Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Vogue: Valerie Jarrett , more than a supermodel!

Who is Valerie Jarrett?
For her birthday, Obama gave her a senior White House adviser /Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison job (Try to say THAT three times while drunk!) and a lot have been said about her keeping our President-Elect "grounded" or being the "female version" of Obama.

But that didn't tell me who she was and WHAT exactly she did.

In the Vogue piece (, not everything was fluff and chiffon but it was still a "An American Next Supermodel" type of expose. All wide eyed, slick and shiny.

So here are some details I gleaned through the web (Thanks WIKI among others!)

She comes from a family of "FIRSTS":
Her father: Currently Professor Emeritus in Pathology and Medicine, University of Chicago, Dr. James Bowman, was the first black resident at St. Luke’s Hospital;
Her grandfather: Robert Taylor the first black man to head the Chicago Housing Authority;
Her great-grandfather: He was the first African-American to graduate from M.I.T..

She herself was born in Shiraz, Iran. (Wait till the Repug get a hold of that!!) and received a B.A. in Psychology from Stanford University in 1978, and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Michigan Law School .

She started working for Mayor Harold Washington in 1987, then Richard M. Daley and during that time she hired a certain Michelle Robinson - now Obama - AND a certain Barack Obama - now the President.

A less pretty picture is her legacy in Chicago real estate: the housing project she funded and supported with the help of Antoin 'Tony' Rezko and Allison Davis - Obama's former boss - were so bad that they were deemed uninhabitable from the start:
"In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale -- a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.", according from the Boston Globe.

But as the Vogue piece is quick to point out :

"...Valerie Jarrett's real clout comes less from her career than from her extraordinary connections and seemingly endless capacity for extracurriculars. As one observer put it, "She knows everyone in Chicago." Obama's media adviser Anita Dunn recently cracked that "she may be one of the most plugged-in people in the United States." Or as Susan Sher says, "Whatever situation she's in, she rises to the top," enumerating how Jarrett did just that at City Hall, where she ended up in the famously difficult post of chairing the Chicago Transit Authority for eight years; at the Chicago Stock Exchange; and on the board of the University of Chicago Hospital, which she now also chairs. "She is like a god in Chicago, an icon," says Adrienne Pitts, a 40-year-old lawyer who takes every opportunity to see Jarrett speak at events around the city..."

Another good description of her comes from that article in the Chicago Tribunes (,0,1640738.story):

"Technically her title is "senior adviser.'' But Jarrett, the soft-spoken, steely willed, longtime Chicago powerbroker, has also been called the other side of Obama's brain. At the very least, he says, she is his eyes and ears in meetings that he cannot attend....Every successful politician, monarch or business tycoon needs someone like Jarrett, a straight-talking, fiercely loyal, well-connected, discreet, disciplined, protective confidant/friend/sounding board/ surrogate sibling who has known the candidate since before he or she became the next big thing. Obama told me that having an adviser like Jarrett, someone who "knows your flaws but also knows your strengths'' and encourages you "to follow your gut'' when others advocate sticking to the script is crucial in the brutal, chaotic, 24/7 world of presidential politics."

So how I see it we should be grateful to Valerie Jarrett to have let her former employee go, get him to meet his fantastic wife and groomed him to be our 44th President.

Not bad for a psychology major...


Was tired when I finished this post, I concluded abruptly and a little too much on a sissy note.

Yes, I admire Valerie Jarrett and I am relieved to see such complete a genius, a mom and first rate political presence in a covalent bond with our actual President Elect. It is way much than what the Bushies' kibitzers have given us as a character study during those last 8 Republican years.


Is she a real Democrat - believing in her own Habitat co. mission to give poor people a better environment through a good mix of affordable housings and middle-class homes.

Or was this just a front, meaning her Democratic leaning would be a front also, giving us a fantastically sexy but still nefarious Machiavelian type of Obama's whisperer that would tell him to thread gently in the middle?

I think Obama is strong enough to hold to left leaning politics if he feels that he is clearly supported by a strong majority of Americans. But there will be pressure and I hope that Jarrett will be more a safeguard than an obstacle to Obama.

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