Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mastromonaco is the author of Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House.

From the transcript of her interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us my guest is Alyssa Mastromonaco. Her new memoir "Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?" is about working for President Obama as director of scheduling and advance at the White House from 2009 to 2011 and then as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for operations in the White House from 2011 to 2014. She's now an executive at A & E networks and a contributing editor at Marie Claire.

So another thing that you had to do as deputy chief of staff is work with agencies like the Department of Defense to run classified construction projects and maintain the continuity of government exercises, exercises so that if there's a nuclear attack or if Washington floods or the president is incapacitated, everyone knows what to do.


GROSS: Just mentally, emotionally, what was it like for you to be in charge of planning for the absolute worst?

MASTROMONACO: Oddly, it was actually very reassuring when you sit down with the folks who, again, from administration to administration keep this process alive and have this information. You know, you sit down, and they brief you. And you're like, oh, wow, if something happens, actually everybody does know what to do. And so I found it - on the one hand, it's very heady. You're like I can't believe that I'm seeing what would happen if a nuclear missile was launched from X and how long it would take to get here and what happens.

But it is comforting to see that these processes are pretty well socialized. Everybody knows them. You know, the 25th Amendment has been one of the funnier things that happens is you obviously notify the speaker of the House and the majority leader, minority leaders in Congress. And we realized that the - when we actually ran the exercise that all of the fax numbers were wrong because people didn't really use faxes anymore. So that was - we're like, oh, we should get new fax numbers. And you sort of do what's called validating the exercise every couple of years if you haven't used it in real time. You sit down, and you do what's called an exercise. And you run through all the steps to make sure nothing's changed, the fax numbers are still there and that the documents are still valid and don't need to be updated.

GROSS: Can you tell us what your role was supposed to be in case of the worst, like, where you would be and what your job would be?

MASTROMONACO: If - I can't really talk about what my job would be - but in both - in a scenario of the president being incapacitated, say, he needed to have surgery, I sort of ran the process, the many steps of the 25th Amendment and sort of bringing that to life. And then the - in, like, worst case scenario, if the president had to go some place, I would have been part of the crew that was evacuated with him.

GROSS: What was the closest you got to having to enact one of those plans?

MASTROMONACO: Goodness. Oh, I would say it was when the president had his...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue