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Letting Obama Be Obama

And in so doing the indispensable Valerie Jarrett insists on being allowed to be Valerie Jarrett, unvetted, unknown, unaccountable. Our July/August issue cover story.

By From the July/August 2011 issue

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The New York Times calls her Barack Obama’s “old hometown mentor,” “closest friend in the White House,” “all-purpose ambassador,” “skillful envoy,” “emissary,” and the “ultimate Obama insider.” The Washington Posts Dana Milbank dubs her “the real center of Obama’s inner circle,” with ties to the president that are “deep and personal.” A profile in the Post’s “WhoRunsGov.com,” says she has been involved in “almost all” of Barack and Michelle Obama’s “major decisions.” The Wall Street Journal identifies her as the “essential member” of President Obama’s “inner set.” The Chicago Tribune proclaims her “the president’s right-hand woman.” Rahm Emanuel calls her “a very dear friend” and “valuable ally” to Barack Obama.

And Obama himself calls her one of his “oldest friends,” who is “like a sibling to me…I trust her completely.”

Who is this mystery woman of extraordinary influence? Who is this invisible hand behind Obama? She is Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s close friend, confidant, and secret weapon, known to Washington insiders, but unknown to the folks in the hinterland.

If conservatives will pardon my comparison, when thinking of Valerie Jarrett’s influence on Barack Obama, I’m mindful of the influence of Judge William P. Clark on Ronald Reagan—minus the ideological chasm. Bill Clark was Reagan’s right-hand man, often literally at his right side. It was Clark who coined the conservative rally cry, “Let Reagan be Reagan.” No one was more inclined to let Reagan act on his instincts, protecting the conservative president from the pragmatists and the moderates, from the détente-niks, from the Rockefeller Republicans and RINO reprobates and blue-blood country-clubbers who would separate Reagan from his true beliefs.

That seems to be Valerie Jarrett’s role with Barack Obama. Jarrett is trying to let Obama be Obama, protecting the president from the pragmatists and moderates, from the Blue Dog Democrats and voices of sanity in foreign policy who would tug Obama from his true beliefs.

“We have kind of a mind meld,” Jarrett says of her and Obama. “And chances are, what he wants to do is what I’d want to do.”

And what might that be?

An American in Iran

VALERIE JARRETT was born Valerie Bowman in Shiraz, Iran, in November 1956. Her American parents were Dr. James E. Bowman and Barbara Taylor Bowman. Her father was a geneticist and pathologist who helped run a children’s hospital in Shiraz as part of a U.S. aid program to assist developing countries in health and agriculture. The family left for London when Valerie was five years old, and eventually returned to Chicago in 1963. Because of her international upbringing—something she shares with Obama—Bowman received an excellent education and was speaking Persian, French, and English as an adolescent.

Valerie’s mother, a child psychologist, helped establish the Erikson Institute, which specialized in child development and advocacy. The Erikson Institute received funding from the Woods Charitable Fund, which years later included Barack Obama and Bill Ayers as board members. The institute tapped into not only private monies but the vast pool of public dollars unleashed by LBJ’s Head Start program. Like her daughter would one day, Barbara honed the craft of locating large sums of money (public especially) for her enterprises.

Valerie’s mother’s parents were Robert Rochon Taylor and Dorothy Taylor. Robert was the first African American head of the Chicago Housing Authority, and the son of an esteemed early African American architect. Dorothy, born in Berkeley, California in 1905, was active in Planned Parenthood, undeterred by—or not knowledgeable of—Margaret Sanger’s championing of racial eugenics, Sanger’s 1926 speech to a KKK rally in New Jersey, or Sanger’s Negro Project.

The Old Folks at Home

VALERIE ATTENDED Stanford as an undergrad, living at the African American themed Ujamaa House and earning a B.A. in psychology in 1978. She went on to University of Michigan Law School, where she got her J.D. in 1981.

Valerie quickly sought out jobs with law firms, getting hired at Chicago’s Sonnenschein, Carlin, Nath, and Rosenthal, specializing in the firm’s real-estate branch. She hated the job. “I would sit in that office and just cry,” she said later. “Cry my heart out. I’ve got to get out of here.”

Valerie Jarrett wanted to do much bigger things. She wanted to change the world.

In 1983, Valerie married Dr. William Robert Jarrett. William Robert Jarrett’s father, Vernon Jarrett, was a leftist columnist very well known in Chicago media.

In fact, in an irony rich with symbolism, Vernon in the late 1940s had served on the Citizens’ Committee to Aid Packing-House Workers with no less than Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist Party USA member who mentored a young Barack Obama in Hawaii. The committee met at 4859 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago. Vernon Jarrett was head of the group’s publicity committee. Frank Marshall Davis was one of the chairmen. Blogger Trevor Loudon found and posted an April 12, 1948, committee document featuring both Jarrett and Davis together on the front page. “The duty of this Committee,” proclaims the document, “is to give publicity to…the plight of the workers.”

Davis was also a leftist columnist, and he and Jarrett put their pens into joint service defending Chicago’s oppressed proletariat.

Frank Marshall Davis died in 1987. His recently released FBI file reveals, among other things, his CPUSA number, which was 47544. Predictably, the mainstream press has been silent on such scandalous facts regarding this mentor to Obama. A profile of Davis in Newsweek described the pro-Soviet communist as a “strong voice for racial justice” and champion of “civil rights and labor issues,” who had been harassed by a “McCarthyite denunciation by the House Un-American Activities Committee.” In truth, Davis had been summoned to testify before the Democratic-run Senate Judiciary Committee, which, in a formal 1957 report titled, “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,” had accurately concluded that he was “an identified member of the Communist Party.”

To think that that Davis—Obama’s Davis—had worked with Valerie Jarrett’s Vernon Jarrett is certainly intriguing.

Vernon Jarrett died in May 2004, whereupon he was quickly hailed in a Washington Post obit titled, “Vernon Jarrett, 84; Journalist, Crusader.”

If those connections from the 1940s are not eye-opening enough, consider this one as well, involving Robert Taylor, Valerie’s maternal grandfather:

One of the most notorious Communist front groups ever was the American Peace Mobilization, created by the Soviet Comintern in concert with CPUSA, organized in the summer of 1940. Congress would rightly dub the American Peace Mobilization “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States,” “one of the most notorious and blatantly Communist fronts ever organized in this country,” and an “instrument of the Communist Party line.”

The group’s goal was to keep America from going to war against Hitler or even providing Lend-Lease to nations like Britain being savaged by Hitler. The group took this position because, at the time, Stalin’s USSR was allied with Hitler. It was the Soviet line, and the ringleaders of the group were pro-Soviet patriots.

Among the antiwar rallies organized by the American Peace Mobilization was the 1st Illinois Conference of the National Negro Congress, held November 9–10, 1940, on the corner of 38th and Wabash streets in Chicago, held at the Wabash YMCA. Listed on the surviving letterhead for the event were several prominent American Communists, as well as endorsers like Frank Marshall Davis and, listed directly under Davis, Robert Taylor. Though no middle initial appears, this is almost certainly the same Robert R. Taylor who was Valerie Jarrett’s grandfather.

Robert R. Taylor of Chicago also appears in the major 1944 congressional report “Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States,” done by the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, 78th Congress. On pages 609 and 2,100 of the voluminous report is Robert R. Taylor of Chicago. Taylor was flagged because of his role in the “Arrangements Committee” that organized the July 1939 Chicago Conference on Race Relations, which included as leaders several top national Communist figures.

This need not make Robert R. Taylor—nor Vernon Jarrett, in his case—a Communist, though it at least puts him squarely on the activist left. If he was not a Communist, then he was a duped liberal/progressive who was manipulated by Communists—Communists like Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis.

So, imagine where we are today: Barack Obama, Frank Marshall Davis’s political godson, and Valerie Jarrett, daughter-in-law to Vernon Jarrett and granddaughter of Robert Taylor—men with links to pro-Stalinism—are the two dominant figures in the White House, the power center that battled the USSR throughout the Cold War. It is a halting thought, and could only escape notice—as it has completely—in a dominant media culture that is shameless in its political biases.

Have Valerie Jarrett and Barack Obama ever taken a walk down memory lane, discussing this common political inheritance? It’s hard to imagine that they haven’t. And thus far, of course, none of our nation’s esteemed journalists seem to have bothered to ask either of them any questions about these Cold War relations.

The Chicago Machine

VALERIE'S MARRIAGE to Vernon Jarrett’s son didn’t last long. Valerie sums it up: “Married in 1983, separated in 1987, and divorced in 1988. Enough said.” Her husband died a few years later, in 1993. They had one child together, a daughter named Laura, who today attends Harvard Law.

Up to that point, Jarrett’s professional life involved law and community organizing. It was at this time, perhaps with a kick-start from her Chicago-renowned father-in-law, that Valerie began almost 20 years of involvement in Chicago politics, beginning in 1987 with a job with Mayor Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor. She stayed on with Washington’s successor, Mayor Richard Daley, who eventually made Valerie his deputy chief of staff.

Significantly, it was Judd Miner, who formed a law firm with Allison Davis—Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland—who personally says that he recruited Valerie to the city’s Law Department, getting her initially involved with the Washington administration. Jarrett “wasn’t happy with private practice,” Miner told the Chicago Sun-Times, “and she wanted to get involved in the Washington administration.” The firm represented a number of groups that partnered with private developers to build and manage “affordable” housing. Speaking of whom, the firm’s partners were familiar with Chicago businessman Tony Rezko. (More on this momentarily.)

From here came a bunch of major jobs for Valerie, especially in the area of urban housing and development, continuing a path blazed by her maternal forebears a half century earlier.

Jarrett’s profile quickly rose.

Eventually, she became chief executive of a real-estate development and management company called The Habitat, as well as several key chairs and board appointments, ranging from the Chicago Transit Authority to Chicago Stock Exchange. All of these things gave Valerie Jarrett a reputation as someone involved in politics with an informed understanding of the business world—something that serves her to this day in the Obama White House.

The Rezko Connection

THE LIBERAL PRESS has avoided like the plague any mention of Tony Rezko in the life of Valerie Jarrett. In its two hagiographic puff-piece profiles of Jarrett, totaling more than 10,700 words, the New York Times mentioned Rezko just once. It was a mere parenthetical nod, dismissive and covering for Jarrett: “Jarrett did not dissuade Obama from involvement with the developer and influence peddler Tony Rezko, whom she regarded as ‘a snake,’ according to a friend.”

No more information from the Gray Lady on the “friend,” or anything Rezko-related.

Of course, it’s not that simple.

Rezko is a 50-something Syrian-born Chicago businessman specializing in real-estate development. He has also done political fundraising. He is the quintessential example of the corrupt Chicago machine and its unholy alliance between business and political interests.

As chief executive at The Habitat Co.—as well as her prior positions—Jarrett oversaw the management and development of huge housing projects in and around Chicago, including in Barack Obama’s district when he was an Illinois state senator. Those projects received huge infusions of government dollars, local and federal. They were also a wreck, suffering from pests, rats, mice, backed-up sewage in sinks, and drug dealers—to cite a short list of calamities. Ultimately, these facilities were seized by federal authorities and shut down because of their deplorable, squalid, unlivable conditions and litany of code violations.

In a striking irony, Jarrett would preside over the demolition of some of the very housing projects that bore the name of her grandfather.

A symbol of the disaster is the housing complex in Obama’s state district, Grove Parc Plaza, which had become uninhabitable because of unfixed problems ranging from fire damage to collapsed roofs. In one of the few national stories on this scandal, a shocking Boston Globe piece from June 2008 reported that in 2006 federal inspectors gave the complex of 504 apartments—which for eight years were part of Obama’s district—a grade of “11” on a 100-point scale. They were set for demolition.

“No one should have to live like this, and no one did anything about it,” said Cynthia Ashley, a resident at Grove Parc.

The Globe reported that thousands of these apartments across Chicago, which had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies, including “several hundred” in Obama’s former district, had “deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.” The Globe noted that Grove Parc and several other facilities “were developed and managed by Obama’s close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama’s constituents suffered.” Among those close friends and political supporters, the Globe highlighted the following:

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter [2008] and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.

Allison Davis, a major fund-raiser for Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign and a former lead partner at Obama’s former law firm. Davis, a developer, was involved in the creation of Grove Parc and has used government subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,500 units in Chicago, including a North Side building cited by city inspectors last year after chronic plumbing failures resulted in raw sewage spilling into several apartments.

Antoin “Tony” Rezko, perhaps the most important fund-raiser for Obama’s early political campaigns and a friend who helped the Obamas buy a home in 2005. Rezko’s company used subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,000 apartments, mostly in and around Obama’s district, then refused to manage the units, leaving the buildings to decay to the point where many no longer were habitable.

In a review of campaign finance records, the Globe reported that “six prominent developers,” including Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko, had “collectively contributed” more than $175,000 to Barack Obama’s campaigns over the last decade. More than that, they had “raised hundreds of thousands more from other donors.” Tony Rezko alone had raised at least $200,000, and that was (stated the Globe) “by Obama’s own accounting.”

The Globe piece also provided a brief early history of Chicago public housing, noting that in the mid-20th century, Chicago had constructed some of America’s largest developments, with the coup de grâce being the Robert Taylor Homes, which was a mass of more than 4,400 apartments sprawled across 28 high-rise buildings laid out for two miles along the interstate. These buildings were operated by the Chicago Housing Authority, as was another huge complex called Stateway Gardens, a dreadfully impoverished facility that, as the Globe noted, was “falling apart after decades of epic, sometimes criminal, mismanagement.”

What the Globe did not note, probably because it wasn’t familiar with the Valerie Jarrett bloodline noted earlier in this article, is that the Robert Taylor Homes were named for Valerie’s great-grandfather, and the CHA that ran them was headed by her grandfather: two Robert Taylors.

Decades later, into the next century, Valerie Jarrett oversaw the company that managed these facilities. She also served on the boards of several organizations that provided funding and financial support. Both Tony Rezko and Allison Davis (another close Obama figure) were intimately involved in these projects—or at least in their scandalous neglect.

As one local official put it, “the same exact people who ran these places into the ground,” were now “profiting by redeveloping them.”

Actually, in too many cases, they were failing to even redevelop them—though not failing to profit from the infusion of government dollars into their pockets. Among the largest recipients of subsidies was Rezko’s Rezmar Corp., which over nine years received some $87 million in government money to renovate nearly 1,000 dilapidated apartments. The folks in the “Rezmar buildings” constantly complained about their conditions, which never improved.

(Allison Davis has a similar story. He was Obama’s former law-firm boss. Among other projects, Davis was involved in the Grove Parc development. Davis left the law firm to concentrate on housing developments, an option made especially lucrative, as the Globe noted, by “subsidies from the Daley administration and aided, on occasion, by Obama himself.” Again, Valerie Jarrett worked for the Daley administration.)

Rezko was not only a personal friend of Obama but also helped raise money for Obama’s political campaigns. Rezko ultimately was arrested for fraud, bribery, and money laundering. In 2007, he was indicted on federal charges of fraud and influence peddling with the administration of disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. In 2008, Rezko was convicted on 16 of 24 counts of corruption. Today, Rezko is in prison as a convicted felon.

Obama himself has been connected to Rezko, so much so that Hillary Clinton couldn’t help but raise questions during a Democratic primary debate in South Carolina in January 2008, with Hillary accusing Obama of associating with a “slumlord.” Even the New York Times conceded that Hillary had a point, noting that “Obama did work for a law firm in Chicago and performed legal work involving Mr. Rezko’s housing developments.” Just two days prior to the debate, Obama returned more than $40,000 in political contributions that, as the Times reported, “were linked to Mr. Rezko.”

The liberal media has let Obama off the hook with Rezko. It has done likewise, but more so, with Valerie Jarrett, whose very business dealt precisely with Rezko’s housing developments.

In November 2008, Judicial Watch obtained documents from the Illinois secretary of state linking Jarrett to several housing projects (and thus scandals) operated by Rezko. “Like Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett is a product of the corrupt Chicago political machine,” noted Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton. “And it is no stretch to say that she was a slumlord.”

When Valerie Met the Obamas

IN JULY 1991, during her stint as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Daley, Jarrett met a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson, who worked for the firm Sidley Austin. Michelle had been flagged by Jarrett’s co-worker, Susan Sher. The two met and hit it off. Jarrett was already considered a power broker in Chicago political circles, which Michelle surely sensed. Michelle told Jarrett she should meet another young lawyer named Barack Obama, her fiancé. Jarrett agreed, and the three had a long dinner together at a restaurant called Café Le Loup: the start of an even longer relationship.

As Valerie later recalled the meeting, “Barack felt extraordinarily familiar.” She and Barack “shared a view of where the United States fit in the world.” As David Remnick translates this in his biography of Obama, this was a more “objective” view of America as a nation that was not “the center of all wisdom and experience.” This was not an exceptional America.

Valerie would become super-close to both Obamas, and especially to Barack and his political horizons, becoming arguably his top adviser over the course of two decades of campaigning and governing. At each crucial step along the path to power, Barack paused to check the boxes with Valerie, and she opened doors and greased the skids. One could argue that no other person on the planet has done more to help the Obamas get to where they are today.

The relationship became as deeply personal as political. Valerie has long vacationed with the Obamas in Martha’s Vineyard.

By the spring of 2008, Valerie Jarrett was a force in the presidential campaign of the political dynamo that was Barack Obama. A Newsweek profile that May called her the “insider-outsider,” one with no formal title other than “senior adviser”—presaging her White House role to come.

2008 and Beyond

SO CRUCIAL had been Valerie Jarrett to Barack Obama’s Washington ascendancy that it was no surprise that her name was being widely floated as the top candidate to fill Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat once the Boy Wonder won the presidency in November 2008.

In fact, the word was that Obama himself wanted Jarrett to assume his seat. CNN reported: “A prominent Democratic source close to Barack Obama confirmed that Valerie Jarrett is Obama’s choice to replace him in the Senate.”

It was Michelle who vetoed the decision. “She came down very hard,” Jarrett herself recounted, “saying that’s not what she wanted me to do. She said, ‘We need you in the White House….You’ve come all this way, and you thought this was a good idea, and now you’re gonna bail on me? No way!’”

Barack told her likewise. Valerie went to the White House.

But there’s more to the story, which could get really interesting with the coming corruption retrial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Among the high-profile witnesses who might get called to the stand is Valerie Jarrett. According to a May 21 AP report, Blagojevich “allegedly offered” to appoint Jarrett to Obama’s vacated Senate seat if Obama, in return, gave the former governor a top administration post. To the contrary, says the AP, “there’s no evidence” that Jarrett, Obama, or anyone else around Obama tried to cut a deal with Blagojevich.

This is an issue that very well could be raised in the retrial. If so, Jarrett’s name could suddenly become prominent in press coverage.

“Someone I Trust Completely”

REGARDLESS, by 2010, Valerie Jarrett had become one of three crucial senior advisers to the president of the United States. Her influence has been nothing short of remarkable.

As Michelle Obama told the New York Times, Jarrett “automatically understands” the “values” and “vision” of the Obamas. She is “never afraid” to tell them the truth. “She knows the buttons, the soft spots, the history, the context.”

Like her husband, Michelle speaks of Valerie like a sibling. Actually, that and more: “Like a mom, a big sister, I trust her implicitly.”

Barack says Valerie is “someone I trust completely.” “She is family.” As president, he trusts Jarrett “to speak for me, particularly when we’re dealing with delicate issues.”

But what, precisely, does that mean? What does Valerie Jarrett personally believe? How far to the left, or perhaps nearer the center, are her politics? Is she the red-diaper heir to radical Chicago leftists from a half century ago? Has she rejected her forebears’ hard-left politics?

Alas, that’s the lingering frustration and great mystery regarding Obama’s closest friend and adviser—a virtual state secret happily cloaked by a liberal media that serves as the Obama administration’s de facto propaganda arm.

Jarrett was certainly raised a leftist, and almost certainly remains one. Unfortunately, her ideology is the single most elusive question that remains after reading the litany of hagiographic profiles by the mainstream media. The dominant press has not even remotely touched upon her personal politics. If anything, journalists try to pass her off as a centrist, a reasonable, level-headed businesswoman, with all the attendant exaggerations we have come to expect from newspapers like the New York Times. She is portrayed as the sole embodiment of the Seven Wise Men, advising King Solomon himself—who, naturally, is also a centrist. And, of course, both Jarrett and Obama are just oh-so-smart.

The liberal media was pushing this centrist imagery (for both Jarrett and Obama) in 2008–09, well before the November 2010 landslide GOP victory that prompted Obama to consider overtures to the center.

On the other hand, we can reasonably assume that Jarrett is a leftist like her boss. From their first meeting together 20 years ago, they possessed (in Jarrett’s words) a “shared view of where the United States fit in the world.” Today, as Obama himself has said, he trusts her completely to speak for him. Obama runs every major issue by Jarrett. We can thus assume as well that she spoke for them both when in August 2009 she introduced the radical Marxist “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones at the Netroots Nation Convention, and praised him as someone “we were so delighted to be able to recruit… into the White House.” A month later, Jones was forced to resign after his support of 9/11 “truthers” came to light.

Obama and Jarrett are practically political alter-egos. And as Jarrett has said, she and the president have a “mind meld” working together, and what he wants to do is what she wants to do. From November 2008 to November 2010, that was a radical-left agenda, a major progressive push toward a leviathan federal government: $800-billion “stimulus” package, Keynesian economics, wealth redistribution, nationalizing GM, funding embryonic research and Planned Parenthood International, bashing “profits” and corporate “fat cats,” berating the finance industry, orchestrating show trials of AIG executives, ObamaCare, a record $1.6 trillion deficit, massive debt levels, and on and on.

What does seem clear—and might further fuel the mainstream media’s collective bid to frame Jarrett as a centrist—is that she does seem sensitive to the political damage that Obama’s hard-left inclinations have created with the business world. For instance, when Obama held a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana, where he shook his finger at CEOs and admonished them about taking trips to Las Vegas or the Super Bowl, it was reportedly Jarrett who made clear to Obama that this was a gaffe that was hurting the hospitality industry and the already unfavorable image of him in the business community.

That’s the image of Jarrett pushed in a major profile in the July 26, 2009, New York Times, which underscored her “savvy and objectivity” as a professional businesswoman,” her “street cred with the private sector,” and her alleged “exquisite business corrections.” The Times said that Jarrett “was ever helpful” to Obama with “midcourse corrections.”

Ah, but be mindful of the timeline here: at this point, July 2009, there weren’t many (if any) discernible “midcourse corrections” in the Obama administration. This was the summer of Obama’s first year, when any corrections were so scant that an entire Tea Party movement had sprung up in open rebellion. There was no midcourse correction until after the midterm elections.

And now, with Obama actually pursuing some midcourse corrections following the Democrats’ November 2010 midterm bloodletting, the media is especially toeing the Jarrett-Obama-centrist line. “She is a consensus builder who reinforces Obama’s tendency toward centrism,” said a February 2011 Chicago Tribune profile.

What all of this means going forward remains to be seen.

Significantly, though, Valerie Jarrett has stayed on at the White House while the other two top advisers in Obama’s troika have headed back to the Windy City. As of the start of this year, she remains as Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod have both headed back to Chicago, solidifying her strength even more. Already in possession of a vast, ever-widening portfolio of her choosing, she has the sudden added advantage of cherry-picking new duties left behind by Emanuel and Axelrod.

As Dana Milbank reported in the Post, this leaves Jarrett, Obama’s “longtime mentor and friend,” in a “position of unparalleled influence over the president.”

More than that, for Emanuel’s replacement Obama has picked none other than Bill Daley, the younger brother to former Chicago mayor Richard Daley, who had made Valerie his deputy chief of staff more than two decades ago. And Daley indeed has a reputation as a political pragmatist.

Formally, Jarrett is senior adviser and assistant to the president for something called “intergovernmental affairs and public engagement.” Informally, she’s much more.

“Less formally” still, adds the New York Times, she has helped Obama “preserve his essential self.” Obama says he will continue to “absolutely” run every decision by her.

As the Times says, Jarrett is the “guardian” of Obama’s “authenticity.”

Valerie Jarrett is the power aside the throne who is letting Obama be Obama. America saw what that looked like in 2009 and 2010. But what exactly will it mean between now and November 2012, or even in a potential second term? The one thing we can be sure about is that Valerie Jarrett will have a say. 

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About the Author

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.