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Wonkbook: The Pete Rouse reader


Today, President Obama will announce that Rahm Emanuel is resigning as chief of staff to run for mayor of Chicago. There will be wailing, rending of garments, and many tears -- and that's just from the journalists.

Emanuel was a gift from the Gods of Journalistic Color. He was witty and profane. He liked talking to the press, and his friends and foes liked talking about him to the press. He had an outsized personality and a Washington legend that could be used to explain both his achievements and his shortcomings. The man who is replacing him, Pete Rouse, doesn't.

Rouse, who used to be known as the '101st senator,' was Tom Daschle's former chief of staff. When Daschle unexpectedly lost his 2004 reelection race, Obama snapped him up. Rouse went from being chief of staff for the most powerful Democrat in the Senate to being chief of staff for the body's most junior member. It turned out to be a good decision.

Quiet and retiring, Rouse doesn't make a point of going on the Sunday shows or talking to reporters. Remember that no-drama thing you used to hear about the Obama team? That's Rouse. He's like a black hole for drama. But that means few in Washington know much about him. Which is why Wonkbook begins today with a Pete Rouse primer.

The Pete Rouse Primer

Mark Preston profiles Rouse in 2004, his last year as Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's chief of staff: "When it comes to leadership staff-level discussions between parties, Rouse usually defers to a clutch of Daschle’s most trusted policy advisers. But that doesn’t mean Rouse was not in constant contact with Republican leadership aides, who have welcomed Rouse’s willingness to find solutions on pressing matters when needed...As for future career paths, lobbying is one avenue he doesn’t expect to pursue in the future...In fact, Rouse said he doesn’t think he would be a good fit as a lobbyist, citing a gruff exterior and the fact that 'my strongest asset is not my sunny personality.'"

Perry Bacon profiled Rouse during the presidential primaries in August 2007: "Pete Rouse is the Outsider's Insider, a fixer steeped in the ways of a Washington that Obama has been both eager to learn and quick to publicly condemn. The meticulous workaholic rose through three decades of unglamorous legislating to become arguably the most influential Democratic aide in the Senate when he worked for then-Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). "

"With help from Gibbs and Axelrod, Rouse wrote a detailed memo for Obama's first year in the Senate. What they came to call 'The Strategic Plan' laid out for Obama the approach adopted by Hillary Rodham Clinton when she entered the Senate in 2001: Show respect to other senators even though you're a star, don't let your constituents think you are forgetting them, and find ways to build relationships with colleagues, particularly those in the opposite party."

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Anne Kornblut highlights Rouse's role as a "fixer": "There is a reason Rouse has a reputation as a fixer. At a White House dinner Obama held for his top female advisers last fall, several of them shared stories about their colleagues, particularly Emanuel and economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers. The tales all had the same punch line, according to a person familiar with the dinner: "Either Rahm or Larry would do something horrible, and at the end of the day, Pete would come in to fix it."

By the end of the night, Obama was finishing the women's stories himself, saying, "Let me guess - Pete fixed it." "

WaPo's Pete Rouse slideshow:

Frontline interviewed Rouse during the general: "I don't want to be disparaging here, but criticism of the DLC [the centrist Democratic Leadership Council] is find the lowest common denominator and pass it. That's not what he's talking about here. I think he's talking about moving forward with a progressive agenda. Clearly it's not going to be 100 percent of what you want, but we can do better...We're not looking for the lowest common denominator just to pass something. We're looking to pass something that may not be the bill we would write if we were sitting alone in the Harvard library writing it, but it's one that we think significantly moves the ball forward. It's not just passing it to pass it. You're passing it because it's making things better."

WhoRunsGov's Pete Rouse profile:

Tom Kizzia interviewed Rouse at the beginning of the administration: "The deputy chiefs of staff report to me, one for policy and one for operations, who run the place from day to day...I fix problems. There’s a number of us who fix problems - execution, anticipate things. I know a lot of the senators, Rahm knows the House very well. The thing about both the campaign and the office here, it’s very collaborative. You have a loosely enforced hierarchy where people are responsible for certain things, but people get along very well and there’s no turf. People help each other and not compete with each other. That’s the Obama style, and that was the Daschle style too when he was leader.

This isn't Rouse-related, but I loved this proposal for a taxpayer's receipt:

Canadian twin pop interlude: Tegan and Sara play "The Con" on Minnesota Public Radio.

Still to come: AIG has reached a deal to repay the Fed and Treasury; the administration defens the stimulus (and TARP!); Elizabeth Warren takes to the Wall Street Journal to lay out her approach; Michelle Obama's nutrition bill failed in the House; and a drivable, truck-sized little red wagon.


AIG has finalized its plan for repaying the US, reports Brady Dennis: "The plan that AIG detailed early Thursday, more than nine months in the making, has several parts: Most significant is that Treasury would swap its preferred shares in the company, worth about $49 billion, for about 1.7 billion shares of AIG common stock. The deal will leave the federal government with a 92.1 percent ownership stake in AIG, up from its current stake of 79.8 percent. Treasury expects to sell those shares to investors over time, meaning that AIG's stock price ultimately will determine how quickly the government can pull out of the company and how much of the taxpayer investment it can recoup."

Criticism of the AIG bailout persists, including from Elizabeth Warren:

A new White House report defends the stimulus' record, reports Lori Montgomery: "Speed was of paramount importance, and the administration vowed to get 70 percent of the money out the door within 18 months. The report shows that the administration has met that target, spending $551 billion of the original $787 billion. That figure includes $242 billion in tax breaks to families and businesses and $232 billion in payments to states, unemployed workers and other victims of the recession, the report says. The administration has also written $77 billion in checks for thousands of public works projects, with an additional $127 billion unspent but committed, the report says."

The Comptroller of the Currency is ordering banks to review their foreclosure procedures:

Tim Geithner offered a strong defense of TARP on its two year anniversary, reports Brady Dennis: "He cited the unrelenting outrage from lawmakers who continue to question the program's effectiveness. He acknowledged that most Americans remain 'rightfully angry' at seeing their government bail out the financial firms whose recklessness sent the housing market into a tailspin, triggered a wave of unemployment and wreaked havoc on the economy. And then he offered the full-throated defense of TARP that he and other officials have repeated often in the wake of the financial crisis, an insistence that he and his predecessors made hard but courageous choices."

Senate leaders urged Tim Geithner to not give up US votes at the IMF:

We need to simplify financial regulation, writes Elizabeth Warren: "The very early feedback I've received indicates that the industry is eager for simplification. Some bankers have told me that a short, easy-to-read agreement is exactly what they want. And many others have expressed their interest in working with the new agency to advance a robust market for consumer credit--one that produces real competition that benefits millions of Americans. At the birth of this new agency, we have a remarkable opportunity to put aside misconceptions and work together. Let's build something better for families, for the financial industry, and for the American economy."

It's time to get commercial real estate moving again, writes Steven Pearlstein:

Paul Krugman argues that only sanctions will get China to adjust its currency: "Restrictions on foreign investment limit the flow of private funds into China; meanwhile, the Chinese government is keeping the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low by buying huge amounts of foreign currency, in effect subsidizing its exports. And these subsidized exports are hurting employment in the rest of the world. Chinese officials defend this policy with arguments that are both implausible and wildly inconsistent."

The US and China need each other, writes David Wessel:

Gearhead interlude: A truck-sized, road-legal Radio Flyer wagon.


The Interior Department won't lift the offshoring drilling ban, reports Josh Voorhees: "Salazar unveiled a pair of new rules for offshore drillers Thursday and indicated he needs proof industry has reduced the risk of another BP-like oil spill before he delivers a final verdict...The rules go into effect immediately and create tough new standards for the equipment and technology used in offshore drilling, including requiring the independent certification of a well’s blowout preventer. They also include new workplace safety standards aimed at reducing human and organization errors, such as the ones believed to have played a role in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion."

China's solar sector is set to take off, reports Ted Plafker: "Citing the most recent available data, analysts note that China is home to hundreds of manufacturing plants turning out solar panels and modules. It produces between one-third and one-half of the world’s total supply of photovoltaic solar cells. But it accounts for 1 percent to 5 percent of the working installations. Instead of helping to meet China’s own rapidly growing energy demand, the bulk of Chinese manufactured solar energy equipment gets shipped overseas, destined to soak up sun rays and generate power in markets like Germany, Spain and Denmark."

BP is paying a record fine for refinery toxins:

Green energy executives blame oil subsidies for poor prospects, reports James Kanter: "The renewable energy sector was one of the casualties of the financial crisis in Europe and the United States as lending dried up and governments cut support measures as part of austerity programs to shore up their budgets...He cited estimates by the International Energy Agency showing that fossil fuel subsidies were in the region of $500 billion in 2008, more than 10 times the amount spent on subsidizing renewable sources."

Massey Energy says regulator action led to its mine accident:

Obama's incremental climate plan could work with the right increments, writes Glenn Hurowitz: "One of the brightest possibilities is permanent tax credits for carbon sequestration through the protection and restoration of forests and wetlands and shifts to sustainable agriculture. These tax credits can pay enormous dividends at low cost: by helping reduce tropical deforestation, they'll cut the source of 15 of global carbon pollution, more than all the cars, trucks, ships, and planes in the world combined. Restoring forests -- the lungs of the Earth -- can suck additional carbon pollution out of the air. And shifts in agricultural practices can cut into the 15 percent of global emissions produced by ranching and farming."

Adorable babies being adorable interlude: A toddler rocks out to dubstep.

Domestic Policy

The House will not pass Michelle Obama's child nutrition bill, reports Abby Phillip: "At the root of the impasse: a proposed $2.2 billion cut in future funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps for the poor. Despite personal appeals by the first lady, the Democrats balked at what they saw as a plan to pay for the nutrition bill by quietly cutting SNAP -- an essential food safety net that lawmakers had already borrowed from to pay for emergency aid to states. White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said the administration has committed to restoring any proposed cuts to SNAP and will do all it can to move the $8 billion bill forward."

Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch lobbied Congress to expand skilled worker immigration:

Fishers are fighting genetically modified salmon, report Alicia Mundy and Bill Tomson: "A coalition that includes Pacific Coast trollers, Atlantic fishing companies and organic-yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm says the genetically altered salmon might threaten their livelihoods by spreading unease about salmon and other foods. 'This stuff is not healthy for people, and it's not like our fresh fish,' said Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association of Massachusetts. Ms. Sanfilippo's group and others have joined with 39 lawmakers who wrote to the FDA this week asking the agency to stop its approval process for the genetically modified salmon. They cited concerns about 'human health and environmental risks' from the AquAdvantage salmon."

The Senate is blocking Obama from making recess appointments:

Tech pioneers are protesting Senator Pat Leahy's anti-piracy bill, reports Cecilia Kang: "Specifically, early Internet systems creator David Reed and others said the bill could destabilize the domain name system used as an underlying infrastructure for the Web. The engineers said the measure could wipe out entire domain names, which are used to translate sites like into the Internet addresses used by computers to communicate with each other. 'Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under this bill,' they wrote."

New research could make embryonic stem cells unnecessary:

Our campaign finance system is eroding confidence in Congress, writes Lawrence Lessig: "Last week the House Committee on Administration took a step toward radically changing this approach to making government trustworthy. By a voice vote, the committee approved a bill that would give candidates the option to fund their campaigns through small-dollar contributions only. The Fair Elections Now Act would offer a 4-to-1 match for contributions capped at $100. It would ensure qualifying candidates a sufficient grubstake to wage an effective opening campaign."

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with help from Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard. Photo credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  | October 1, 2010; 6:34 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: The demographics of 2010


My addition to the wonkbook:

Why has the US media panned this story? (US citizen executed by Israeli commandos)

Posted by: Lomillialor | October 1, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

This is the best weblog in the WaPo, and one of the best in the English speaking press. Today's column is highly informative. However, it desperately needs a copy editor.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 1, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Awesome! "But that means few in Washington no much about him"

No = know. Ezra has the same form of typing dyslexia that I do. If, perhaps, not as severe.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | October 1, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

@Lomillialor: From the report: "The OHCHR report confirms accounts from passengers on the Mavi Marmara that defenders subdued roughly ten Israeli commandos, took their weapons from them and threw them in the sea, except for one weapon hidden as evidence. The Israeli soldiers were briefly sequestered below and some were treated for wounds before being released by the defenders."

How, exactly, do peace activists subdue roughly ten Israeli frackin' commandos?

Not saying the Israeli military was not acting improperly, but something about that story ain't right.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | October 1, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

"The renewable energy sector was one of the casualties of the financial crisis in Europe and the United States as lending dried up and governments cut support measures as part of austerity programs to shore up their budgets...He cited estimates by the International Energy Agency showing that fossil fuel subsidies were in the region of $500 billion in 2008, more than 10 times the amount spent on subsidizing renewable sources."

$500 billion?!?! WTF?!?

That's government for you. With most western governments full of politicians fretting over global climate change, we're sending $500 billion to subsidize dirty energy.

Why do we need to bother with cap and trade or a carbon tax when we can just end the subsidies?

Posted by: justin84 | October 1, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

genetically modified salmon

after reading how these salmon are genetically modified, i think it is a crime against nature, and it makes me feel like throwing up.
" The fish's rapid growth will be boosted by the injection of a combination of a growth gene (GH-coding sequences) from the Pacific Chinook salmon and genetic material (the AFP gene) from the ocean pout - a large, eel-like fish - into the fertilized eggs of Atlantic salmon, making the recombined DNA present in cells throughout the body of the fish. The Chinook gene promotes the growth to market size, and the pout gene allows the fish to grow in the winter as well as the summer. "
~~~~ eatology

if the recombined dna is present in all of the cells in their body, they are not salmon anymore.
give them another name, but they will no longer be the creatures flipping around in the water, that we know and love.

like with everything else, i guess it is not, "if" there will be genetically modified salmon, it will be, "when" will there genetically modified salmon.
and will they even be labelled, so people will know they are eating altered salmon that have had freakish things done to them???

Posted by: jkaren | October 1, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

"How, exactly, do peace activists subdue roughly ten Israeli frackin' commandos?" posted by Kevin_Willis

It was probably those Islamic battle cries they were chanting beforehand that did the trick.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 1, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

genetically modified salmon and poutfish flavored ice cream

who can keep up anymore....i guess the poutfish anti-freeze proteins are in conventional ice creams too.....
so they should be calling those flavors,
"eel-like poutfish ice cream," and then there wont be an old-fashioned butter churn and vanilla bean sprigs on the carton, but an eel-like fish swimming in a laboratory tank:-(

"In June 2006 the Unilever company announced that it would use genetically modified yeast to grow antifreeze proteins based on a gene from the ocean pout, and use it to improve the consistency and storage properties of its ice cream brands.[5]"

Posted by: jkaren | October 1, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

yeah Kevin

All those dead people subdued the commandoes.

And then after subduing them they surrendered and gave up control of the ship. They wanted you to think the commandoes actually had control of the ship.

What actually happened is that the commandoes had to struggle at first to get command of the ship because, after all, it is hard to do until you get enough boots on deck. And people like you pretend that momentary loss of control (as they first rappel onto the ship) means they had justification to start shooting people who actually posed no harm to them.

Israel has no business blockading Palestine, and the commandoes had no business stopping an aide ship like that, especially in International waters.

That US citizen was murdered, pure and simple. He posed no threat and forensic experts have proven he was shot in the face as he lay injured and immobile on the deck.

I am a supporter of Israel, but not its heavy handed tactics. There are many instances where their actions are justified, but in my view this is not one of them.

Posted by: Lomillialor | October 1, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

"All those dead people subdued the commandoes."


Your link provided Kevin's quote. I think it is an entirely fair question - how DID *peace activists* subdue ten armed commandos?

Another pertinent quote:

"According to the OHCHR report, Israeli Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi testified to the Turkel Committee August 11 that the initial rules of engagement for the operation prohibited live fire except in life-threatening situations, but that that they were later modified to target protesters "deemed to be violent" in response to the resistance by passengers. That decision apparently followed the passengers' successful repulsion of an Israeli effort to board the ship from Zodiac boats."

So we see another ship prevented the commandos from boarding.

Given the level of resistance by the peace activists, what would you expect Isreal to do? Just let its commandos be captured/beaten/possibly killed? Just let the embargo be broken?

"And people like you pretend that momentary loss of control"

Ten commados being subdued and their weapons taken away is "momentary loss of control"? How, pray tell, would you expect that control to be regained?

"means they had justification to start shooting people who actually posed no harm to them."

Look, if you violently resist commandos, you run a high risk of being hurt or killed. This isn't rocket science. The activists were idiots to think that this flotilla would be allowed through, and especially dumb if they believed violently resisting Israeli commandos wasn't going to put their lives at risk.

"The idea that the passenger list would be seeded with terrorists determined to attack Israeli defense forces appears to have been a ploy to justify treating the operation as likely to require the use of military force against the passengers."

This is garbage. Isreal surely knew any casualties would be a propaganda coup for Gaza and its supporters.

Do you think the Isrealis would have killed anyone had they been allowed to board unmolested? Doubtful.

The deaths are tragic, no doubt, but also unsurprising.

I'm against allowing people to do whatever they please in a peaceful manner, and I'm against state control in most cases.

Then again, Isreal has to deal with the reality of Hamas, an organization which pledges to destroy Isreal which happens to run Gaza. Given one of the legitimate purposes of states is the protection of its citizens, clamping down on Gaza/Hamas is entirely understandable, if regrettable.

Both sides have committed many atrocities over the past 60 years, but Isreal at least admits the other side has the right to exist. If Hamas wasn't so awful/dangerous there wouldn't need to be blockades or aid missions. Isreal can only justify force because of violent resistance on the other side.

Posted by: justin84 | October 1, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

@Lomillialor: "yeah Kevin"

I only quote that part, because everything you said after that has very little to do with anything I said.

"And people like you pretend that momentary loss of control (as they first rappel onto the ship) means they had justification to start shooting people who actually posed no harm to them"

Please point to me where I said that, or anything like that, because I'm afraid I missed it.

I just said something seems off to me. Because it does.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | October 1, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Kevin my first comment was about a US citizen being executed by commandos.

You then went on about tangential issues.

Whether or not the commandoes were subdued has nothing to do with whether they should have been there in the first place and whether the US citizen was murdered.

There is no evidence that the boat was carrying anything other then supplies and ordinary people. If the commandoes were subdued, it was thru their own incompetence, and not because they happened upon armed mercenaries or something like that.

Posted by: Lomillialor | October 1, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"Kevin my first comment was about a US citizen being executed by commandos.

You then went on about tangential issues."

Kevin was trying to draw attention to why the US citizen was executed.

While any execution style killing is inexcusable, and we should lodge a protest with the Israeli government if we haven't already, the fact reminds said citizen was on a boat trying to run a naval blockade, and then the people on the boat chose to fight armed commandos. At least one of those commandos clearly lost it, and again while inexcusable, given the violent nature of the situation it's not all that surprising.

"There is no evidence that the boat was carrying anything other then supplies and ordinary people. If the commandoes were subdued, it was thru their own incompetence, and not because they happened upon armed mercenaries or something like that."

The incompetence you refer to was *trying to board the boat using non-violent means*. That's how they were subdued. They could have easily avoided being subdued had they stormed the boat guns blazing, but they didn't do that, did they? But the allegedly peaceful activists had no trouble charging plenty of armed men and beating them down.

How would the Israelis know, with 100% confidence, that there was nothing illicit aboard this ships? In any case, why would Isreal let them run their blockade and strengthen the Hamas government, which has as one of its goals the utter destruction of Israel?

"Whether or not the commandoes were subdued has nothing to do with whether they should have been there in the first place and whether the US citizen was murdered."

If a state has no right to prevent supplies from getting to a mortal enemy who threatens the security of every citizen of the country, I'd say the state has little right to do much of anything.

What if it was a group of tea partiers who had holed up in a building, having refused to pay $50 million in taxes? Let's say they had beaten/captured 10 SWAT team members sent to put the tea partiers in prison, and as a result another SWAT team is sent in. The situation is resolved, but the SWAT team ended up killing a few people in the process.

Somehow I'd guess you'd be telling us that these tea partiers should have just paid their taxes, nevermind the tea partiers right to keep their own money and use it as they see fit. I'd be honestly shocked if you decided the government had no right to the money and should have never been there in the first place.

Posted by: justin84 | October 1, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

All you need to know about Pete Rouse is in the Wikipedia description of a Maine Coon Cat: Above-average intelligence and gentle personality. Large bone structure, rectangular body shape, low maintenance. Playful and affectionate. Loyal to 'family' and cautious — but not mean — around strangers. Independent and not clingy. Plenty of stories, some perhaps true, about history and background.

Harry Truman said, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." The buck may have stopped on Truman's desk, but he wasn't "the fixer." I'm not surprised Rouse prefers cats. Cats don't need - or even want - constant attention, games and walks. They're perfectly capable of amusing themselves, which is just what's needed after yet another day of fixing things in an administration which combines some high-maintenance people with stressful situations and long hours. If you want a decompression chamber in Washington, get a cat.

You can tell a lot about a person from their pet. Not their spouse's pet or their children's pet, but their pet (and I don’t mean Harry Reid’s).. Rahm Emanuel doesn't have a pet, but if he did you just know it would be a rottweiler. Anything else would run away from home. Robert Gibbs would choose a Labrador Retriever: upbeat, ready for anything, good-natured, rarely flustered. Easily amused, and also quite amusing.

David Axelrod? Old English Sheepdog: intelligent and analytical under a slightly disheveled look. Knows his job and does it. Austan Goolsbee? Border collie: intelligent, energetic, and requires considerable mental stimulation. Valerie Jarrett? Papillon: "the appearance of a dainty toy breed, but 'a big dogsin a little dog's body'." George Mitchell? Australian Cattle Dog: tireless in gently herding and shifting positions, nipping heels when necessary.

Other people in the administration? One is reminded of Francis Urquhart: "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment." Followed by a wicked smile....

Posted by: TomJx | October 1, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

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