The Magazine

The Worst White House Aide

Valerie Jarrett’s perfect record . . . for giving bad advice.

Jan 23, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 18 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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The Chicago method was on full display after Obama defeated John McCain, when functionaries from across the state of Illinois lobbied for the president-elect’s now vacant Senate seat. Evidence released at the trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich reveals that Jarrett, who has never been elected to anything, wanted to replace her protégé in the Senate. This was something incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was only too happy to make happen, since he had no desire for Jarrett to join the Obamas at the White House. But the president-elect overruled both advisers. He wanted Jarrett by his side. Later she became mistrustful of Emanuel when she learned that he had tried to sideline her.

The feeling was mutual. One of Obama’s more flowery hagiographers, journalist Richard Wolffe, divides the administration into “revivalists,” who want the president to be true to the spirit of hope and change, and “survivalists,” who believe compromise is necessary in a divided country. Jarrett is the leader of the revivalists, and her fingerprints are on every blunder and boo-boo the White House has ever made. She bragged to a conference of leftwing bloggers that she had hired noted environmentalist and 9/11 Truther Van Jones, later forced to resign. She campaigned extensively for Obama to travel to Copenhagen and make the case for holding the 2016 summer games in Chicago before the International Olympic Committee. Obama took the trip; the IOC chose Rio. During this time Jarrett met with George Kaiser, the Obama bundler and investor whose solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra was up for a huge loan guarantee. Jarrett, according to government documents, was warned about Solyndra’s shaky finances on the eve of the president’s visit to the company’s facility in Fremont, California. Obama went anyway. 

One could be forgiven for thinking that the president tends to side with the revivalists because they feed his ego. Jarrett’s descriptions of Obama are adoring. “I knew the unique combination of leadership qualities that Barack has would push him to greatness,” she told Richard Wolffe. “They always have. Barack has this kind of a—what’s the way to describe it?—restless spirit.” Obama, she told Remnick, has “been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do. He would never be satisfied with what other people do.” Fed a constant diet of words like these, is it any wonder Obama decided to press on with his health care overhaul after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, refused any meaningful compromise with Republicans during last summer’s debt ceiling fight, and insisted on giving one “major” address after another even though they have done nothing to advance his agenda or salvage his underwater approval rating?

The House is lost, Obama’s reelection looks dicey, but Jarrett is flying high. In one sense she is the most successful Obama courtier of them all: She has outlasted her rivals. Gibbs is gone. Internal clashes led to Emanuel’s sudden discovery that he had always wanted to be mayor of Chicago. Emanuel’s replacement, fellow Chicagoan Bill Daley (brother of Richie), was muscled out last week; word is he fought with Jarrett too. Her persistence is matched only by her tone-deafness. Wolffe describes the president’s first visit to Chicago after his inauguration. From the window of his helicopter Obama could see that his arrival had caused a major traffic jam. “We shouldn’t have come here in rush hour,” he reflected. This was too much for Jarrett. “You know what, Mr. President?” she said. “You may not be enjoying your new life, but I am.” 

Better enjoy it while it lasts—which won’t be for long if Obama continues to listen to his inept political fixer.

Matthew Continetti is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and editor of the Washington Free Beacon.

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