The Spectacle Blog

Expected Rahm Replacement Convinced Then-Senator Obama to Vote Against John Roberts

By on 9.30.10 | 2:11PM

Pete Rouse, the senior White House advisor who the New York Times reports is poised to replace Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, was the person who convinced then-Senator Barack Obama to vote against confirming John Roberts as a Supreme Court Justice, arguing that it would hurt his future presidential ambitions.

In a 2007 article, the Washington Post descibed the relationship between Obama, the freshman Senator, and Rouse, an experience Hill staffer who had run the office of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. After Daschle lost his seat in 2004, Rouse went to work as chief of staff to Obama, where he crafted the Illinois senator's strategy of cozying up to his colleagues in Washington while preserving his image as an outsider.

During his first year in office, Obama was confronted with the decision of whether or not to vote to confirm Roberts. He was inclined to do so because he respected Roberts' intellegence, and didn't want his own nominees blocked should he ever become president.

But, the Post recounted:

And then Rouse, his chief of staff, spoke up. This was no Harvard moot-court exercise, he said. If Obama voted for Roberts, Rouse told him, people would remind him of that every time the Supreme Court issued another conservative ruling, something that could cripple a future presidential run. Obama took it in. And when the roll was called, he voted no.

The article quotes Obama as saying of Rouse, "Pete's very good at looking around the corners of decisions and playing out the implications of them...He's been around long enough that he can recognize problems and pitfalls a lot quicker than others can."

In Obama's speech announcing his decision, he said that while, "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land," he could not vote to confirm him because "fe has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak."

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