Driving Ms. Jarrett

Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett enjoys full-time Secret Service detail, NYT reports

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• September 2, 2012 4:51 pm


A bombshell front-page story in Sunday's New York Times investigates Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama and chair of the "White House council on women and girls," according to her official biography.

Among the revelations included in the Times exposé: Jarrett is protected by a full-time Secret Service detail.

The White House refuses to disclose the number of agents or their cost, citing security concerns. But the appearance so worried some aides that two were dispatched to urge her to give the detail up.

She listened politely, one said, but the agents stayed.

The article describes Jarrett, heir to a Chicago real-estate fortune and a longtime fixer for former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley as well as for President Obama, as "the other power in the West Wing."

For example, when billionaire investor and Obama supporter Warren Buffett visited the White House for lunch last July, "the table was set for three": Buffett, the president of the United States, and Valerie Jarrett.

Jarrett once ordered "a drink from a four-star general she mistook for a waiter" at a White House event, according to the report.

Moreover, Jarrett "is the only staff member who regularly follows the president home from the West Wing to the residence, a practice that has earned her the nickname ‘the Night Stalker.'"

Jarrett is identified by Times correspondent Jo Becker as the person responsible for such controversial policy decisions as the insurance mandate for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures contained in the Obama health care overhaul; the president's questionable decisions to sue the state of Arizona for its immigration enforcement statute SB1020 and to allow Millennial illegal immigrants to apply for work permits without consequence; and the president's 2009 decision to fly to Copenhagen to lobby the International Olympic Committee to select Chicago for the site of the 2016 Olympics. The committee chose Rio De Janeiro.

Several Obama aides use the cover of anonymity to criticize Jarrett for being too close to the president, for disrupting the chain of command, and for pushing White House policies to the left end of the political spectrum.

One exception to the anonymous quotes is former White House official and now senior campaign adviser David Axelrod, who says:

‘There is an inherent challenge in managing anyone, this is not particular to Valerie, who is a senior adviser and part of a structure, and also close personally with the family. Obviously it’s cleaner and less complicated if everyone is discussing things at the same meetings. But it’s a manageable problem."

That is the sort of statement, however, which is likely to raise even more questions about Jarrett's influence, and the division and conflict it creates inside the Obama White House.