Sunday, December 26, 2010

The unbearable Valerie Jarrett and the Obama Administration

White House staffers are not known for their great humility. But even by those standards, Obama's chief domestic policy advisor Valerie Jarrett stands out for her bland, glib smugness, as in her Meet the Press appearance of 12/26/2010.

The woman always sounds like she's reciting a memorized press release. It's hard to imagine anyone who would have more of the combined effect of not sounding convincing to opponents, of sounding clueless to labor and generally unappealling to base Democrats or independent voters. I haven't seen any polls focused on Jarrett's effectiveness. So maybe there's some hard core of Jarrett fans; a gathering of such a group would have to be insomnia-producing in the extreme.

It's worth noting what Elizabeth Drew says about Obama's circle of advisers in In the Bitter New Washington New York Review of Books 11/22/2010 (12/23/2010 issue). I always put a heavy discount on complaints that Presidents have too insular a group of advisers. Because an important part of executive skill is to maintain effective filters on the information they receive; some do it better than others. But the fact that Jarrett, who seems to be incapable of a thought not expressed in terms of the current White House press releases of the moment, is disturbing:

Once they got to the White House, Obama and his campaign team (virtually all of his top assistants) seemed to live in a hermetically sealed box—cut off from and not interested in what was going on outside, or what experienced people who tried to help them had to say. No one could dispute the fact that Obama was a good family man who dined with his wife and children each night and then turned to his briefing papers. To the extent that the Obamas went out in Washington, it was on their "date night," or, so far as is known, to the Georgetown apartment of their close friend Valerie Jarrett, who also works at the White House. True, the Beltway isn't the country, but there are people here who could have helped the Obama team navigate its shark-filled waters. [my emphasis]
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