'Obama Whisperer' Valerie Jarrett Always Has His Ear

She's one of his strongest influences on decisions big and small
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2014 3:32 PM CST
'Obama Whisperer' Valerie Jarrett Always Has His Ear
White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett listens as President Barack Obama speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Feb. 27, 2014.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Valerie Jarrett is President Obama's senior adviser, and as such has prime access to the president's ear, earning her the title of "Obama Whisperer" in Noam Scheiber's New Republic profile. Wielding powerful influence over the president and his decision-making, Jarrett is said to evoke such intimidation that one source who left the White House years ago wouldn't talk to Scheiber about Jarrett for the article, even off the record. Highlights from the piece:

  • Jarrett gets to pull rank on (seemingly) most decisions, from the big ones—votes on Cabinet seats, ambassadorships, and judge appointments—to more logistical matters, like who sits where at state dinners.

  • Detractors say she's an "incorrigible yes-woman" who "skews [the president's] decision-making" by controlling whom he sees. Her constant presence also makes "her an object of fear and scorn," popping into whatever meetings or events she wants and then reporting her take back to the president. "People don’t trust the process. They think she’s a spy," a former administration official tells the magazine.
  • Jarrett has been involved in high-profile spats over the BP oil spill, immigration reform, and the "minor fiasco" of a meeting Jarrett held with activists after the president wouldn't sign an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT federal contractors. Jarrett reportedly berated the activists about speaking to the press (they somehow knew about the meeting) and didn't initially provide a clear reason why the president hadn't signed the order, which didn't go over well.
  • Jarrett didn't get along with Rahm Emanuel, the former WH chief of staff who was repeatedly dressed down by the president for his tirades against colleagues. In once case, Emanuel was "convinced that Jarrett had ratted him out," writes Scheiber. To quote a former aide, "In the wild, they would have been natural allies. In captivity, they became natural enemies."
  • On the plus side, Jarrett is known as the "go-to person for the real opinion leaders in business and in the celebrity world," according to a former administration official, building strong rapport with Google and Facebook and spinning the PR machine during the ObamaCare drive. She's also known as an "all-wise interpreter of the president's thoughts," a "teller of hard truths," and the person whose "job may be nothing less than to reflect the most authentic version of Barack Obama back at himself," writes Scheiber.
Click to see the entire profile on Jarrett. (More Valerie Jarrett stories.)

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