“She is the single most influential person in the Obama White House,” said one former senior White House official, who like many would speak candidly only on condition of anonymity.Makes her sound like Karl Rove, right? But as the NYT puts it: "If Karl Rove was known as George W. Bush’s political brain, Ms. Jarrett is Mr. Obama’s spine."
“She’s there to try to promote what she understands to be what the president wants,” the former aide said. “Ultimately the president makes his own decisions. The question that is hard to get inside of, the black box, is whether she is really influencing him or merely executing decisions he’s made. That’s like asking, ‘Is the light on in the refrigerator when the door is closed?’ ”
“He’s got a real mess in the West Wing,” said one close presidential adviser. “Valerie is effectively the chief of staff, and he knows, but he doesn’t know. She’s almost like Nancy Reagan was with President Reagan, but more powerful.”...Specifics: 1. Jarrett was responsible for encouraging Kathleen Sebelius to go ahead with the contraception mandate in the health insurance regulations; 2. She once "order[ed] a drink from a four-star general she mistook for a waiter"; 3. She snubbed George Soros and may be be responsible for his "largely sitting on the sidelines this presidential election," 4. She insulted Cornel West (after he whined about not getting invited to the inauguration), letting people know, as he put it: "one, I was crazy, and two, I was un-American."
It is not so much that she is Mr. Obama’s liberal id. Rather, her voice is often the one at the table reminding everyone of the president’s aspirational “first principles,” that he “didn’t just come to the White House to hold the office, but to make change,” [according to Anita Dunn, who was the president’s communications director].
#1 is the most important revelation, and the NYT begins and ends the article with it:
Worried about the political and legal implications [of the requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers the cost of birth control], 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.He was told that Valerie Jarrett was involved, and it was her support that made Sebelius go ahead with something that got Obama in trouble with Catholics as he faced his reelection.
Catholics, a group Mr. Obama won in 2008, make up more than a quarter of the electorate. Though most personally support birth control, Mr. Daley and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. worried about how forcing church-affiliated organizations to pay for it would play....And the "war on women" — which to me looks like nothing but rhetoric designed to paper over this policy screw-up — is that the voice of Valerie Jarrett? What is the President's voice? Whose "aspirational 'first principles'" are we talking about?
Mr. Biden arranged for Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York to meet with the president and express the church’s view. With the support of some of the president’s political advisers, Ms. Jarrett pushed back in her own meeting with Mr. Obama, aides said. And she signaled Ms. Sebelius to “keep fighting — I’m with you on this,” said one former official with knowledge of the matter.
But by January, even friendly voices were accusing the president of throwing “his progressive Catholic allies under the bus.” Democratic members of Congress were fielding calls from constituents who felt, in the words of one, that this was a “big blunder.” In a senior advisers meeting, the president, exasperated, ordered his senior staff to “figure it out,” one participant said.
But if some expected significant backtracking, they were mistaken. In phone calls the next week, the president outlined his compromise: the burden for the coverage would shift from employers to insurers, but women who worked for religious organizations could still avail themselves of the benefit.
“When the president called me,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, “I could practically hear Valerie’s influence.”
Is the light on in the refrigerator when the door is closed?