, and wrence 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 republican from new jersey, you're next.
greta brawner good morning. 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. greta brawner we got the point. chris whipple
as i said before, it could be mission impossible. it's a thankless job, it's 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. greta brawner margaret in new york, democrat. yes, good morning and thank you for inviting me under your program. i'm interested in -- do you have three or four candidates, and how would you expect more decorah? in the past,e sa h we need more decorah in the white house. -- [laughter] [applause]
[indiscernible] mr. whipple? it's a good question. who should be 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 greta brawner what about his family? including the first lady, who has been
vocal about her displeasure with staff, he has his son-in-law and daughter who are advisors. what about the role that they play? does that help or hurt? chris whipple i think it helps. i think family always helps. and i think with trump, clearly gerrit and a vodka -- jared and ivanka and milani a have been helpful. i think they care about trying to make this white house unction more effectively. nancy reagan was famously called the white house personnel director. but she never suggested firing someone in public. as milani did recent. she may have more influence than we realize time the scenes. and we will see going forward, but family is important for every president.
florida, george is a republican. good morning. good morning. how are you doing? greta brawner doing well, thanks. question or comment? my comment and question is mr. whipple, what is named? greta brawner yes. i heard you talking, i've been listening to you go on and on about the bad things about mr. trump, and he sounded 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 competence, obama did nothing. his gdp was just run 1%, he was 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. show greta brawner all right george. chris whipple 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. the economy is booming, trump has accomplishments on his watch. he has got judicial appointments. it is true, 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. show greta brawner let's go to the last call in idaho, republican. trumpism thing that's wrong with progressive liberal -- democrat and republican -- he has brought jobs -- he has made the u.s. non-dependent on other countries, he will not destroy this country and make it -- chris whipple 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,ou 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. i'm simply saying that a more effective white house chief of staff might actually help trump achieve his agenda. greta brawner chris whipple, author of how the white house chief of staff to find every presidency." thank you for the conversation. my pleasure, happy holidays.