Valerie Jarrett: Puppet Master
If Jarrett is wrong so often, why does President Obama trust her above all others and continue to run every decision by her?
In part, her influence stems from the fact that Jarrett is the president’s trusted watchdog. She protects the vainglorious and thin-skinned Obama from critics and complainers who might deflate his ego. No one gets past Jarrett and sees the president if they have a grievance, or a chip on their shoulder, or even an incompatible point of view. That goes for such high-profile supporters as Oprah Winfrey and Caroline Kennedy, who have been largely frozen out of the White House because Jarrett believes they would use the opportunity of a meeting with Obama to push their own competing agenda.
Despite her impeccable social credentials, Jarrett’s record before she went to Washington was spotty at best. After Mayor Daley made her commissioner of planning, she became embroiled in a massive screw-up in the city’s public housing revitalization plan, which cost Chicago millions of dollars in overruns. Daley fired her without explanation.
After she left city hall, Jarrett became CEO of Habitat Executive Services, where she earned $300,000 in salary and $550,000 in deferred compensation. She managed a federally subsidized housing complex that was seized by the government after inspectors found crime-infested slum conditions and widespread blight.
Throughout her career, Jarrett has failed upward. Today she is at the pinnacle of power as Michelle Obama’s closest confidant and Barack Obama’s political soul mate. Though she is the White House official responsible for “public engagement,” she has conspicuously failed to engage. I heard this complaint about Jarrett from practically everyone I interviewed — Republicans and Democrats, African Americans and Jews. They all blamed Jarrett for keeping the president isolated even from those whose good opinion he needed the most.