Governing the White House

From Hoover Through LBJ

Charles E. Walcott and Karen M. Hult

Winner: Richard E. Neustadt Award

Choice Outstanding Title

“This book represents a nice blend of solid research, skillful assessment, and good writing. It adds an important dimension to the literature on the institutional presidency.

—American Political Science Review

“This book is impressive in its sweep of analysis through seven presidencies, and it is important for its subjection of White House organizational development to rigorous analysis. It will make fascinating reading for those who specialize in White House organization as well as for those scholars whoa re familiar with only part of the institutional presidency literature.

—Political Science Quarterly
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Charles Walcott and Karen Hult maintain that the organization of the White House influences presidential performance much more than commonly thought and that organization theory is an essential tool for understanding that influence. Their book offers the first systematic application of organizational governance theory to the structures and operations of the White House Office.

Using organizational theory to analyze what at times has been a rather ad hoc and disorganized office might seem quixotic. After all, the White House Office exists within a turbulent political environment that encourages expedient decision-making. And every four to eight years it must be "reinvented" by presidents who have their own theories and preferences about how to organize a staff to serve their policy needs.

But Walcott and Hult argue that White House staffs are not simply puppets of presidential preference and style. Yes, staff structures evolve primarily from presidents' strategic responses to external demands. But those structures in turn significantly influence how the executive branch perceives and responds to further demands.

The first part of their book lays out the theoretical argument. The second examines White House "outreach": congressional liaison, press relations, personnel selection, executive branch oversight, and interest group and intergovernmental liaison. The third focuses on White House handling of policy development and implementation. The fourth analyzes staff structures that facilitate the operation of the presidency itself: presidential writing and scheduling, staff management, and cabinet coordination. The book concludes by identifying general patterns in the emergency, nature, and stability of governance structures in the White House.

Original and instructive, Governing the White House provides a much-needed primer on the inner workings of the White House staff and will be an essential volume for anyone studying the presidency.

About the Author

Charles E. Walcott and Karen M. Hult are associate professors of political science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and coauthors of Governing Public Organizations.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series