For Serving in the White House


  • Don't accept the post or stay unless you have an understanding with the president that you're free to tell him what you think "with the bark off" and you have the courage to do it.

  • Visit with your predecessors from previous administrations. They know the ropes and can help you see around some corners. Try to make original mistakes, rather than needlessly repeating theirs.

  • Know that the immediate staff and others in the administration will assume that your manner, tone and tempo reflect the president's.

  • Learn to say "I don't know." If used when appropriate, it will be often.

  • If you foul up, tell the president and correct it fast. Delay only compounds mistakes.

  • Don't divide the world into "them" and "us." Avoid infatuation with or resentment of the press, the Congress, rivals, or opponents. Accept them as facts.

  • Amidst all the clutter, beyond all the obstacles, aside from all the static, are the goals set. Put your head down, do the best job possible, let the flak pass, and work towards those goals.

  • Don't say "the White House wants." Buildings can't want.

  • Don't speak ill of your predecessors or successors. You didn't walk in their shoes.

  • Don't blame the boss. He has enough problems.

  • Don't think of yourself as indispensable or infallible: As Charles de Gaulle said, the cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.

  • If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

  • Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the president and do wonders for your performance.

  • Don't "overcontrol" like a novice pilot. Stay loose enough from the flow that you can observe, calibrate, and refine.

  • Many people around the president have sizeable egos before entering government, some with good reason. Their new positions will do little to moderate their egos.

  • Control your time. If you're working off your-inbox, you're working off the priorities of others. Be sure the staff is working on what you move to them from the president, or the president will be reacting, not leading.

  • Look for what's missing. Many advisors can tell a president how to improve what's proposed or what's gone amiss. Few are able to see what isn't there.

  • Work continuously to trim the White House staff from your first day to your last. All the pressures are to the contrary.

  • Don't do or say things you would not like to see on the front page, of the Washington Post.

  • The federal government should be the last resort, not the first. Ask if a potential program is truly a federal responsibility or whether it can better be handled privately, by voluntary organizations, or by local or state governments.

  • As former Missouri Congressman Tom Curtis said, "Public money drives out private-money."
  • Include others. As Sen. Pat Moynihan said, "Stubborn opposition to proposals often has no other basis than the complaining question, 'Why wasn't I consulted?"
  • If in doubt, don't.
  • The most underestimated risk for a politician is overexposure.
  • If you try to please everybody, somebody is not going to like it.
  • Members of the House and the Senate are not there by accident. Each managed to get there for some reason, though it may not be obvious. Learn it and you will know something important about our country and the American people.
  • With the press there is no "off the record."

For the Secretary of Defense

  • The secretary of defense is not a super general or admiral. His task is to exercise civilian control over the department for the commander-in-chief and the country.
  • Normal management techniques may not work in the department. When pushing responsibility downward, be sure not to contribute to a weakening of the cohesion of the services; what cohesion exists has been painfully achieved over the decades.
  • When cutting staff at the Pentagon, don't eliminate the thin layer that assures civilian control.

  • Avoid public spats. When a department argues with other government agencies in the press, it reduces the president's options.
  • If you get the objectives right, a lieutenant can write the strategy. (Gen.George Marshall)
  • Napoleon was asked, "Who do you consider to be the greatest generals?" He responded saying, "The victors."

On Business

  • When you initiate new activities, find things you are currently doing that you can discontinue -- whether reports, activities, etc. It works, but you must force yourself to do it.

  • Watch the growth of middle level management. Don't automatically fill vacant jobs. Leave some positions unfilled for 6-8 months to see what happens. You will find you won't need to fill some of them.

  • Reduce the number of lawyers. They are like beavers -- they get in the middle of the stream and dam it up.

  • "The advantage of a free market is that it allows millions of decision-makers to respond individually to freely determined prices, allocating resources --labor, capital and human ingenuity -- in a manner that can't be mimicked by a central plan, however brilliant the central planner."
    (Friedrich von Hayek)

On, Intelligence

  • "Hire paranoids. Even though they have a high false-alarm rate, they discover all plots."
    (Herman Kahn)


  • "Never attribute to a conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence."
    (Judge Larry Silberman)

On Washington D.C.

  • The two most important rules in Washington; D.C. are:

    Rule One: -"The cover-up is worse than the event."
    Rule Two: "No one ever remembers the first rule."


  • Weakness is provocative.
On Life


  • "The most important things in life you cannot see -- civility, justice, courage, peace."
  • "The harder I work, the luckier I am." (Unknown)
  • "If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact, not to be solved, but to be coped with over time." (Shimon Peres)
  • If you develop rules, never have more than 10.