Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Audacity of Cronyism: Jarrett, Plouffe, and Donilon

It’s hard to know which is worse: the arrogance of the Obama administration in assuming that its White House staffers can get away with anything, or the apathy of the media in not holding those staffers accountable.

Actually, let’s scratch the word “apathy” and call it what it really is: abjectness. The media have been abject in their willingness, even eagerness, to serve the political interests of this administration and its re-election effort.

Let’s consider the cases of three staffers, all at the top rung of the White House ladder: Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser David Plouffe, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.  

Valerie Jarrett has been a mentor and ally of Barack Obama for two decades; by all accounts, she has an unshakable bond not only with him, but also with Michelle Obama. And now her clout is apparent to all: aprofile of Jarrett, written by Jo Becker and appearing in Sunday’s New York Times, was headlined, “The Other Power in the West Wing.” As in, there’s the President, and there’s Valerie Jarrett.  

The Times story, all 3300 words of it, was one of those stories that everyone in DC thought they had to read; as another Times reporter, Jodi Kantor, tweeted on Sunday, “The political world pauses as one to dissect Jo Becker’s profile of Valerie Jarrett."

Indeed, Becker’s story was full of grist for Beltway mills. One anonymous presidential adviser (who sounds a lot like re-election campaign guru David Axelrod) pronounced that “Valerie is effectively the chief of staff... She’s almost like Nancy Reagan was with President Reagan, but more powerful.” And a “former senior White House official” (who sounds a lot like ex-White House chief of staff Bill Daley) added, “She is the single most influential person in the Obama White House.” Whoa. Wait a second. Did the former official really mean to say that Jarrett was “the single most influential person in the Obama White House”? If so, where does that leave the President? Is it possible that Jarrett, working with Michelle Obama, is more powerful than Mr. Obama? No, that doesn’t seem possible--unless, of course, it is possible.

If the former senior official quoted above is Bill Daley, he should know about Jarrett’s vast power. As the Times article recalls, he was basically pushed out of the White House by Jarrett after a battle over the Obamacare contraception mandate. That mandate infuriated Catholic and conservative groups, but it has been championed by Jarrett inside the White House and by feminist groups across the country--and Jarrett and the feminists have prevailed. So, in assessing Jarrett’s power, we can include in her coalition the nation’s feminists as well as Mrs. Obama. And inside today’s Democratic Party, that’s big power. No wonder the man who currently holds the title of chief of staff is so obscure--he has learned that you last longer if you keep a low profile.

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