Barack Obama named his former Senate chief of staff, Pete Rouse, to replace Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff today. What's this guy's deal? Well, he's a much quieter, behind-the-scenes type. And he's into cats. Really into cats.
We'd been hoping that Barack Obama would pick a nice, quiet Washington insider hack instead of a bold-faced name to this stressful, cynical position, and the president came through! Rouse (seen here fist-bumping the President in the Oval Office in 2009) knows pretty much everyone and everything about Congress. Before he joined Obama's Senate staff, he was Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle's chief of staff, a powerful role which earned him the nickname "101st Senator" around the Hill.
After Obama first hired Rouse in 2004, Amy Sullivan, a former Daschle staffer with Rouse, offered this cryptic advice for the Obama team:
As for Obama, I think I speak for all Daschle alums when I say: Learn to love cats. Or at least talking about Pete's cats. We've found cat-shaped sugar cookies to be well-received. Just saying...
Later, when he joined the White House as a senior advisor following Barack Obama's election, the New Republic's Michelle Cottle, too, brought up Rouse's famous cat thing:
Two big, silky Maine Coons named Moose and Junior, Rouse's beloved felines are a source of affectionate humor among current and former colleagues. The gruff 62-year-old keeps photos of the kitties scattered around his office. He obsesses about their well-being (when Moose's predecessor, Earl, passed away in 2003, Rouse was bereft), is a sucker for cat-themed knickknacks, and has guided fellow staffers into adopting their own furry friends (Maine Coons, naturally). Some observers suggest, ever so gently, that Rouse's cat devotion is related to his lack of a personal life.
Oh god, that last sentence was kind of sad! Rouse, you see, is an unmarried, childless workaholic — perfect for a White House chief of staff. His only hobby is to bury his face in cat fur and play with cat toys and eat cat cookies for maybe 15 minutes each day.
So there's your background on Pete Rouse: cats, cats, cats. He is the Catman. If you ever get a chance to meet him, give him a cat, and maybe your questionable tax returns won't get audited this year.
[Image via White House/Flickr]