Chiefs of staff on the upswing
OTTAWA — The chief of staff to a top politician is not usually the man in the spotlight — they generally prefer to pull the levers of power anonymously from the corridors and meeting rooms while press secretaries face the media. But with the Senate scandal, Nigel Wright has become something of a household name.
In Hollywood, chiefs of staff have seen something of an upsurge in shows including Scandal and Veep. Here’s how a real-life chief of staff measures up to his fictionalized counterparts, including the most famous one, fellow millionaire Leo McGarry of The West Wing:
Job: Chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Marital Status: Single
Background: Lawyer, then made millions as a Bay street businessman.
Style: Calm, cool and collected. Described by friends as having high ethical standards despite current allegations of fraud, breach of trust and bribery for covering Sen. Mike Duffy’s contested expenses.
General health: Does this guy have an ounce of fat? Marathon runner gets up before dawn to exercise.
Quote: “My intention was always to secure repayment of funds owed to taxpayers. I acted within the scope of my duties and remain confident that my actions were lawful.”
Cyrus Beene (ABC’s Scandal)
Job: Chief of staff to U.S. president Fitzgerald Grant.
Marital Status: Married to White House reporter James Novak, with whom he has an adopted daughter.
Background: Campaign guru/political fixer. Once offered chance to run Harvard University.
Style: Ruthless, seemingly lacking in all scruples or limits. Helped rig an election; put a hit out on his own boyfriend; hired a hit man to kill a woman who had a fling with the president.
General Health: Poor. Has been hospitalized for a heart attack.
Quote: “The nitty-gritty, morally bankrupt, back alley brawling rest of the game, that’s me — it’s filthy and thankless and it’s my hallelujah, heroin, and reason to breathe . . . ”
Linda Vasquez (Netflix’s House of Cards)
Job: Chief of staff to U.S. president Garrett Walker
Age: late 40s/ early 50s
Marital Status: Unclear; has a college-age son Ruben.
Background: A key player in Walker’s campaign.
Style: “She’s as tough as a two-dollar steak,” loyal, devoted to party ideals. But her weakness is Ruben.
General Health: Trim, but you get the sense her chief exercise is marathon BlackBerry clicking.
Quote: “Now we have to lead. And that means making tough choices.”
Eli Gold (CBS’s The Good Wife)
Job: Chief of staff to Illinois governor Peter Florrick.
Age: Late 40s/Early 50s.
Marital Status: Divorced. Has a daughter.
Background: Political consultant, concert pianist.
Style: Smooth, cunning, passionate. Investigated by the Department of Justice for vote buying. Deleted a critical voicemail sent to his boss’ estranged wife by her love interest.
General Health: Fit, but high-strung and emotionally repressed.
Quote: “I don’t have many enemies in life — I get along with Republicans, Protestants, Catholics, even a few reporters. But the one thing I hate, is amateurs.”
Amy Brookheimer (HBO’s Veep)
Job: Chief of staff to vice-president Selina Meyer.
Marital Status: Single.
Background: Capital Hill staffer.
Style: Generally even keeled, but with flashes of insecurity and frustration. Has mastered the art of managing a difficult, often irrational boss with a smile.
General Health: Generally stressed-out, poor sleeping habits, potty mouth.
Quote: “No, she cannot fall asleep on live TV. Not on C-Span. The irony would be too huge.”
Leo McGarry — deceased (NBC’s The West Wing)
Job: Chief of Staff to president Josiah Bartlett.
Age: 55 when he began the job.
Marital Status: Divorced; has a daughter.
Background: Former air force pilot and labour secretary; made his millions in defence industry.
Style: Generally calm and loyal, not a yes man, won’t suffer fools. Excellent reputation.
General Health: Recovering alcoholic and barbiturates addict, workaholic. Died of massive heart attack.
Quote: “I’ve got a cap gains tax cut tacked on to an appropriations bill, two Bronze Age civilizations threatening to blow each other up over some goats and a major ally that’s gonna be in the lobby leafing through dog-eared copies of Congressional Quarterly while the president is singing Kumbaya! I want the president back here now.”