- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2010

While Rahm Emanuel, the outgoing White House chief of staff, choked up and joked about his reputation for foul language, Peter Rouse, the man who is replacing him, stood silently to the side.

President Obama bid farewell to Mr. Emanuel and tapped Mr. Rouse as interim successor in an unusual East Room ceremony Friday, and the difference between the two men was stark.

“Obviously these two gentlemen have slightly different styles,” Mr. Obama told White House staffers in the audience. “I mentioned, for example — this was a couple of years ago — I pointed out that Rahm when he was a kid had lost part of his finger in an accident, and it was his middle finger, so it rendered him mute for a while. Pete has never seen a microphone or a TV camera that he likes.”

Indeed, in his 20 months as Mr. Obama’s top aide, Mr. Emanuel has used his high-intensity, foul-mouthed persona to push through the president’s marquee legislative priorities, whereas the senior adviser Mr. Rouse has remained invisible to the public, working methodically behind the scenes.

But the announcement was as much a roast and pat on the back as it was an opportunity for Mr. Emanuel to set in motion his widely expected campaign for Chicago mayor. Though the Democrat has yet to announce his candidacy, it was all but clear from his vows to continue public service and return to the Windy City that he intends to throw his hat into the ring.

“I’m excited to be heading home to Chicago, which as you know very well, Mr. President, is the greatest city in the greatest country in the world. I’m energized by the prospect of new challenges and eager to see what I can do to make our hometown even greater,” Mr. Emanuel said.

The White House will face a challenge in deciding who will permanently replace the hard-charging Hill veteran. Like outgoing economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers, Mr. Emanuel was the target of heavy criticism from activists on the left, who argued he has been too pragmatic and compromising on policy.

But choosing a successor with a more progressive track record could be a tough sell when, by all accounts, there will be many more Republicans on Capitol Hill after November’s elections — if not at least one GOP-controlled chamber.
In the meantime, in Mr. Rouse the president has chose an interim chief of staff with three decades of political experience, including stints as chief of staff for former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle and then-Sen. Obama.

Republicans wasted no time in taking aim at the new aide, with the Republican National Committee labeling him “the ultimate D.C. insider” and highlighting Mr. Obama’s decision to stick with someone from his inner circle rather than bring new blood to the post.

Mr. Rouse’s first challenge will be overseeing a White House in campaign mode ahead of November’s elections, and then preparing for a lame duck session of Congress in which Democrats will be hard-pressed to make good on Mr. Obama’s vow to preserve tax cuts for most Americans while raising them on high-income earners.

Looking ahead, he’ll also have to lay the groundwork for increased cooperation with Republicans, who are poised to make significant gains at the polls in November.