In a warm, emotional address in the East Room of the White House on Friday, President Obama announced the departure of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who is relocating to Chicago in advance of a presumed bid to run for mayor
. In his place, the president named senior adviser Pete Rouse
, who will act as interim chief of staff until a permanent replacement is found -- though the administration is not ruling out the possibility that Rouse could be that person.
had been discussed in Washington circles for weeks now, following the announcement that longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley would not seek re-election
. The president himself called it the "least suspenseful announcement of all time."
Obama characterized Emanuel's departure "bittersweet" and was full of praise for his outgoing chief of staff, saying he was an "incomparable leader . . . who we will miss very much," a man with "an unmatched level of energy, enthusiasm and commitment."
Following the president's remarks, Emanuel thanked the president for his "friendship" and the "opportunity to serve" his country. Emanuel's voice softened and he became somewhat choked up as he discussed the legacy of the American dream, and his own family's pursuit of it. He praised Obama for having "guts" in making "tough decisions" to save the country from economic freefall.
From the pomp and circumstance accorded his departure, it is clear that the president considers the loss of Emanuel significant. (Other senior staff members, including outgoing Budget Director Peter Orzsag
, and senior economic advisers Christina Rohmer
and Larry Summers
, were not accorded presidential remarks when they announced their departure).
The president commented on the closeness of their relationship, saying, "For two years I have begun my workday with Rahm. And for two years, I have ended my day with Rahm."
But the president made clear his confidence in Emanuel's replacement. "There's a saying we have around the White House," said the president. " 'Let's let Pete fix it.' " He went on to say that Rouse is a "skillful problem solver -- and the good news is that we have plenty of problems to solve."
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pointed out the unique relationship that Obama shares with Rouse, saying: "There's a complete loyalty and trust with somebody like Pete. Pete's strategic sense has played a big part of the direction of virtually every big decision that's made inside of this White House."
Rouse, a soft-spoken mediator, will stand in sharp contrast to Emanuel, who was known for his aggressive, hands-on management style. A force of nature inside the West Wing who stood out for his controversial outbursts
and a brash take-no-prisoners attitude
, Emanuel was also praised for muscling through significant legislative accomplishments, including the health care reform bill and the federal government's stimulus plan.
According to the Washington Post
, Rouse is a 64-year-old unmarried cat lover who lives in Northwest Washington and is known for being a "fixer" -- a behind-the-scenes manager who prefers mediation over confrontation. President Obama has described Rouse as "ego-free." With his extensive experience in the Senate, where he served as an aide to Majority Leader Tom Daschle for nearly 20 years, Rouse is known affectionately as the "101st senator
This year's midterm elections are likely to bring a change in the partisan power dynamic in Washington -- Rouse will presumably have his hands full as the White House charts its navigation through these new waters.