Trying to figure out Valerie Jarrett’s mysterious hold on Barack and Michelle Obama is a favorite guessing game in the parlors and dining rooms of Washington. No other White House official in history has enjoyed such a unique relationship with both a president and a first lady, and yet the mainstream media have ignored Jarrett’s enormous influence over the shape and direction of the Obama administration.
Jarrett’s official title — senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement — doesn’t begin to do justice to her unrivaled status in the White House. She is Ground Zero in the Obama operation — the first couple’s first friend and consigliere, the last person to leave the Oval Office after meetings, and the only White House official who dines with the first family in their private quarters at night.
“Valerie is the quintessential insider,” one of her longtime friends told me during an interview for my book, The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House. “She functions as the eyes, ears, and nose of the president and first lady. She tells them who’s saying what about who, who’s loyal and who’s not. She advises them about who they should see when they visit a city or a foreign country. She determines who gets invited to the White House and who is left out in the cold.”
In the White House pecking order, Jarrett has more clout than the president’s chief of staff. During the savage internecine warfare between Jarrett and Obama’s first two chiefs of staff — Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley — Obama sided most of the time with Jarrett, a classic limousine liberal who believes that Obama was elected president in order to engineer social change. Ultimately, Jarrett emasculated Emanuel and Daley and forced them from their jobs.
She has also been responsible for much of the incompetence and amateurism that have been the hallmarks of Obama’s time in office. Indeed, Jarrett has been on the wrong side of practically every consequential issue to come across the president’s desk. Some examples of her bonehead advice:
● Though both Emanuel and political strategist David Axelrod warned Obama time and again that he didn’t have the votes to ram a comprehensive healthcare bill through Congress, Jarrett was among those who persuaded the president to ignore their advice and go for broke. The result: the hugely expensive, unworkable, unpopular, and probably unconstitutional program known as Obamacare.
● Emanuel tangled with Jarrett over her effort to put the prestige of the presidency behind Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Emanuel believed that Jarrett was working on behalf of her old boss, Mayor Daley, and his political cronies, who stood to benefit from the billions of dollars that would be spent on the Olympics. That idea seemed to be lost on the president, who went to Copenhagen to make an impassioned plea for the Olympics, and came back home with egg on his face.
● Jarrett gave her stamp of approval for the $535 million taxpayer-funded loan guarantee to Solyndra, the California solar company that went belly up. Jarrett had close ties to the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which controlled 35.7 percent of Solyndra. The foundation had made a sizable donation to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Jarrett once served as chairwoman and where one of Obama’s best friends, Eric Whitaker, is currently executive vice president.
● When Jarrett pushed Obama’s proposal to require church-run hospitals and universities to give their employees free contraception, chief of staff Bill Daley secretly arranged an Oval Office meeting between the president and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, who argued that the policy violated the principle of religious freedom. When Jarrett learned about Daley’s end-run, she went to the president and vented her anger. After that, Daley realized his days were numbered and resigned.