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The Brookings Cafeteria

Dec 23, 2020

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as president in 1933, the White House staff numbered fewer than fifty people, and most federal departments were lightly staffed as well. As the United States became a world power, the staff of the Executive Office increased twentyfold, and the staffing of federal agencies blossomed comparably.

On this episode airing in the midst of the transition of President Elect Joe Biden, Brookings Press Director Bill Finan interviews experts Stephen Hess and James Pfiffner, the authors of the Brookings Press title, "Organizing the Presidency." In this fourth edition of the landmark volume, first published in 1976, Hess and Pfiffner argue that the successes and failures of presidents from Roosevelt through Trump have resulted in large part from how the president deployed and used White House staffers and other top officials responsible for carrying out Oval Office policy. Hess and Pfiffner reflect on earlier transitions, but also have a lot to say about President Trump’s transition in 2016, and what is happening now.

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The Brookings Cafeteria is part of the Brookings Podcast Network.