Year Zero

The Five-Year Presidency

Buy the Book: AmazonUniversity of Virginia Press
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Release Date: January 23, 2024
Pages: 280
ISBN13: 978-0813951133


Building an effective White House is critical to its success—and to democracy in the United States.

Designing, planning for and operating a White House has never been more important given the challenges the nation faces. Liddell offers a strategic approach on how to build an effective and successful presidency. He demonstrates persuasively that action must be early, comprehensive and visible-starting in what he calls Year Zero, the year before governing. His book lays out the concrete steps and recommendations that would significantly improve how the White House should function, and through that trust in one of our fundamental institutions.



“Few Americans realize how vulnerable our country is during presidential transitions. All Americans owe Chris Liddell a debt of gratitude for his unsung heroics during the 2020 transition – the most dangerous in modern history. Now, in Year Zero, Liddell offers something equally important: a practical roadmap for creating a more effective government by improving the structures and processes of the White House – above all by smart early planning. Mandatory reading for the leadership of every presidential campaign, and for everyone who cares about the efficacy of American government.”
—Josh Bolten, former White House chief of staff (G. W. Bush)

“Compelling, constructive, and oh-so timely, Year Zero is a welcome guide to the ‘how’ of an effective presidential transition. Chris Liddell speaks with rare authority, drawing on his high-level White House experience, his oversight of the 2020 presidential transition, and his years of Fortune 50 executive leadership, to make the case for intensive preparation for the most critical of handovers of power. If you care about reinvigorating trust in our democracy, read this book!”
—Mack McLarty, former White House chief of staff (Clinton)

“Drawing on wisdom earned from decades navigating the halls of power, Liddell's Year Zero is a definitive nonpartisan playbook for presidential success. Focusing on the critical ‘how’ rather than ‘what’ or ‘who,’ this must-read contribution offers candidates on both sides of the aisle a blueprint for running an effective White House that is ready to govern with impact after the votes are counted.”
—Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group

“A veteran of three presidential transitions—and in my view one of the key people who ensured that the Trump White House delivered results as well as tweets—Chris Liddell has written a book that every would-be president must read and every likely voter should read. Why, he asks, do we manage the transition from one administration to another so hastily, in a manner wholly unsuited to the immense task of running the huge, complex and powerful U.S. government? It’s pure superstition to condemn a presidential candidate for “measuring the drapes” before Election Day, argues Liddell. On the contrary, anyone seriously aspiring to be our commander-in-chief needs to start preparing for power a full 365 days before the results come in. Year Zero is not only a superb guide to the way the modern presidency works—or doesn’t work. It’s also a compelling manifesto for modernizing presidential transitions.”
—Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford

“Liddell draws upon his remarkable experiences in three presidential transitions to lay out, in clear prose and simple diagrams, the exact logic of how to run a presidential transition – including (critically) how to organize, staff, and operate a modern White House. Scrupulously non-partisan, it is a handbook teaching the people tasked with a transition and then running a White House, how to do it. I have little doubt that this book will become the Bible of presidential transitions, required reading and re-reading in every serious presidential campaign and in every White House for the foreseeable future.”
—Charles M. Cameron, Princeton University

“Chris Liddell argues compellingly that it takes a full year to prepare adequately to become president. Year Zero presents a comprehensive road map to the plans, policies, and personnel needed to run a successful transition. The wise, nonpartisan, counsel [sic] in this book comes from a professional who has worked on all sides of presidential transitions and who orchestrated, from the inside, the most challenging transition in the history of the presidency. All serious candidates for the presidency should insist that their transition teams read this book carefully.”
—James P. Pfiffner, George Mason University

“A well-organized transition is often the key to a successful presidency. In Year Zero, Christopher Liddell has given us a useful roadmap to an effective transition. Future presidents will be wise to follow his advice.”
—George C. Edwards III, Texas A&M University

Year Zero presents a bold yet entirely logical and convincing approach to managing presidential transitions. Rather than criticize candidates for being presumptuous (“measuring the drapes”), Liddell insists that presidential candidates create a transition team as soon as they announce their candidacy. The sheer size and complexity of the modern presidency require incoming presidents to arrive at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue fully prepared to govern. Liddell’s ringside seat on history (having served on the Romney transition team and both of the Trump transitions) legitimize his plea for early planning. Who would know better? Year Zero is a must-read for every candidate, campaign staff member and citizen who cares about the future of American democracy.”
—Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, The Brookings Institution

“Against all odds, during the perilous final days of the Trump White House, Chris Liddell helped preserve American democracy by ensuring that the wheels of the presidential transition kept turning. In Year Zero, he brings his White House experience and corporate savvy to bear on the question: When and how should planning for a presidency begin? The answer, contrary to popular misconception, is not after the election but at least a full year before. This is a must-read for every outgoing and incoming administration.”
—Chris Whipple, New York Times bestselling author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency