If the President is the one you want to marry, then the Chief of Staff is the President's online dating site… Mess up your profile, don't pay your dues, or fail to meet enough matching criteria, and that crucial first date never happens.
Of course, that's a very narrow type of power, and nowhere near as broad-ranging as what the Commander in Chief wields… But in a world increasingly run by meetings, leveraged face time in the media, and closed-door handshake deals among social elites, you really need to make sure your winks are at least getting through.
Put another way – if the President can do just about anything with his or her power, the Chief of Staff keeps the menu of options at any given moment as limited, predictable, and in line with greater administration and party objectives as possible.
And while most people think of this as being mostly outwardly-directed, this includes very much how the rest of the President's staff, including cabinet members, get time with the big boss… At times, this process/system even works against the President – while someone like Obama might want team members to challenge his or her positions, the Chief generally wants to drive consensus to a quick resolution and keep the agenda moving.
The White House Chief of Staff is often regarded as "The Second-Most Powerful Person in Washington." To what extent is this statement true?
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