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A Glimpse at Life in the White House

Former presidential aide provides reality check on Washington's inner workings.

Former White House Official, Mark Lindsay during his speech as part of a Rappaport Center program. Photo by: Danielle Rivard  Photograph by Danielle Rivard

Mark Lindsay, former assistant to President Bill Clinton for the Office of Management and Administration, referred to himself as “the Mayor of the White House” during a presentation hosted by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy on February 26.

Lindsay, who worked as a White House official under both Presidents Clinton and Barack Obama, unveiled eyebrow-raising details about what it’s like to work in the executive mansion, touching on administration transitions, the dichotomy of politics and law, and oversight of the Executive Office.

During the Clinton administration, Lindsay managed a budget in excess of $1 billion and a staff of 3,500 people. His managerial jurisdiction at the White House included the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Administration, the White House Military Office, the White House Communications Agency, the Medical Unit, and Camp David.

“It’s the best White House job by far that you’ve never heard of,” Lindsay said of his various duties. He met with the President in senior staff meetings most mornings, managed all presidential travel, domestic and international, and testified before numerous Congressional committees.

Lindsay recounted that prior to President Clinton creating a transition team to help future presidential administrations, White House offices had always been stripped at the end of each presidential tenure, leaving nothing behind, not a paperclip, pad, or pen, Lindsay said. “Each new administration had to start from scratch.” At President Clinton’s direction, Lindsay created a transition team, comprised of other senior officials, including the FBI director and the director of human resources for the White House.

Lindsay also served as operational lead for the White House’s 2001 transition from President Clinton to President George W. Bush, and then was a member of President Barack Obama’s transition team from the Bush administration.

Lindsay pointed to the distinction between policy and politics in Washington, suggesting that 99.9 percent of policies stay the same from administration to administration, regardless of political party. Politics, on the other hand, he said, draws a great deal of attention to the small percentage of things that are being done differently.

Still, he favors due diligence. “Aggressive oversight of the executive office is a great thing. It’s really important,” Lindsay concluded. “Remember you’re lawyers first. You will serve the President better if you remember that.”

Lindsay currently works as a consultant with the Livingston Group in Washington, DC.

Photo: Mark Lindsay speaks with law students after his Rappaport presentation.