In a brutal, gossipy take-down of Valerie Jarrett, the polarizing confidante to President Obama and First Lady Michelle, Chicago Magazine writer Carol Felsenthal (in an essay she penned for Politico) calls for the commander-in-chief to fire his most trusted adviser—and end six years of well documented discord inside the White House.
The former director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is forever by the First Family's side, and has made enemies out of ex-Obama staffers Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod and David Plouffe, among others, who have viewed Jarrett as a toxic voice in the ear of the president. With Obama's approval rating in the tank, and the Republicans back at the helm of the Senate, Felsenthal thinks now would be the time to cut Jarrett loose. Especially since "nobody knows precisely what Jarrett does in the White House."
Jarrett "symbolizes the opportunity cost of the Obama presidency—a wasted chance to make change," says Felsenthal, her essay stoking accusations of Mean Girl-ishness and over-reliance on anonymous sources. "From foreign trips to White House policy meetings, she is occupying a critical space that ought to belong to an operator focused on governing and government, someone experienced in the levers of the bureaucracy and playing on the world stage. Now in his sixth year, humbled by the midterms, the president badly needs the best people around him, people who can provide real advice and build a lasting legacy."
She continues: "Rather than boosting the president, lifting him above the clouds and helping him be—well—presidential, Jarrett appears to drag him down into the weeds."
Felsenthal suggests Jarrett transition into a role focused on the future Obama library, which Chicago Mayor Emanuel is eager to wrangle over rivals New York City and Honolulu. (He needn't worry. We're a lock.)
Dripping acid, her final paragraph paints an image of Jarrett gleefully pitching Manhattan (where the media magnet could mingle in close proximity to Wall Street power brokers and celebrities and the like) over the Windy City (where Obama came up in the political world and became an icon).
"People in Chicago believe Valerie means to run it, whether it’s in Chicago—probably at the University of Chicago—in New York at Columbia University, one of Obama’s alma maters, or in Hawaii," writes Felsenthal," adding: "(I’ve been told, never for attribution, that Valerie favors Columbia because, she has told the Obamas, it will be so much fun for them all to live in New York.) The president could put her in charge, but alas, given her track record of failing upward, that might not help his endangered legacy either."
Not so fast.
Moving to dispel the story—the part about New York, at least—a Jarrett source tells Crain's Chicago Business, "Valerie is from Chicago, her heart belongs there and she fully intends to return to Chicago. She would be personally crushed if Chicago doesn't get it, but believes the city needs to make the best possible bid."