In a town where power is measured in closeness to the president, it doesn't get much closer than Pete Rouse and Barack Obama. The president once joked that Rouse and Denis McDonough, his current chief of staff, were "able to show me where the restrooms were" when he came to Washington as a senator-elect. But as the 67-year-old veteran of the Washington wars moves closer to the retirement he wanted to start several years ago, Rouse has done far more than that for the president. The longtime chief of staff to former Sen. Tom Daschle, Rouse has served Obama first by getting his Senate office up and running, then by advising his campaign in Chicago and cochairing the transition. Then he joined the White House as Obama's senior adviser. In 2010, he became interim chief of staff, replacing Rahm Emanuel until a permanent chief could be named. He is notoriously wary of publicity, prompting the president to joke that "Pete has never seen a microphone or a TV camera that he likes." Typically, he describes his current duties simply, saying, "I see my role as helping to make sure the White House operation supports the president in making good decisions." The president describes his role a little more colorfully. "There is a saying around the White House: Let's let Pete fix it," says Obama. "And he does. Pete's known as a skillful problem-solver."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.