President Barack Obama announced today that White House senior adviser Peter Rouse will take over as his chief of staff, replacing Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel is leaving his post to launch a campaign to run for mayor of Chicago. The change is effective immediately.
Rouse (pictured at right), for many years, worked for former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle (D), a strong supporter of equal rights for gays. He joined then Obama’s Senate staff after Daschle lost his re-election bid in 2004.
Daschle told the Washington Post’s whorunsgov.com that Rouse “has an amazing capacity to bring disparate people together and create unity in a level of cooperation and chemistry that is remarkable.”
“Unlike the forceful Emanuel,” said the Post, “Rouse is described as a compromiser who is ‘completely ego-free,’ in the words of President Obama.”
Democratic activist David Mixner has blamed Emanuel for blocking progress on LGBT issues in the Clinton White House. He had a falling out with Emanuel over President Clinton’s willingness to consider separate facilities for gay service members.
He said Emanuel essentially ignored him when he tried to get Clinton’s help to secure permits for the 1993 National March on Washington for gay civil rights.
Mixner was not available for comment Friday, but in an interview with political blogger Bil Browning in March, Mixner said he thinks Emanuel has continued to be “gun shy” around gay issues in the Obama White House, with an attitude of “don’t touch the gay community early.”
Emanuel, Mixner said, “didn’t learn the lesson about being prepared.”
“He just said that we were toxic and I think we have enabled them to believe that,” said Mixner. “… I think Rahm has brought that attitude into the White House on a lot of issues – health care, gays and lesbians …”
In his press conference Friday morning, Obama kidded that Emanuel and Rouse have two “different styles.” Emanuel is widely characterized as bullish advocate for the president’s agenda. Rouse is seen as more cooperative.
Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said nothing is known about Rouse’s attitudes on LGBT specific issues.
“But there’s plenty of folks that think great things of him,” said Sainz, “and think he’s thoughtful and responsive.”
Democratic activist Hilary Rosen said she doesn’t think the changing of the guard will open doors any wider for LGBT activists.
“Rahm leaving doesn’t change the policies the White House pursues or the president’s commitment to making progress on our issues,” said Rosen. “But it is true that Pete has long been known as someone who is an internal advocate for us and will make sure that the president has the best options when it comes to moving a civil rights agenda.”
- by Lisa Keen