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Are Rahm Emanuel and Pete Rouse Really Opposites?

With President Obama set to say goodbye to his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in less than an hour’s time, the media is full of reports and profiles concerning his presumed successor, Senior Advisor Pete Rouse.

The Washington Post, for one, has a lengthy profile that sets up a marked contrast, no doubt aided by a White House looking to present a noticeable sign of change, between the hard charging Emanuel and the conciliatory, “ego-free” Rouse:

Few people outside Washington, and not many inside, have heard the name Pete Rouse. The man President Obama will name as his interim White House chief of staff on Friday is a quiet political player who avoids the spotlight. He does not suit up for the Sunday talk shows; there are no stories about him reducing staff members to tears for their slip-ups.

He is in many ways the opposite of Rahm Emanuel, the brash chief of staff he will replace.

While Emanuel spent nearly two years as a prominent public face of the Obama administration, Rouse sat just around the corner in the West Wing, fixing problems. A trusted adviser dating back to Obama’s first days in the Senate, Rouse helped guide Obama’s Washington rise. Obama once described Rouse as “completely ego-free.”

But the Post’s own Ezra Klein notes, in fact, that lots of people in Washington have heard of Mr. Rouse. Quoting from an old profile he helped author, Klein writes:

Often called “the 101st Senator,” Rouse, an understated 62-year-old with 30-odd years of Capitol Hill experience, had been Tom Daschle’s powerful chief of staff. When Daschle was ejected from the Senate, he hoped Rouse would continue to work with him in the private sector. But Rouse received an expected call from Cassandra Butts, the policy director on Dick Gephardt’s 2004 presidential campaign and an old law school chum of Obama’s. Butts asked Rouse to meet with the newly elected Obama. Grudgingly, Rouse had lunch with the young senator. Obama asked him to sign on as chief of staff–a demotion of sorts, dropping Rouse from the office of the most powerful Senate Democrat to that of the most junior member of the body. Rouse politely declined. Obama kept asking. Eventually, Rouse accepted.

All of which seems to indicate that while he may not plan to bash as many heads as Rahm, his approach to dealing with Congress will likely be quite similar:

The Obama administration has often been criticized for adopting an overly deferential approach to Congress, but it’s staffed by longtime congressional hands who strongly believe that this is the right approach to take to Congress if you actually want to get anything done in it. Rouse’s ascension suggests that little is likely to change in that regard.

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