September 1, 2002: Headlines: Staff: History: Look Smart: The White House Staff Inside the West Wing and Beyond. By Peace Corps Staffer Bradley H. Patterson, Jr.

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The White House Staff Inside the West Wing and Beyond. By Peace Corps Staffer Bradley H. Patterson, Jr.

The White House Staff Inside the West Wing and Beyond. By Peace Corps Staffer Bradley H. Patterson, Jr.

The White House Staff Inside the West Wing and Beyond. By Peace Corps Staffer Bradley H. Patterson, Jr.

The White House Staff: Inside the West Wing and Beyond - Book Review
White House Studies, Fall, 2002 by Robert P. Watson

The White House Staff Inside the West Wing and Beyond. By Bradley H. Patterson, Jr. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2000, 491 pages.

Plainly and simply said, The White House Staff is the definitive source in print on the topic. Author Bradley H. Patterson, Jr. brings to the book extensive experience from his service on the staffs of presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford which he compliments with a career in such agencies as the State Department, Treasury Department, and Peace Corps and extensive White House research. The result is a worthy sequel to Patterson's well-regarded earlier book, Ring of Power (1988), which established him as a leading voice on the topics of political power and White House politics.

Patterson also manages to find the perfect balance in his writing style and tone in producing a scholarly yet highly readable book, and one from which everyone including presidential scholars, presidential aides, and even the general public should not only enjoy but benefit. Readers will especially enjoy, the insights Patterson shares from his extensive interviews with White House aides. The author has clearly done his homework and offers a wealth of personal notes, quotes, and anecdotes. This is a strength of the book and one that impressed this reviewer. Too often, accounts of the White House or a president by a former aide offer only the perspectives of that particular aide/author, account only for those experiences the writer encountered while working for a president, and are fashioned through the narrow and suspect lens of political ideology, personal reputation, and presidential legacy.

This is not to say that such "kiss-and-tell" books are without merit. On the contrary, presidential scholars often glean tidbits of information which can be checked against their data and sources, teachers mine these books for practical stories and lessons for the classroom, and all of us gain access - albeit through a keyhole in the door - to the White House. The reviewer readily admits to being a voracious consumer of these first-hand accounts by former presidential aides. But, happily, readers will find none of the usual culprits - ideology, reputation, and legacy - clouding Patterson's examination of the White House. The author is objective and thorough in his work.

Readers are given more than a keyhole glimpse into the White House. Patterson's attention to detail - he provides budget numbers for the operation of the White House, lists offices and jobs within the White House, charts the organization of the White House, etc. - and ability to put his finger on the pulse of both the political life and bureaucratic work of staffers in the White House allow readers to experience what goes on behind the doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

To most citizens, the president's staff has remained largely unknown. Patterson's book takes readers into the inner-workings of those anonymous individuals who make the White House function. Along the way, he addresses popular myths about the White House staff such as the size of the staff, presidential claims of not relying on staff and shrinking the size of the White House, and generalist, political hacks. In effect, presidents rely on a huge staff, often increase the size of White House offices, and most staffers are skilled specialists who do not always agree with the president and exercise their own notions of loyalty to a higher calling.

Patterson also synthesizes the work of many scholars of the presidency and public administration in his study of the approaches to and impact of organizing and staffing the White House. In particular, the book spells out how the organization structure of the White House and conventional thinking about the role of staff are inadequate for the monumental changes occurring in society, national politics, and the conduct of the presidency. Old notions of the nature and work of the White House staff no longer allow the presidency to respond in a timely, informed, and proper manner to the challenges of today. This reviewer found the book to be an important call for rethinking the nature and organization of the White House staff, backed by a reasoned argument from the author.

The book is organized into four sections. The first -- "Outside and Inside the White House" -- introduces the reader to the major concepts of Patterson's book and the general work of the White House staff. Part two, which comprises the vast majority of the book -- a total of 19 chapters in the 23 chapter book -- examines the vast bureaucracy of the White House. The many offices working for the president are treated thoroughly, as each one is the focus of an individual chapter. This includes, for instance, a chapter on national security, domestic policy, legislative affairs, the press office, and even the White House's advance office. Part three and four each comprise a single chapter: "The Professional White House," which looks at the professional staffers who serve the president, and "White House Service in the Years Ahead," which examines trends and new challenges in staffing the White House and the future of the West Wing, respectively. This concluding chapter was among the reviewer's favorite parts of the book, although the book is consistently informative and enjoyable throughout. Patterson's thoughts and analysis on emerging challenges facing the White House staff mark another important contribution of the book to our understanding of the work of the staff.

The White House Staff is well researched and offers a probing exploration of the work of White House staffers. In this reviewer's opinion, it is the definitive source on the topic and a must read for any political scientist and presidential scholar. The book comes highly recommended and would make an outstanding supplemental text for graduate students in presidency courses.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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Story Source: Look Smart

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