Page 2 of 2   <      

Pete Rouse, who will replace Emanuel as chief of staff, is known as 'fixer'

President Obama names adviser Pete Rouse to replace Rahm Emanuel as WhIte House chief of staff on an interim basis.

The president has repeatedly turned to Rouse as a fixer since they began working together six years ago.

When Obama was elected to the Senate, he asked Rouse to be his chief of staff. By then, Rouse was a legend on Capitol Hill. A longtime and powerful aide to Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who had just been defeated, Rouse was known as the "101st senator." He had close relationships with senators and often helped to manage tricky negotiations.

Rouse wrote a strategic plan for Obama to follow in the Senate. Two years later, as Obama was preparing to run for president, he came up with a similar plan. As the 2008 campaign drew to a close, Rouse once again handed Obama a thick black binder, this time with ideas for setting up the White House if he won.

It was Rouse who arranged the presidential transition, hiring John Podesta to run it.

Over the past 20 months, Rouse has been handed a string of messy problems and told to cut across bureaucratic lines to fix them. In late 2009, Obama asked him to grapple with the administration's policy for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after it became clear that the president would miss his self-imposed deadline to close the prison there. Although the facility has not been closed, officials credit Rouse with getting the process under control and coming up with an alternate site in Illinois.

More recently, Rouse helped create the administration's new consumer protection bureau, navigating competing internal factions (including between Emanuel and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett) to make Elizabeth Warren a senior adviser to the bureau.

On a personal level, colleagues describe Rouse as a calming presence, someone who is an "honest broker" and treats lower-level staff members well. After Daschle lost, one adviser recalls, Rouse spent weeks helping campaign aides find new jobs.

Rouse is single and famously fond of the Maine Coon cats he keeps as pets. The voicemail greeting on his cellphone was recorded by Emanuel's children. Colleagues affectionately describe Rouse as obsessively devoted to work, one trait that he and Emanuel share.

But some insiders question whether Rouse will be forceful enough to keep the rival power centers in the West Wing in check. Where Emanuel had his own base and was in many ways the dominant generator of ideas within the White House, Rouse is considered more of an arbitrator. He is also viewed as unthreatening by other senior members of the staff.

That seems to be part of his appeal to the president. "I look for real smart people, people who place a premium on getting the job done, as opposed to getting credit," Obama said in a 2008 interview. "My chief of staff in the Senate, Pete Rouse, Tom Daschle's old chief of staff, is as well-connected, and as well-known and as popular and as smart and as savvy a person as there is on Capitol Hill. But is completely ego-free."

Carol Browner, the president's energy and environmental adviser, said Thursday: "In a place like this, people sometimes disagree. And he can work through those situations and get to agreement."

In the East Room announcement Friday, Obama is expected to thank Emanuel for his two-year tenure. It will not be a fond farewell for everyone in the Democratic Party. Some liberals are already bidding him good riddance after what they consider too much compromise and too little effort on behalf of progressive causes.

Friends of Emanuel's said he is not troubled by criticism of the job he has done. He views liberals' anger "as the price you pay for making decisions," said a close friend.

Internally, aides said Emanuel will be difficult to follow, if for no other reason than he "pushed everyone," one senior adviser said. Asked what he will best be remembered for, the aide answered: "The sheer force of will to get things done."

Staff writers Karen Tumulty, Shailagh Murray, Scott Wilson and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company