The Truth About Valerie Jarrett, Mystery Woman of the White House
The close adviser and friend of the Obamas is one of DC’s most powerful people—but what exactly does she do?
Published yesterday at 10:06 a.m.
What exactly does Valerie Jarrett—the Chicagoan often described as a big sister or mother figure to the Obamas—do in the White House? The instant histories of the Obama White House tend to portray her as the Obamas’ pit bull, a woman loyal only to the president, first lady and her own image. In a recent book on the 2012 campaign, Jonathan Alter writes that Rahm Emanuel, on agreeing to become Obama’s chief of staff, recognized that Jarrett would wield such outsized power that he tried unsuccessfully to finesse her into Obama’s senate seat. (Alter also speculates that Valerie Jarrett was one reason why Rahm hightailed it out of DC in late 2010 into the relative ease of the Fifth Floor.)
Others in media and Washington circles portray Jarrett, who held top positions in Chicago government and business, as a brilliant strategist and thinker who practically runs both wings of the White House and who did as much or more than anyone to put the Obamas there. In 1991, Jarrett, then Mayor Rich Daley’s deputy chief of staff, offered Michelle Robinson a job in City Hall. Before Michelle accepted, she insisted that Jarrett meet with Michelle’s fiancé Barack Obama. Jarrett promptly took both under her wing and, over the years, introduced Barack to the inner Daley circle, to wealthy business people, and to the people who mattered in her enclave, Hyde Park—all of which helped Obama as he moved up from community organizer to Springfield to Washington.
So which is it? Here are six pieces of conventional wisdom about Valerie Jarrett, 57, followed by, in my opinion, the reality.
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