Obama Taps Longtime Aide Rouse To Replace Rahm

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel resigned his post Friday to seek the Chicago mayor's office. President Obama named Pete Rouse as interim chief.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel got a warm sendoff today from President Obama.�Emanuel is leaving the White House to run for mayor of Chicago, a job that he has long wanted.�To replace him, the President is tapping veteran advisor Pete Rouse, at least temporarily.

As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, Mr. Obama is replacing one consummate Washington insider with another.

SCOTT HORSLEY: It was discretely billed as a personnel announcement. But it was clear from the high-profile crowd of Cabinet secretaries and others filling the White House East Room this was no ordinary staff change.�Rahm Emanuel, the second most powerful man in the White House was stepping down. And Mr. Obama wanted to say a proper goodbye.�

President BARACK OBAMA: Welcome to the least suspenseful announcement of all time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORSLEY: Emanuel's departure to run for mayor of Chicago had been rumored for weeks, ever since longtime Mayor Richard Daley announced he would not seek re-election.�Mr. Obama called Emanuel extraordinarily qualified for the Chicago job, but said he's sorry to lose a trusted advisor.�When Mr. Obama was elected president two years ago, Emanuel was one of the first people he hired.�

Pres. OBAMA: I knew that I needed somebody at my side who I could count on day and night to help get the job done. In my mind, there was no candidate for the job of chief of staff who would meet the bill as well as Rahm Emanuel.

HORSLEY: At the time, Emanuel was a powerful Congressman with a chance at becoming House speaker one day.�But Mr. Obama said he didn't give Emanuel the option of turning down the White House job.�After almost two years of putting his own political ambitions on hold, Emanuel says he's looking forward to returning to his hometown.

Mr. RAHM EMMANUEL (Chief of Staff, White House): These are unprecedented and great times in Chicago, Mr. President.�The Chicago Bears are 3-and-zero.�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Pres. OBAMA: Unbelievable.

HORSLEY: To fill the chief of staff's job, at least temporarily, Mr. Obama is naming long-time advisor Pete Rouse, who already occupies the office directly across from Emanuel's.�Aides say Rouse, who's worked for Mr. Obama since his Senate days, will provide continuity in the short term. When it comes to personal style, though, he and Emanuel could not be more different.�

Emanuel is brash, profane, and larger than life. He once famously sent a dead fish to a pollster who'd run afoul of him.�Rouse, on the other hand, avoids the limelight.�Mr. Obama joked he's never met a microphone or a TV camera that he likes.��

Rouse has deep ties on Capitol Hill, where he once worked for Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.� As one of three senior advisors in the Obama Administration, he handles many of the tough assignments no one else wants.

Pres. OBAMA: There is a saying around the White House. Let's let Pete fix it.�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Pres. OBAMA: And he does.�Pete's known as a skillful problem solver. And the good news for him is that we have plenty of problems to solve.

HORSLEY: The president's approval ratings are hovering in the 40s, and congressional Democrats are in danger of losing their majorities in November.�There are precedents in which a new chief of staff helps give a second wind to a troubled administration. Howard Baker did so for Ronald Reagan.�Leon Panetta did so for Bill Clinton.�

Aides say it will probably be several months before Mr. Obama decides on a permanent chief of staff.�Meanwhile, Rahm Emanuel is planning a listening tour with Chicago voters.�Another Chicagoan on the White House staff jokingly presented Emanuel with a going-away present today: a dead fish.�

Scott Horsley, NPR news, the White House.

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