White House Chief of Staff

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The White House Chief of Staff is the highest-ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It can be a very powerful position, and the Chief of Staff is sometimes even dubbed "The Most Powerful Man in Washington."

The duties of the Chief of Staff can vary greatly from administration to administration, but generally the Chief of Staff is responsible for overseeing the actions of other members of White House staff, managing the president's timetable, and controlling outsiders' access to the president. This last duty has often earned the Chief of Staff the nickname of the "Gatekeeper."

Informally, the Chief of Staff is often one of the President's closest political advisors, and a close friend.

Not every President has had a formal Chief of Staff. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson never did, nor did President Carter until the very end of his term.

Most Chiefs of Staff are former politicians, and many continue their political careers in other senior roles. Examples include Richard Nixon's Chief of Staff Alexander Haig who later became Secretary of State, Gerald Ford's Chiefs of Staff Dick Cheney, now Vice President, and Donald Rumsfeld, who later became Secretary of Defense.

Some have suggested that a powerful Chief of Staff dealing with a "hands off" president who decides not to become involved in the minutiƦ of government, can become a quasi-prime minister. Such prime ministers exist in some presidential systems, with the Prime Minister de facto running the system of government and the President standing back and setting broad policy agendas. James Baker and Donald Regan were seen as prime ministerial-style Chiefs of Staff during the Reagan presidency. Howard Baker, who succeeded Regan, was critical of this system and what is sometimes called the Imperial Presidency.

By contrast, Andrew Card, the Chief of Staff within the administration of George W. Bush is not regarded as a very powerful figure, in large part because Bush appears to deal directly with his Cabinet secretaries.

White House Chiefs of Staff
Name Term President
John R. Steelman 1946 - 1952 Harry Truman
Sherman Adams 1953 - 1958 Dwight Eisenhower
Wilton Persons 1958 - 1961 Dwight Eisenhower
H. R. Haldeman 1969 - 1973 Richard Nixon
Alexander Haig 1973 - 1974 Richard Nixon
Donald Rumsfeld 1974 - 1975 Gerald Ford
Dick Cheney 1975 - 1977 Gerald Ford
Hamilton Jordan 1979 - 1980 Jimmy Carter
Jack Watson 1980 - 1981 Jimmy Carter
James Baker 1981 - 1985 Ronald Reagan
Donald Regan 1985 - 1987 Ronald Reagan
Howard Baker 1987 - 1988 Ronald Reagan
Kenneth Duberstein 1988 - 1989 Ronald Reagan
John H. Sununu 1989 - 1991 George H. W. Bush
Samuel K. Skinner 1991 - 1992 George H. W. Bush
James Baker 1992 - 1993 George H. W. Bush
Mack McLarty 1993 - 1994 Bill Clinton
Leon Panetta 1994 - 1997 Bill Clinton
Erskine Bowles 1997 - 1998 Bill Clinton
John Podesta 1998 - 2001 Bill Clinton
Andrew Card 2001 - 2006 George W. Bush
Joshua B. Bolten 2006 - present George W. Bush

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