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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The NYTimes’ Fascinating Profile of Valerie Jarrett: Snubbed Soros, Has Secret Service Detail, & Once Confused a 4-Star General for a Waiter

On Sunday, the New York Times released a fascinating profile of Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. While there are some details that are not new, there is plenty that is new or that at least seems to confirm what used to be categorized as rumor. Below, we’ve excerpted some of the best nuggets. [All subsequent emphasis added.]

1. Obama’s chief of staff during the contraception mandate, Bill Daley, admits it was Jarrett who was behind the whole thing. He was also left out of the loop:

Worried about the political and legal implications, the chief of staff, William M. Daley, reached out to the proposal’s author, Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary. How, he wondered, had the White House been put in this situation with so little presidential input? “You are way out there on a limb on this,” he recalls telling her.“It was then made clear to me that, no, there were senior White House officials who had been involved and supported this,” said Mr. Daley, who left his post early this year.

What he did not realize was that while he was trying to put out what he considered a fire, the person fanning the flames was sitting just one flight up from him: Valerie Jarrett, the Obamas’ first friend, the proposal’s chief patron and a tenacious White House operator who would ultimately outmaneuver not only Mr. Daley but also the vice president in her effort to include the broadest possible contraception coverage in the administration’s health care overhaul.

2. When Warren Buffett recently showed up for a private lunch with Obama, Jarrett made sure she had a seat at the table — literally:

Yet if that answer remains elusive, interviews with more than two dozen former and current administration officials offer a portrait of a woman wielding a many-faceted portfolio of power.

Partly it is her ubiquity, the guiding hand in everything from who sits on the Supreme Court to who sits next to whom at state dinners, the White House staff memos peppered with “VJ thinks” or “VJ says.” When the billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett showed up for a private lunch with the president last July, the table was set for three.

Ms. Jarrett often serves as a counterweight to the more centrist Clinton veterans in the administration, reminding them and her innately cautious boss that he came to Washington to do big things. Some of his boldest moves, on women’s issues, gay rights and immigration, have been in areas she cares about most. If Karl Rove was known as George W. Bush’s political brain, Ms. Jarrett is Mr. Obama’s spine.

3. We’ve heard this before, but the Times confirms that Jarrett often follows Obama to his private residence:

But few have had the stature — and the ability to step outside traditional White House protocol — of Ms. Jarrett. She is the only staff member who regularly follows the president home from the West Wing to the residence, a practice that has earned her the nickname “the Night Stalker.” By day, Mr. Obama is “Mr. President” to her, but in social settings, he is just “Barack.” When the Obamas take an out-of-town break, she often goes along.

4. Guess who was the one Obama was consulting after America’s credit rating was downgraded?

After a ratings agency downgraded the nation’s debt last year, it was not the Treasury secretary at the president’s side, helping map out how to manage the market’s reaction. According to a participant in the discussion, it was Ms. Jarrett, who had joined Mr. Obama and a few close friends at Camp David for his birthday.

5. She’s smart, but can be assuming and arrogant. In fact, she once asked a general to fill her drink order:

Ms. Jarrett cuts an elegant figure in the West Wing, with her pixie haircut and designer clothes. Aides say she can be thoughtful in little ways that matter, enlisting the president to rally staff members after political or personal setbacks. But she can also be imperious — at one event ordering a drink from a four-star general she mistook for a waiter — and attached to the trappings of power in a way some in the White House consider unseemly for a member of the staff.

Read the full story

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