White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel resigned on Friday, as was widely expected, so he could pursue his lifelong dream of becoming Mayor of Chicago, USA Today reports. On the short-list to replace him was little known White House insider and Senior Advisor Pete Rouse, a far less polarizing figure than Emanuel, but also a man who could represent a change of pace within the complex Obama Administration’s inner circle. Rouse was appointed to the position on an interim basis Friday, and is expected to take a more low-key role than his aggressively colorful predecessor.
Rouse, 64, is a virtual unknown outside of political circles and the insular politics of the Senate, where he is best known for having been former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s chief of staff. Well-liked and with a loyal cadre of friends and allies on the Hill and in the White House, he may prove to be less of a brusque mover of the Obama agenda than Emmanuel and more of a skilled negotiator — skills likely to be needed post-election.
President Obama has worked with Rouse since 2005, having been recommended by Daschle who also has the ear to the presidency. It’s been noted in a recent Washington Post article that President Obama has kept a very tight group of four or five close advisers by his side, and the exit of Emanuel represents a serious breach of his preferred advisory group; Emanuel and advisor David Axelrod are both out, as Axelrod exits to prepare the President’s 2012 re-election campaign. That just leaves Valerie Jarrett, press secretary Robert Gibbs and Vice President Biden.
The particular challenge for any new Chief of Staff, as it is for any powerful White House figure, will be to make sure his voice rises above the din of opposing viewpoints, in particular those who oppose the view of the Chief of Staff. While some people in this role can be considered powerful, President George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card was considered less so, despite having an essentially “gate keeper” role; advisors like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney were viewed as having far more influence during Card’s tenure.
Rouse’s background may be helpful to President Obama as he tries to work with a potentially hostile opposition or, more likely still, Democratic-held Senate after the mid-terms. If the Democrats retain the majority, it will be a greatly diminished majority, conventional wisdom would suggest, and that will make it tougher for the President to see his legislative goals bear fruit. Already,the Dont’ Ask Don’t Tell repeal bill has died a surprise death in the Senate, as moderate Democrats appear to have cold feet just before the election.
Richard Wolf, “Obama top staffer Pete Rouse hailed as ‘ultimate pragmatist'” USA Today
Anne E. Kornblut and Scott Wilson, “Obama’s inner circle about to break open” Washington Post