Stick to the bromance, Barack! Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s deputy chief of staff dishes on his abysmal match-making skills and Bernie Sanders
She used to be a woman in the White House. Now she’s a woman against this White House.
As a longtime aide to Barack Obama who became his deputy chief of staff, Alyssa Mastromonaco spent most of her 30s working at either Capitol Hill or the White House. A key advisor to President Obama and manager of the busiest schedule in America, she also installed the White House’s first tampon dispenser. (She says that going on a drug store run would take the better part of an hour because of the security checks involved in getting back.)
That’s why Mastromonaco had mixed emotions when picketing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March. “It was not my first choice,” the 41-year-old political operative says drily.
Like many others on her side of the political spectrum, the author of “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” – her part political memoir, part primer for millennial women in government, out today – had expected Hillary Clinton to be elected commander-in-chief. Mastromonaco wrote most of the book last summer, but redid the conclusion after Donald Trump’s election. “I thought that many women were disillusioned but politics is a pendulum, you have to get up and march on,” she says.
Unsurprisingly, Mastromonaco is a trenchant critic of President Trump and is wary of the notion that his Manhattan-raised daughter Ivanka is some sort of liberal Trump Card. “We can’t look to Ivanka Trump to be a protector,” she tells Moneyish. “There are stories about her tempering her father and while I’m sure he listens to her, you can’t dip in now and then [after] five crazy things happen.”
She does hope, however, that Trump will take steps to make life easier for women in the West Wing. “Being respectful that people have an external existence” helps, says Mastromonaco, who says she was personally wedded to the job. Alongside the tampon dispenser, Trump can also build off the lactation rooms that she says were placed by senior Obama aides Valerie Jarrett and Stephanie Cutter. (One possible Trump ally is Joe Hagin, Trump’s deputy chief of staff, who she calls “very generous and nice.”)
Now a senior exec at A&E Networks, Mastromonaco began her political career interning in Bernie Sanders’ Vermont office—“Everyone wore Birkenstocks!”—but became a fervent cheerleader for Clinton last year. “Bernie is really f—king smart and were it not for him, enthusiasm would be lower,” she says. “But it’s hard for a 75-year-old to be the future.”
Her affection for Obama is clear. Though her former boss tried and failed to set up the now-married Mastromonaco with “Reservoir Dogs” producer Lawrence Bender, POTUS can mostly do no wrong in her book. “He’s not a terrible matchmaker!” she says, adding that Obama played Cupid to remind his single staff that they should have a life beyond the White House. That said, unlike famous Senate matchmaker Chuck Schumer, she can’t think of anyone Obama successfully set up.
Mastromonaco last spoke to Obama just before he left office, and is working on his upcoming presidential library in Chicago. She also insists Obama’s not organizing some deep-state “junta” and there’s no secret group text between the former POTUS and his pals.
Mastromonaco worked at Vice before A&E and along the way has developed a thick skin as a young woman in power. Asked about Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ complaints about young Obama aides micro-managing him, she says: “The president obviously thought we were capable, so 100% act like you belong.”
That said, “if I were Bob Gates, I’d be annoyed too.”
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