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.
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: