If the nicknames mark Bush’s informal side, he has a tough, formal, disciplined side as well. Soon after taking office, he imposed a set of White House rules. The contrast with the Clinton years could not have been more stark. Chief of Staff Card laid them out:
Attire: suit and tie required. Gone was the informal Clinton dress code. Aides often wore blue jeans and T-shirts to meetings, even in the Oval Office. Bush insisted that men wear jackets and ties at all times in the Oval Office. Women were required to wear business attire. Card reported he hadn’t seen the president in the Oval Office without a suit and tie. Clinton, by contrast, was often observed wandering around the White House in his jogging clothes (sweats and sneakers).
Brevity is a must. Bush limited briefing papers to a page—two at most. Clinton read voraciously. Bush insisted that aides boil issues down to their core. “He doesn’t like memos that state the obvious,” Card explained.
Be punctual. Bush is ruthless in starting—and stopping—meetings. “The president begins meetings on time and ends them on time,” Card said curtly. During the 7:00 a.m. senior staff meetings, he has stopped aides in mid-sentence at precisely 7:58 a.m. so he can join the president’s 8:00 a.m. intelligence briefing. The previous administration, by contrast, ran by what aides and reporters jokingly referred to as “Clinton standard time.” Clinton would allow freewheeling meetings to linger long past their allotted time, and public events might not begin until hours after their scheduled start.
Treat everyone with respect. Card reminded everyone “that we are just staffers, and no more important than anyone working at HHS or HUD or the Department of Transportation—or the people opening the mail.” Bush told staffers he expected them to return each other’s phone calls promptly, a sharp contrast with the Clinton years, when unanswered phone messages often littered people’s desks.
Develop healthy work habits. Bush sharply told his staffers not to be workaholics. The president customarily leaves the office by 6:30 p.m. He expects staffers to spend time with their families, and he rarely interrupts their personal time with evening phone calls. Bush has kept to his routine. Bill Clinton, in contrast, was a night-person president. He often launched a second workday after dinner, spending hours on the phone, late into the night, talking with aides and advisers.