Obama names low-key insider Pete Rouse as chief of staff
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama turned to low-key insider Pete Rouse on Friday to replace high-profile chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in a prelude to a wider staff shake-up expected at the White House.
Obama named Rouse, a veteran Capitol Hill operator, to take over at least on an interim basis from Emanuel, 50, who announced his resignation as Obama's top aide to launch a campaign for Chicago mayor.
More turnover is expected with the November 2 congressional elections presenting a traditional period for aides, exhausted from long days over the past two years, to move on.
Obama is likely to face a more hostile Congress next year with Republican gains expected in the elections, and that could be a factor in how he reshapes his team. The changes could signal a fresh start as he tries to boost his weak poll numbers and prepare for his 2012 re-election campaign.
Rouse, 64, is one of Obama's longest-serving aides, working for him since Obama was a senator from Illinois. He was previously chief of staff to Democrat Tom Daschle when he was a senator, so influential that he was sometimes called "the 101st senator."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Rouse has "always put the organization ahead of himself" and has Obama's complete trust. He said Rouse would serve at least for several months and would be on the short list to hold the job longer.
Rouse is a relatively quiet operator compared to Emanuel, a former congressman from Illinois who is famous for his colorful language.
"Obviously these two men have slightly different styles," Obama joked. "Pete has never seen a microphone or a TV camera that he likes."
Obama gave star treatment to Emanuel, who helped shepherd through the Congress Obama's $814 billion stimulus and his overhauls of U.S. healthcare and financial regulations.
Republicans will try to repeal Obama's healthcare reform and bring in spending cuts if they do well at the elections.
"I'm energized by the prospect of new challenges and eager to see what I can do to make our home town even greater," Emanuel said in an emotional speech in which he choked up talking about his parents.
Obama used the expansive White House East Room for the ceremony, essentially giving Emanuel huge media attention as he leaves to seek to become mayor of the Midwestern city they both call home.
Obama said Emanuel was leaving to "explore other opportunities" and, without mentioning the Chicago race, effectively endorsed him by saying he was taking on "a new challenge for which he is extraordinarily well qualified."
"Rahm has exceeded all of my expectations," he said.
Emanuel, who once sent a dead fish to a pollster who had made him angry, was given the inevitable goodbye gift at the morning White House senior staff meeting -- a dead Asian carp wrapped in newsprint from the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.
The prankster who presented it to him was senior economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.
"I know that I pushed you all very hard. But I did it in service to the president and I believe that our whole country is better off for it," Emanuel told them.
Gibbs said of the dead fish prank: "In Chicago, this is how friends say goodbye."
Emanuel, who cut his political teeth as a senior aide in Bill Clinton's White House in the 1990s, has made no secret of his interest in the mayoral bid.
Emanuel's path to being elected mayor in the mud-slinging world of Chicago politics is not an easy one. He must gather 12,500 signatures to qualify as a candidate by November 22. A number of other challengers from Emanuel's Democratic Party are also expected to run.
"There's no obvious favorite in the race," said Michael Mezey, a political analyst at DePaul University in Chicago.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Ross Colvin in Washington and Andrew Stern in Chicago; editing by Vicki Allen)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this