Team of Vipers
Cliff Sims
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
Chapter 15

Seemingly, it was not only Sims who was experiencing bad times at the White House. Against popular belief, that working for the President is a luxurious job, working at the White House is complex and not as easy as some people choose to believe: “Working in the West Wing had been the most trying professional experience of my life as well—by far. But I was struck by the disdain he seemed to harbor for both the extraordinary honor he had been given and even for the President himself. It also was clear despite his bravado that he did care what people wrote about him—who wouldn’t?” Here, Sims describes the challenges that people face as they worked in the White House. It is a job which the faint-hearted would resign from immediately upon reporting to work. However, Sims states that the adherence to their core values kept them going: “1. We are people of character. 2. We never settle for anything less than excellence. 3. We deliver a consistent experience. 4. We take extreme ownership of our responsibilities. 5. We always present a unified front. 6. We put our agendas aside, because the President’s agenda is the only one that matters. 7. We are humbled by our small role in shaping the course of history. 8. We never quit.” The last core value of never quitting perhaps was the glue that held him at work. Having seen some of his closest allies departing, perhaps it would have been wise for Sims to quit. He did not.

At a time when Sims thought that he was soaring to great heights in the administration, it did not occur to him that the political power games in the White House was not targeting him. He recounts that, “I had ruffled some feathers by carving out such a large role for myself in the tax reform push, but I was still just a comms staffer who wasn’t threatening to move too far into other people’s territory. Either the OPL job or the NEC job would be different. I would have a bigger title to match my standing with the President—more latitude to spread my wings. So when word got around that I was in consideration for these jobs, the knives came out for me.” Sims indicates that he was a victim of his own success, and had growing influence over the President.

Having noticed that the heat from the White House was too much and that he had become a target of very many people, Sims took the most realistic option available for him: resign. He drafted a short resignation letter, which marked the end of Sims’ tenure at the White House. He stated in the resignation that “Serving the President in the White House for the past 15 months has been an extraordinary privilege. I will cherish the time I have been honored to spend working alongside the team here. However, today I have been presented with another opportunity to serve that I feel I must pursue. Therefore, it is incumbent upon me to submit my resignation from the White House, with a heavy heart. I will, of course, assist in any way I can to ensure a smooth transition. Respectfully, Cliff Sims.”


Cliff Sims’ brief stay at the White House was ended abruptly by the political power games at the White House. Anybody who appeared to be getting close to the President was cut down to size. Due to the achievement he had realized when he was working in the tax reforms team, Sims found himself being targeted by the senior officials. Ultimately, the only logical course of action was to take his leave.

A divided house is not capable of standing together. Yet, the truth is that the White House was divided a long way back, where it was constructed on a weak fabric. Besides, the lack of leadership from the President made it very difficult to achieve the desired results.

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