Top presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett is making the rounds at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, today, but she's apparently dodging any discussion of a lengthy page A1 profile in The New York Times.
Jo Becker's Sunday article is in a long tradition of multi-source character pieces on presidential gatekeepers – who, by the nature of their roles as gatekeepers, end up with armies of gossiping enemies.
Still, some of the gossip is entertaining. A too-good-to-check anecdote has Jarrett (the daughter of Chicago bigwigs and a crony of President Obama for more than 20 years) mistaking a four-star general for a waiter at a party and ordering a drink from him. Jarrett "regularly follows the president home from the West Wing to the residence, a practice that has earned her the nickname 'the Night Stalker.'" Obama's epic humiliation in his bid to bring the Olympics to Chicago apparently resulted after Jarrett, a considerable owner of Windy City real estate, gave him "assurances that his personal appeal to the Olympic committee could clinch the deal."
And of course, in the phallocentric Obama White House, there are plenty of sources willing to put Jarrett's relationship with the president into retronormative gender terms. She is likened to "some sort of mother or sister figure to an only child whose own parents variously abandoned him" as well as a "mother whose son can do no wrong." The "imperious" presidential friend, who keeps "a staff of nearly three dozen," gets the full Madame de Pompadour treatment from one unnamed presidential advisor who tells Becker, "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."
NYMag.com's Ann Friedman ponders the meaningfulness of it all:
The Times points out that, “to some extent,” Jarrett is “part of a White House tradition” of West Wing powerhouses with indeterminate roles, like Bruce Lindsey, Karen Hughes, and Harriet Miers. But is she also part of an American tradition of women who, in working beyond their job descriptions and without formal titles, end up undermining themselves?
Heady stuff! At Buzzfeed, Ben Smith says Jarrett, "clad in a pink blazer, white skirt, and a string of large pearls," made a beeline out of a Politico speaking breakfast today and is keeping questions to a minimum. But according to Bloomberg, she actually said a few good things (well, less than usually awful things) about taxes today:
“Let’s broaden the base, let’s reduce the rate,” Jarrett said at a Bloomberg breakfast in Charlotte, North Carolina, the convention site. “That means we are going to close some loopholes, but that’s going to benefit the broader business community.”
“The long-term sustainable growth rests with the private sector,” she said. “The president knows that.”
The weight that Los Tiempos de Nueva York still carries among political types is pretty astonishing if you don't mainline D.C. politics all the time, so it's fair to question what this front-pager will do to Jarrett. But it could have a more important impact on the president, who already has a reputation as an out-of-touch elitist to live down and won't be helped by a new wallow in his inner circle's late-Bourbon decadence. Maybe he'll wipe the slate clean with fresh and exciting ideas? Bloomberg again:
Obama’s nomination speech will be more specific than Republican Mitt Romney’s in detailing a path forward on deficit reduction and will emphasize tax fairness over Medicare, top aides said.
The address will tell Americans “where we’ve been and where we need to take this country,” campaign manager Jim Messina said at a separate Bloomberg breakfast in Charlotte today.
Jim Messina? If Kenny Loggins were running the campaign they'd be bringing in a lot more than three bucks a pop.