Such has been the theme of the press coverage so far of newly installed White House Chief of Staff Pete Rouse, the most benign of men, apparently.
As a top aide to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) – when he was known as “the 101st senator” – and then senior adviser to Senator and then President Obama, kindly Rouse has JUST TRIED TO FIX THINGS, make them better for people, according to our most august media outlets.
For a man who has been at the pinnacle of power for years and who had to have had his hands in all kinds of disgusting garbage – like anyone in such a position – the press is somehow tapped out on sources who might reveal something revealing about the man.
This is what the New York Times uncovered about him:
Intensely private, Mr. Rouse is unmarried and lives alone in northwest Washington with his two cats. (He is a big cat person, friends say.) He is not given to socializing; when Mr. Daschle hosted a huge staff reunion just before he left the Senate, Mr. Rouse did not show. He is also a huge music buff; in 2008, he persuaded the surviving members of the Grateful Dead to reunite and campaign for Mr. Obama.
Here is what the Washington Post dug up:
On a personal level, colleagues describe Rouse as a calming presence, someone who is an “honest broker” and treats lower-level staff members well. After Daschle lost, one adviser recalls, Rouse spent weeks helping campaign aides find new jobs. Rouse is single and famously fond of the Maine Coon cats he keeps as pets.
The Los Angeles Times had the following scoop:
He was known in the Senate as a workaholic; the joke was that he started his day at 5 a.m. and left the office at 4:45 a.m. A bachelor, Rouse lives with his two big, gray cats.
Two things are going on here. One is the prevailing presumption among Washington journalists that Democrats are mostly trying to do good and are good people. There’s just less incentive to go digging. The other thing, as Jack Shafer writes in Slate, is what Shafer calls Beat Sweetening. Or, to be a little more coarse about it, blowing smoke up the asses of your sources.
Woe be it to the White House journalist who writes a scathing piece about the incoming chief of staff. No more returned phone calls for you!
Which brings us to my friend Josh Gerstein, who covers the White House for POLITICO. Earlier this year he fatalistically accepted a beat-destroying assignment to write about the frequently testy relationship between the White House and the press corps, offering up stories of opacity, favoritism, and retribution.
Now he is the one brave White House reporter to ask the question: What exactly has Mr. Fix-it fixed? As Josh notes, Rouse was assigned to fix the Failure to Close Guantanamo Bay Problem.
Let’s see, I’ll just Googgle Guantanamo Bay and . . .
IT’S NOT FIXED YET!!!
Here’s what Josh wrote.
Rouse apparently helped broker a deal with one of his former bosses, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to move some Gitmo prisoners to an unwanted state prison in Thomson, Ill. But that deal has gone nowhere. In fact, appropriators on the Hill have voted to bar the use of Department of Defense funds to acquire the prison.
Bringing in Rouse was supposed to make the trains run on time, presumably in contrast to what happened on Craig’s watch. The White House insisted Friday that Rouse had done that, even though the path to closing Gitmo is more cloudy and distant than it was when Mr Fix-It took over.
Message from White House to Josh next time he calls: We’ll get back to you with everything you need ON YOUR EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY.
It seems what Mr. Fix-it has mostly done – that we know about – is smooth ruffled feathers around the White House. And he delves into hiring and firing people.
But most of this is nebulous, other than the news of him crafting a strategy to install Elizabeth Warren as White House Consumer Czar instead of nominating her for a confirmable position, which would have let the Senate have a go at her.
This circumvention of the Constitution is noted uncritically by the Post and the Times, the latter of which suggested the move was made necessary “when Republicans rose up against the appointment of Elizabeth Warren.”
But we really know nothing about what Rouse thinks, what corners he likes to cut – other than the one I just mentioned – how he handles matters of policy, or what kind of monkey business he’s been involved with. He’s arguably one of the two or three most powerful people in the country.
He may be perfect for the job and as wonderful a person as I’m sure his Maine Coon cats think he is. But, thanks to a compliant press, we really have no idea.