After 37 years on Capitol Hill, Pete Rouse, Barack Obama's Senate chief of staff cum White House senior adviser-in-waiting, is known for three things: his mastery of the job (as former Senate minority leader Tom Daschle's chief of staff, Rouse became known as "the 101st senator"); the loyalty he inspires among those who have worked with him (whose numbers are legion); and the cats. 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. A legendary workaholic in a town where the competition for that distinction is fierce, the (unmarried, childless) Rouse is said to have little time for outside-the-office distractions. There's his occasional Friday night out for an Ivy League hockey game and the one week of summer vacation in August. But, beyond that, Rouse is all about the job. "Pete Rouse is always working," e-mails one fan/colleague. "The first one in the office and the last one to leave." It is a long-term lifestyle that only a cat could love.
Rouse's reputation as a two-cat-no-life workaholic should provide a comforting welcome to Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Obama's choice to head Homeland Security. Napolitano is also single, childless, and famously committed to her career. Hearing of Napolitano's appointment, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declared his fellow chief executive perfect for the post because she has "no family" and "no life" and thus can "devote literally nineteen, twenty hours a day" to the job. Rendell's remarks were derided in some quarters as sexist. But in his defense, we are talking about a woman who, when asked by Phoenix Woman how she unwinds after a long day, replied, "When I come home at night, I read all the papers, memos, legislative bills, and letters that accumulated during that day. ... Then I read a good book. I always read two books at a time--one fiction and one nonfiction." In fact, Napolitano's intense job focus and unmarried status have, in the past, spurred whisper campaigns about her sexuality, prompting the governor to quip that she's not a lesbian, "just a straight, single workaholic."
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