No one associates Pete Rouse with dead fishes. Cats ... he has a few.
A lot of the news coverage has focused on how he's different than outgoing Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. (Emanuel, in tears, admitted he rode herd on the staff at his goodbye senior staff conclave this morning, but only because he cared so much.)
But what will Rouse, 64, bring?
The truth is that many senior White House staffers, mid-level White House staffers and junior aides were nervous when Rahm Emanuel was announced as chief of staff. They wondered whether his modus operandi fit well with the no-drama Obama dictum. They wondered whether the office atmosphere would be friendly. They wondered whether Rahm would enable and nurture Obama's political instincts at the expense of his principles.
Different staffers have different answers.
But those who have been with Obama the longest are very excited. Rouse is brilliant, has a policy compass that resembles Obama's in the Senate, and seems genuinely concerned for how staffers adjust to the crucible of the institution. He recently has spent time taking care of himself, losing about 20 pounds working with the President's personal trainer. But in a testament to how discreet an adviser he is, there are relatively few pictures of his new, slender build.
Staffers describe him as an introvert, but not shy, with the difference being that Rouse expresses himself when he needs to, and not when he's goaded to. He is a tough boss, but not a taskmaster.
They hope that his discipline will bring structure to a White House staff that needs more of it, and will need quite a bit more as more senior aides leave and others are hired.
Some staff members worry whether Rouse, who has dealt with recalcitrant Republicans in Congress before, will be tough enough to deal with the incoming class of GOPers, who will be more obstinate and more ideological than the current crop. But Obama may not task Rouse to deal with Congress.
An associate of Rouse's said that his experience as Sen. Tom Daschle's chief of staff will well serve the administration. "He's presided over a large, complex organization before, one that had to do a lot of different things at once, one that was dealing with both chambers of Congress and both sides, and got a lot done."
"What he won't solve is what the administration's going to put on TV," the associate said. "They haven't figured that out. And he's not going to be that person."
A Democrat who has spoken with Rouse said that his tenure would last at least until the beginning of the next Congressional session. Whether it lasts longer is a function of whether Rouse fulfills expectations: Obama's and his own.
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Marc Ambinder is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.