Worst Week in Washington

Who had the worst week in Washington? Pete Rouse.

By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Replacing Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff is kind of like being the next shooting guard for the L.A. Lakers after Kobe Bryant retires. Both men are more feared than loved (sorry, Kobe!), but each casts a very big shadow in his profession.

Into Rahm's shadow (or out of it?) steps Pete Rouse, a man who has cut one of the lowest profiles of any top White House aide in recent memory. Rouse allies -- and there are lots of them in the inner political circles of Washington -- insist that his reputation (or lack thereof) makes him a perfect fit for a West Wing filled with semi-celebrity staffers.

Rouse may be the right temperamental fit for a White House in transition -- several other top aides are expected to leave 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. by year's end -- but he takes the top job at a moment fraught with political peril for President Obama.

In just over a month, congressional Democrats will almost certainly lose a significant number of seats in the midterm elections, a defeat that will be laid at the feet of the White House just as Obama begins his reelection campaign in earnest. A more closely divided Congress is likely to make passage of any major initiatives over the next two years extremely difficult, tying Rouse's hands even before he really gets underway.

And, if those hurdles aren't high enough, Rouse is only the interim chief of staff at the moment. Like a substitute teacher, it's hard for an interim anything to bring order to chaos.

Pete Rouse, for stepping into the toughest job in government at one of the toughest times imaginable, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

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