I am a huge fan of Andrew Card, President George W. Bush’s campaign manager and first Chief of Staff. He served as Chief of Staff to the President for over five years, and was the second longest serving Chief of Staff.
Last week, Card was interviewed on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It was quite an incredible interview, and I think the length of the interview (one of the longer interviews I have seen) is testament to Card’s importance within the White House (see the interview after the jump).
Many people don’t know this, but the White House Chief of Staff is one of the most powerful people in the world. The Chief of Staff is like a gatekeeper to the President, constantly keeping track of the President’s schedule, his or her needs, the White House staff, the country, and the world. Andy Card, when Chief of Staff, woke up every morning at 4:20 am and worked until at least 10 pm.
While powerful, the Chief of Staff position is one of if not the toughest job in the White House. It ruins marriages, causes harsh feelings from children, leaves little time to exercise, and causes a Chief of Staff to age quicker than anyone else around.
I think of the Chief of Staff as one of the unsung heroes of American politics and America in general. Without effective Chiefs of Staff, the White House would be out of control and little would get done.
One of the more recognizable Chiefs of Staff is probably Leo McGarry, Chief of Staff to President Josiah Bartlett in the TV drama The West Wing. Leo is certainly how I came to recognize the importance and power of the position of Chief of Staff.
Leo was a former Air Force pilot, who convinced then-Governor Josiah Bartlett to run for President. He was Bartlett’s campaign manager, and after they won, Leo was appointed Chief of Staff. He is the closest advisor (and best friend) to the President, and is intricately involved in everything. Leo is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the White House, and he sits at the President’s side in the Situation Room. But, the stresses and commitments of being Chief of Staff cause Leo’s wife to get a divorce, and Leo also has relapses of alcoholism (he had been treated for alcohol and Valium addiction before becoming Chief of Staff).
Despite all of the bad things that come with the job, I kind of inspire to be the Chief of Staff to the President one day. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be the President. But now I’ve seen how dirty and scandal-laden real politics are, and I don’t want to involve myself or my family in that. I would prefer to stay out of the limelight, back in the office next to the President’s.
In case you would like to learn a little more, here is an excellent article from the Washington Post about Andrew Card.