Bill Clinton

“If you’re going to keep staring at me and I’m going to keep staring back, we ought to at least know each other’s names.  Mine’s Hillary Rodham,” said Bill Clinton, describing the moment in 1970 when he met the woman who five years later would become his wife.1


Bill Clinton was born on August 19, 1946.  “I spent so much time on the cabinet that I hardly spent any time on the White House staff,” said Clinton, admitting one of his major mistakes after he was elected that was costly for the nation.

Clinton’s failure to appoint a White House staff until six days before his inauguration as the 42nd president led to fighting between campaign and transition staffs before he began work as commander-in-chief, when the rapid pace of work in the Oval Office no longer provided him the extra time he needed to figure out the differences that confused him in office between supporting organizations and the White House staff.2

Presidential scholars agree with Clinton’s candid self-assessment, recommending appointments to the White House staff prior to selecting a cabinet.3

The first appointments to the White House staff should include the following personnel:

Chief of Staff.  The president’s senior assistant is responsible for the efficient operation of the White House.

Special Counsel.  The president’s private lawyer provides legal advice on a wide variety of topics, including legislation and treaties.

National Security Adviser.  The president’s primary adviser on foreign policy helps to coordinate between the State Department, Department of Defense, and Central Intelligence Agency.

Domestic Adviser.  The president’s domestic adviser assists with coordinating policies between domestic agencies and uses their input for formulating legislative proposals.

Press Secretary.  The spokesperson for the president maintains good relations with the media.

Communications Director.  The head of the Communications Office oversees management of the news in an organization that functions as an advertising department and public relations agency for the president.

Congressional Liaison.  The head of legislative affairs nurtures good relationships between the president and Congress.

Personnel Director.  The head of the Personnel Office manages staffing needs for the president.


1.  Bill Clinton, My Life (New York: Knopf, 2004), 181.

2.  Ibid., 467-468.  Bradley H. Patterson, Jr. The White House Staff: Inside the West Wing and Beyond (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2000), 4-6, 425.  John H Trattner, “The White House Staff and Cabinet Appointments,” in The 2000 Prune Book: How to Succeed in Washington’s Top Jobs (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2000), 1-8.  Stephen Hess, What Do We Do Now?: A Workbook for the President-Elect (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2008), 14.

3.  Ibid.  Stephen L. Robertson, “Executive Office of the President: White House Office,” in Guide to the Presidency, Second Edition (Washington: CQ Press, 1996), 1087-1090.


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